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Title: The Karen People of Burma: A Study in Anthropology and Ethnology
Author: Harry Ignatius Marshall
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Title: The Karen People of Burma: A Study in Anthropology and Ethnology
Author: Harry Ignatius Marshall

The Ohio State University Bulletin
APRIL 29, 1922

The Karen People of Burma: A Study in Anthropology and Ethnology
By Rev. Harry Ignatius Marshall, M.A. (1878-)

Missionary of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society,
Member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain
and Ireland, and of the American Oriental Society

Entered as second-class matter November 17, 1905, at the postoffice at Columbus, Ohio.
under Act of Congress, July 16, 1894. Acceptance for mailing at special rate of postage
provided for in Section 1103, Act of October 3, 1917. Authorized July 10, 1918.

* * *


To many a visitor to Burma, who views the country from the deck
of an Irrawaddy River streamer or from the window of a railway
carriage, there appears to be little difference between the Karen and
the Burman. This is not strange, for many individuals of the
non-Burman tribes wear the Burmese costume and speak the Burmese
language; and they present no markedly different characteristics
in feature or color of skin. I have often heard the remark that
"there is no difference between the Burman and the Karen." It is
doubtless because the Government of Burma recognizes that there
is a difference in the tribal characteristics, customs, and religion
that it has adopted the wise policy of publishing a series of complete
studies, of which this purports to be one, of these various peoples.
If the reader will have the patience to read these pages, it is hoped
that he will realize that, though the Karen have lived for generations
in the closest proximity to the Burmese, they preserve their
own racial traits, which are quite distinct from those of their more
volatile neighbors with whom they have had little in common.

This work deals more particularly with the Sgaw branch of the
Karen people. My own experience has been more intimate with
this tribe, though I have known many of the other groups. This
circumstance, together with the fact that the Bwe and Taungthu
peoples have already been described in the _Upper Burma Gazetteer_,
as well as the limitations of space, has led me to limit my discussion
to brief references to the other tribes. But I am convinced that in
the main the Sgaw exhibit the general characteristics that are truly
Karen in the broadest sense of the term. I have also omitted any
detailed study of the large mass of Karen folklore, which may
possibly be incorporated in some future study.

The reader may notice that I have used the term "Karen," instead
of the more usual plural form "Karens," when referring
to the tribal name. This is more accurate, for to add the "s" is
as misleading in this case as in that of the Lao, who are often
mistakenly spoken of as the "Laos." In the transliteration of Karen
words I have followed the continental system of spelling, adopting
"x" for the guttural which is pronounced like the "ch" in the Scotch
"loch," and the dipthong "eu" for the sound which closely resembles
the common pronunciation of "er" as in "her." I have accepted the
simplified spelling for the tribal names, Pwo and Bwe, in place of
the more cumbersome "Pgho" and "Bghai."

It is not without some misgivings that I allow these sheets to
go to the publisher. The notes were collected at such intervals as
could be taken from my labors as a district missionary, and that at
a time when increasing administrative duties precluded my giving
such attention to them as I could wish. The return to America on
furlough necessitated the completion of the work on the opposite
side of the world from the sources of my material, and where,
though I enjoyed the privileges of a Graduate Fellowship at the
Ohio State University. I had to depend largely on my personal
collections, there being no department of Ethnology there.

I wish to acknowledge the assistance which I have had from
my wife, whose sympathetic interest and accurate knowledge have
been of untold value, and also the help I have received from my
missionary colleagues, among whom I should mention my
father-in-law, Rev. D. A. W. Smith, D.D.; Rev. C. A. Nichols, D.D.,
who was first to ask me to undertake the preparation of this work, and
Rev. E. N. Harris. Among the many Karen members of the mission
staff who have helped in the gathering of materials, I can only
mention Thras San Gyi San Kwe, Po Myaing, and Shwe Thee, of
Tharrawaddy; Thra Pan Ya Se, of Shwegyin; and Thra Aung
Gaing, of Insein, who gave me a full account of the Karen of Siam.
The sketches signed "D. P." are the work of a Karen schoolboy
from Tavoy, Saw Day Po, who, to his credit it should be said, drew
them without having had any instruction in drawing whatever.
My thanks are also due to Drs. B. Laufer and Fay Cooper-Cole, of
the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, for many valuable
suggestions, and to Professors J. A. Leighton and W. H. Siebert,
of the Ohio State University, for many kindnesses. To Professor
Siebert I am especially indebted for a most painstaking review of
my entire manuscript, for its acceptance for publication, and for
seeing it through the press of the Ohio State University. Finally,
I desire to express my gratitude to the Government of Burma for
the privilege of undertaking this work. The necessity for careful
observation and thorough investigation has not been without its
benefits to me. The undertaking has been exacting and quite
instructive, even if it had benefited no one but myself.

This book is, after all, but another by-product of the great
missionary enterprise, which seeks to lift the less fortunate
peoples of the world to a higher plane of life and enjoyment, and
to bring to them the best of our Christian civilization. If this work
should help to make the Karen better known and understood and in any
way assist them along their upward path, the writer will feel that
it has all been a part of the great task to which he has dedicated
his life. May the blessing of God rest upon it.

AUGUST 30, 1920
















A Sgaw Karen Youth with His Harp (Frontispiece)
A Creek of the Irrawaddy Delta
A Mountain Stream in Burma
A Path through the Bamboo Jungle, Pegua Hills
The Morning Mist in the Toungoo Hills
Karen Hill Men Coming Down to the Plains
Karen Men from the Hills, Tharrawaddy District
Karen Family with Traces of Negrito Blood
Sgaw Karen Young Bloods, Ngape Eh Village, Tharrawaddy Hills
Karen Boys
Playmates: Karen Boys and the Sons of the Author
A Paku Schoolgirl, Toungoo
A Karen Belle
A Bwe Karen Man's Suit
A Karen Bamboo Comb
Women's Garments
Women's Head-dress
Karen Skirts and Bags
A Padaung Couple, the Wife with Neck-rings and Leg-rings
Women's Earrings
A Boar's Tusk Comb
Karen Girls in Burmese Costume
Two Sgaw Karen Maidens
The Gateway of a Village Stockade
Part of a Mountain Karen Village, Tharrawaddy District
Stockade and Gateway of the Village, Re Tho, Tharrawaddy District
Plan of Shataw Village, Tharrawaddy District
A Torch with Its Stand
Plan of a Karen Family-room
A Hill Village in Transition (absent)
Sideview of a Bamboo Karen House, Kaindagyi
Pounding Paddy in a Mortar
The Fireplace in a Hill Karen House
Karen Tobacco Pipes and a Piston for Breaking Betel-nut
Offerings and Traps on the Edge of a Field
A Hillside Plot Cut Ready for Burning
A Paddy-bin for Storing Grain in the Field
Off for the Fields with Baskets and Bags
Plowing a Paddy Field in Lower Burma
Women Transplanting Paddy
Reaping Paddy with Sickles
A Threshing-floor on the Plains
Winnowing Paddy
Fanning Paddy
Sgaw Karen Women Carrying Grain in Large Baskets
Karen Houses on the Plains
Turning the Buffaloes Out to Graze
Setting a Spring trap, Pegu Hills
A Box Trap for Catching Birds
A Large Fish-trap
Climbing the Toddy-palm
Cylindrical Fish-traps
Bottle-shaped Fish-trap
Ginning Cotton in the Pegu Hills
Batting Cotton into Smooth Layers with a Bow
A Karen Girl at a Burmese Loom
The Karen Loom
A Karen Matron Weaving under Her House
Karen Bronze Drum, Nabaain Village, Tharrawaddy District
A "Rubbing" Showing the Pattern of the Head of the Nabaain Drum
Bronze Drum from Kondagyi, Tharrawaddy District
Head of the Kondagyi Drum
Bronze Drum Owned by Rev. A. V. B. Crumb
Head of Mr. Crumb's Drum
Bringing Water for the Visitor, Nabaain Village, Tharrawaddy District
Young Women Bringing in Bamboo Fuel, Tharrawaddy Hills
Plains Women Bathing in the Irrawaddy, in the Lee of the High-sterned Burmese Boat
Carrying Water in Bamboo Joints
Dipping Water from a Shallow Stream
Buffaloes at Their Daily Bath
Karens of Three Generations on the Plains
Karen Girls of the Plains Carrying Water in Earthen Pots
A Sgaw Karen Orchestra, Tharrawaddy Hills
Karen Jew's harps
A Karen Guitar
Playing the "Paw Ku" or Karen Xylophone
An Exhibition Performance on the Xylophone
Musical Score of a Karen "Hta" or Poem
A Child Riding on Its Mother's Hip
The Friends of the Bridegroom
The Bridegroom's Company Entering the Bride's Village
The Wedding Party
Karen Girls of the Plains, Tharrawaddy District
Christian Converts, Ngape Eh Village, Tharrawaddy District
Sgaw Karen Young Women
Arrangement of Pestles for a Funeral Game
Another Arrangement of Pestles for a Funeral Game
A Sketch of a Tree Used in the Funeral Games
Climbing the Cocoanut-palm
A Hill Village in Transition
A Karen Village on the Plains
A Bwe Karen Christian Village, Toungoo District
Karen Girls Pounding Paddy in a Mortar Out-of-doors
A Bwe Karen Prophet
A Hut Erected in a Forest Clearing by a Self-styled Prophet as the
   Center of a New Karen Religious Cult of Short Duration
A Sgaw Karen Grandmother
Karen Villagers, Tharrawaddy District
Utensils for the Sacred "Bgha" Feast of a Pwo Karen Family, Bassein District
Village School-children with Their Teacher
Paku Karen Schoolgirls
Field-day, Tharrawaddy Karen High School
Chicken Bones Used in Divination
A Christian Karen Village School, Tharrawaddy District
Two Karen Christian Pastors
Karen Theological Students
A Christian Village School, Prome District
The Chapel and Schoolhouse of the American Baptist Mission High
  School, Tharrawaddy District
Schoolgirls at Calisthenics, Tharrawaddy Karen High School
Schoolboys Lined up for Drill
A Karen Teacher and Lahu Boys
Rev. Thra Maung Yin, of Bassein
Karen Military Police]

[ Illustration -- A Sgaw Karen Youth with His Harp (Frontispiece) ]
{ In the olden days every youth loved his harp and carried it with him constantly.
On such instrument as these they played the accompaniments to their old epic
"htas," which have been preserved for generations. The boar's tusk comb hangs
down behind this boy's ear. }


The Karen are a group of Indo-Chinese tribes living principally
in Burma, the easternmost province of the British Indian
Empire, in the Indo-Chinese peninsula, and in the adjoining country
of Siam to the east. They are found between the tenth and
twenty-first degrees of north latitude and between the ninety-fourth
and one hundredth degrees of east longitude. The greater
part of this territory they occupy in connection with the other peoples
of the country, namely, the Burmese, Shan, Siamese, and Chin.
The only exclusively Karen country is the hilly region of the Toungoo
district and the Karenni subdivision, where the Karen chiefs
of five states, comprising 4,830 square miles and a population of
42,240 are still in power under the Advisory Council of the British
Government. There is also a Karen chief ruling one of the Shan
States, and five other states in that section are ruled by Taungthu
chiefs. In all these latter districts we find a mixed population.[1-1]

The whole group of Karen tribes can be divided into three divisions,
according to their language or dialect differences. These
are the Sgaw, Pwo, and Bwe groups.

The Sgaw group is the largest and most widely scattered. They
are found all through the Irrawaddy Delta, from the vicinity of
Prome southward, and from the Arracan coast eastward to the
neighborhood of Lakong in Siam and southward to the lowest point
of the British possessions. The Paku and Mawnepgha tribes of the
southern Toungoo Hills belong to this group. One dialect, with
only slight variations, is used through this region.

The Pwo group comprises, besides the Pwo Karen, the Taungthu
tribe, who call themselves the Pao. The Pwo are found along
the seacoast from Arracan to Mergui and are said to be found nowhere
more than fifty miles inland. However, I think that some
of the Pwo villages in the Henzada district may be a little farther
inland than that. The Taungthu are found in a section of country
running northward from Thaton into the Shan States beyond

[ Illustration -- A Creek of the Irrawaddy River Delta, Bassein District ]
{ These streams form the highways of this district. }

[ Illustration -- A Mountain Stream in Burma ]
{ The Karen build their villages along these streams of swift-running water. }

The Bwe tribes are found in the vicinity of Toungoo, in the territory
extending from the foothills east of that city throughout the
Karenni subdivision. This is a very mountainous region, and we
find the people broken up into small tribes differing from one
another in dialect, dress, and customs. Nine of these tribes were
enumerated in the last Government census. The tendency of the
present time is to consider these tribes more closely related than
was formerly the case.

In the _Census Report_ of the Government of India for the year
1911 we have the first enumeration of all Karens in the British territory.
In former reports the Karenni territory was not included
in the enumeration. The returns in 1911 showed a population of
1,102,695. This was an increase of 199,334 over the previous count
in 1901, due in part to the increased extent of the territory covered.
The enumeration, however, did not clearly distinguish between
the Pwo and Sgaw branches of the race, due, as the _Report_
says, to the fact that many returned themselves simply as Karens,
without specifying to which branch they belonged. The total number
of Pwos and Sgaws increased from 717,859 souls in 1901 to
872,825 in 1911, a gain of 154,966. This represents a real increase
in population, for these tribes are all in Burma proper. The Pwo
dialect is less persistent than the Sgaw, for more of its members
are using Burmese to a much greater degree than the Sgaws, although
the latter are also giving up their language where they are
living in close contact with the Burmans. The Sgaw dialect is not
"driving out the Pwo" as rumor says, but is merely holding its own
better against the Burmese. Probably there are about half a million
Sgaws in Burma and perhaps another 50,000 in Siam,[1-2] which
would make them the most numerous branch of the race. The
Taungthu were enumerated by themselves and, as has been said
above, belong to the Pwo group. There were 183,054 of them in
1911. During the decade previous to that enumeration they had
made an increase of 14,753 souls. The Pwo group would probably
include together about 350,000 members and would stand
second in point of numbers.[1-3]

The Bwe group is more definitely treated in the _Census Report_,
for in this group each tribe is enumerated separately, as follows:

Padaung............. ..........8,516


These tribes,[1-4] dwelling in the heart of the Karen country where
they have been secure in the fastnesses of their native hills,
have never before been counted with enough exactness to allow
us to estimate their increase in numbers. There is no doubt
that the general impression that they are really increasing
is correct. Further investigation may show that some of these
tribes as, for example, the Zayein, may be allied to non-Karen
stock, such as the Wa of the Shan States.[1-5]

These Bwe tribes form a distinct group, but it is beyond the
purpose of this present work to deal in particular with them,
especially since they have already formed the subject of a study
incorporated in the _Upper Burma Gazetteer_.[1-6]


The traditions of the Karen clearly indicate that they have not
always lived in their present home. The most striking story is that
of "Htaw Meh Pa," the mythical founder of the Karen race, who
lived with his numerous family in some unknown land to the North,
where their fields were ravaged by a great boar. The patriarch
went out and killed the boar; but when the sons went to bring in
the carcass, they could find only one tusk which had been broken off
in the fray. The old man made a comb made out of this, which surprised
them all by its power of conveying eternal youth to all who used it.
Soon their country became overpopulated, and they set out to seek
a new and better land. They traveled together till they came to a
river called in Karen "Hsi Seh Meh Ywa." Here the old man became
impatient at the long time it took the members of the family
to cook shellfish and went on ahead, promising to blaze his path
that they might follow him through the jungle. After a while the
Chinese came along and told them how to open the shells to get
out the meat; and then, having eaten, they followed the old man,
only to find that the plantain stalks he had cut off had shot up so
high that it seemed impossible to overtake him. They, therefore,
settled down in the vicinity. The patriarch went on, taking with
him the magic comb which has never been discovered to this day.

While this tradition is not confined to the Karen,[2-1] it has a
bearing, I believe, on their origin. A great deal has been written
about the "Hti Seh Meh Ywa" or, as Dr. Mason called it, the "River
of Running Sand,"[2-2] which is, as he thinks, the Gobi Desert.
This opinion of Dr. Mason is derived from Fa Hien's description
of his travels across that desert. However, the Karen name of the
river means not only "flowing sand," but also a "river of
water flowing with sand."[2-3] The reference to the Gobi Desert
seems rather far-fetched and has, therefore, been abandoned by
scholars, Dr. D. C. Gilmore suggests the Salwen as being a river
that fulfils the requirements of the tradition, but bases his conclusions
largely on the reference to the early home of "Htaw Meh Pa"
as located on Mount "Thaw Thi," the Olympus of the Karen, which
is mentioned in Dr. Vinton's version of the story, from which he
quotes.[2-4] This reference is not found in other versions of the story
and was probably not a part of it in its earliest form. It seems reasonable,
therefore, to look further for the sandy river. Dr. Laufer[2-5]
asserts that the early home of the peoples of eastern Asia was in
the upper reaches of the Hoang-ho or Yellow River, of China, and
that from this center the Tibetans migrated westward; the early
tribes of Indo-China, southward; and the Chinese, southeastward.
According to this view, the progenitors of the Karen probably
formed a part of the southward migration and, at some state of
their march, stopped on the banks of the Yellow River which, as its
name suggests, has from time immemorial been freighted with
silt and sand. Here they may have tried to cook the shellfish referred
to in the tradition. From this region they doubtless made
their way down to what is now Yunnan, where perhaps they found
a domicile till they were pushed farther south by migrating people
advancing behind them.

The name "Karen" is an imperfect transliteration of the Burmese
word "Kayin," the derivation of which has puzzled students
of that language. It has been thought that this word is derived from
the name by which the Red Karen call themselves, _i.e.,_ "Ka-Ya."
The designation of the Sgaw for themselves if "Pgha K'Nyaw,"
which has not usually been associated with the native name of the
Red Karen. In August, 1914, it was suggested to me[2-6] that these
tribal names, which have hitherto been thought to mean simply
"men," were related to, and derived from, the name of one of the
four ancient tribes of China, that is, Ch'iang (ancient
pronunciation, Giang or Gyang). This tribe, which is indicated in
Chinese by the ideograph of a man combined with the character
designating a sheep, conveying the meaning of shepherd, occupied
the western part of ancient China. The first part of the name
"Ch," means "people," and the latter part, "Yang," is the distinctive
tribal name. Turning now to the Karen word "Pgha
K'Nyaw." "Pgha" is a general word meaning people. "K'Nyaw"
is, according to my informant, composed of two elements: "K',"
a prefix often found in the names of tribes in the vicinity of Burma
and denoting a tribal group, as "Kachin," "Kethe," or "Karok" (as
used by the Talaing of the Chinese). "Nyaw" is derived from
"Yang," referred to above. The final nasal "ng" is softened in
Karen to the open syllable "aw," following the analogy of many
words occurring in the dialects or in Burmese and having nasal
endings; and "n" and "ny" are interchangeable. Thus, if this
reasoning is correct, "Pgha K'Nyaw" is derived from the ancient
"Yang," and is like the source from which the Burmese "Kayin" is
derived.[2-7] This explanation affords another link connecting the
Karen with the early dwellers within the confines of the present
Chinese Republic.

[ Illustration - A Path through the Bamboo Jungle, Pegua Hills ]

[ Illustration -- The Morning Mist in the Toungoo Hills ]
{ The mists settle in the valleys, which make the mountain-tops look like
islands in an inland sea. }

The language of the Karen, after being classed in various
ways, has now been recognized as a Sinitic language and, according
to the last Burma _Census_ (1911) is set down as belonging
to the "Siamese-Chinese" sub-family of the Tibeto-Chinese languages,
being grouped with the Tai or Shan. I feel sure that this
last grouping is subject to revision by the philologists. While at
first glance the relationship of these languages appears to be
remote, Major H. R. Davies makes a very pertinent statement when
he says: "Doubtless owing to phonetic change and the splitting of
initial double consonants, many words have been altered beyond all
hope of recognition, but a systematic study of the subject would, I
believe, reveal many unsuspected resemblances."[2-8]

When we consider that many of these languages have never
been fixed by written characters and that, within the past few decades,
the Karen language has so changed that the bard literature
of a century ago is almost unintelligible to the present generation,
we can see how complicated the problem is and that it is only capable
of solution, if at all, at the hands of experts.

The Karen language, as we now have it, is a monosyllabic
agglutinated speech, with no final consonants in Sgaw Karen and with
nasals and finals in other dialects. These are all marks of Sinitic
speech. Dr. D. C. Gilmore believes that the Pwo dialect branched
off from the parent stem earlier than the Sgaw, but kept the
original nasals and, being in closer contact with outside races,
adopted more outside words. [2-9] the Sgaw has dropped the final
nasals, because they were more difficult to pronounce, but has kept
the original form of the language to a greater extent than the Pwo.

The fact that the Karen have used bronze drums for many
generations has, I think, a bearing on their racial relationship.
These remarkable drums have only recently been studied by Western
scholars, and their full significance is still a matter for investigation.
These drums were formerly thought to be of Chinese origin,
but it seems that they are to be attributed to aboriginal tribes,
found in what is now Tong King and Yunnan by the Chinese general,
Ma Yuon (41, A.D.) and Chu-Ko Liang (230, A.D.), who
conquered these territories for the Chinese.[2-10]

The upper portion of Camboja is now considered to be the
original home of these drums. They formed part of the possessions
of the chiefs and were considered very precious, each being worth
from eight to ten oxen. Chu-ko Liang is reported to have exacted
sixty-three bronze drums as tribute from the barbarians and to
have taken them back with him. Among the peoples of Burma the
Karen seem to be the only race that has made use of these drums.
They do not manufacture them, but buy them from the more industrious
Shans, who do not appear to set much store by them.[2-11]
Among the Karen, until recent times, the owner of one of these
instruments was considered of more worth than a man who had
seven elephants. A drum often formed the ransom of a village or
the dowry of a maiden. Although so valued a possession often
belongs to a chief, it may belong to any one who can purchase it.

It may have been from the Karen that the Chinese generals
exacted part or all of their tribute. If so, this people was living in
the mountains of Yunnan at the beginning of the Christian era.
It is a belief of the Karen that their forefathers have cherished these
drums for time immemorial. One drum in Toungoo district is, I
have been told, supposed to be a thousand years old. Our knowledge
of them is, however, too meager to permit any dogmatic statements
on the subject. Further investigation should throw more light upon it.

The religious traditions of the Karen have also been thought
to possess significance in regard to their racial origin. When, in
1827, the early missionaries first discovered the Karen, they were
surprised to find that these people professed having received from
their forefathers monotheistic traditions in which the story of the
creation was almost parallel to the Mosaic account in Genesis.
The question, "Whence this story?" at once suggested
itself. Was it their independent possession from the beginning of
time, their only relic from a more vigorous and highly civilized
past when, as they explained, they had not yet lost their book?[2-12]
Or had it been borrowed from another people, whom they had met
in the course of their wanderings from their northern birthplace
to their present home? Some of the early missionaries, including
Dr. Mason, thought that the Karen might be found to be the lost
tribes of Israel[2-13] or, if not actually descended from Abraham, that
they had received instruction from colonies of Jews, who were
supposed to have spread to the East in ancient times.

It has also been suggested that Christian missionaries, traveling
to the Orient during the early centuries of our era, transmitted this
creation story to the Karen. On this point the comment of Dr. Laufer
is pertinent.[2-14] He says: "The 'River of running sand' in the
traditions of the Karen is not necessarily to be interpreted as the
Desert of Gobi; at least it is not convincing. Still less is it conceivable
that their legends should suggest an acquaintance with the
Jewish colonies in China, or even with the Nestorian tablet at
Sin-gan-fu. The small number of Jewish immigrants into China,
who were chiefly settled at K'ai-fong in Ho-nan, have never been
able to exert the slightest influence on their surroundings, but, on
the contrary, have been so completely sinsized that they are now
almost extinct. Nestorianism left no trace on the thought of Chinese
society. The inscription in question is written in such an exalted
and highly literary style that it is quite unintelligible to the
people and its technical terminology is a complete mystery to the
present scholars of China. No popular influence can be attributed
to such a monument." It appears that the number and antiquity of
early Jewish immigrants into China have been much overestimated
by many writers, so that, if present scholarship is correct, this
source from which the Karen could have obtained their tradition has
practically been eliminated.[2-15]

Though there seems to be little ground left for connecting the
Karen story of the creation with either the Jewish or Nestorian
colonies of China, there are one or two points that might be borne
in mind in regard thereto. The story is universally known among
the Karen tribes and most fully among the Red Karen, who have
been least affected by outside influences in recent times. It contains
no reference to the life or teachings of Christ or to any real
Messianic hope, but suggests only _Old Testament material_, such as
the creation, fall, flood, and tower of Babel, besides containing
the Red Karen genealogy. Hence, it would seem that we can hardly
attribute the story to the Portuguese missionaries, who were not in
Burma until the sixteenth century or later. It would rather point
to an earlier Jewish source, from which the story came back in the
days when the tribes were less divided than they were later. For if
Christian teachers had taught the Karen, would they not have made
a deeper impression with their story of salvation than with the less
significant one of creation?

Some writers have asserted that the original religion of China
was a sort of monotheism, in which one god, the Emperor of
Heaven, was somewhat akin to the Jehovah of the Hebrews,
thought not worshipped to the exclusion of all other deities. There
is a bare possibility that the Karen tradition might have some relation
to such an ancient belief.[2-16]

However, the story of the creation among these people has
such a marked parallelism with the Hebrew story that, even though
its origin has not been traced, we find it difficult to avoid the suspicion
that it came from an Hebraic source, being carried by some
wandering story-teller or unknown missionary only to become incorporated
into the tribal belief of the Karen, along with their own
primitive mythology.

The hilly province of Yunnan in southern China with
its great mixture of races, answers the description of an ancient
reservoir of fugitives and migrating groups from both India and
China. In the marauding expeditions and massacres taking place
among the contending elements in such a "melting pot," the Oriental
conquerors showed mercy only to the women along the foe and
made wives of them. On the assumption or theory that the Karen
spent a part of their migratory period in Yunnan, they may have
preserved a greater degree of racial purity by their practice of
strict endogamy and their custom of retreating to mountain fastnesses."[2-17]

From Yunnan the route that was probably followed by the
Karen was by way of the Mekong or Salwen into the upper part
of what is now the Shan States. Thence they spread southward
over what is now Karenni and then on to Lower Burma and

We are unable to determine when these migrations took placed,
or when the Karen entered Burma. If it could be shown that the
ancestors of the Karen were among those from whom the drum
tribute was exacted by the Chinese generals, we should know that
they were dwellers in Yunnan at the beginning of the Christian era.

Dr. Mason notes a tradition that a Karen chief went to the site
of Laboung, intending to bring his people to settle there, but that
when the returned with his followers the Shan had already occupied
the location. The founding of Laboung has been fixed at 574 A.D.
This comes the nearest to being a definite landmark in the southward
migration of the Karen people. The vicinity of Laboung was
probably the stopping-place on their long journey.[2-19]

Mr. J. O'Riley, one of the earliest English officers to travel in
the Karenni, writes that he found traditions indicating that the
country around Pagan was one of the early homes of the Karen
and that they were driven southwest from there, while the Chinese
who were with them were driven back to their own country, and the
Kollahs (foreigners), northward. The Karen then appear to have
gone to the Shan country, Hyoung Yuay, and thence to have been
driven to the Myobyay province. Here, according to tradition, they
were again attacked and, having in time greatly increased in numbers,
they turned against the Shan, expelled them, and occupied
the present Red Karen country.[2-26]

[ Illustration -- Karen Hill Men Coming Down to the Plains ]

The fact that the Karen are found farther south than the Shan
also argues that they migrated earlier and were perhaps pushed
on by the latter, who in turn may have given way before a more
powerful force at their heels. O'Riley learned of a tradition of the
Red Karen which suggested that they have lived ten generations in
their present home.[2-21] This would limit their sojourn here to a
period of less than three hundred years. This is doubtless much
too low an estimate, unless it refers to the time of their domicile
in the particular district now occupied.

In so far as we may venture a conclusion, it is that the Karen
migrated into Burma, coming from the ancient home of the early
tribes, inhabiting the country of China, with whom they are
related by tribal, linguistic, and possibly religious ties, the full
significance of which are yet to be determined.

Various Theories of the Origin and Tribal Relationship of
the Karen. -- From the middle of the nineteenth century
many theories regarding the origin and racial affinity of
the Karen have been propounded by writers on Burma.
J. R. Logan, writing in 1850 in the _Journal of the Indian
Archipelago_ (Vol. IV, p.478) connects this people wit
the tribes in the highlands of the Kolan and Irrawaddy and
in the lower bend of the Brahmaputra. Writing again in the
same _Journal_ in 1858 (New Series, Vol. II, p.387)
Logan maintains that the Karen Language is a dialect of
the Irrawaddy-Brahmaputran dialect, affected by Chinese
influence as it came south. Professor De Lacouperie
in his introduction to Colquhoun's _Amongst the Shans_
(pp. xxxviii, ff.) argues that the Karen are descended from
the ancient Tek or Tok tribes of central Asia. Early
missionaries and other writers, including Denniker
(_Races of Man_, pp. 395) believed that the Kachin
and Chin formed a branch of the Karen race. _The
Archaeological Survey_ of Burma has linked the Karen
both with the ancient Kanran, one of the three primitive
tribes mentioned in Burmese annals, and with the Miao
and Yao of Yunnan (_Report_ of 1916). But the Kanran
were driven southwestward from the region around
Prome and seem to have disappeared from history.
(Phayre, _History of Burma_, pp. 5-19.) The linguistic
differences between the Miao, Yao and Karen have led to
the abandonment of the idea that they are closely related.
In fact, all of these views have been given up, because
they were based on an inadequate knowledge of the tribes

Dr. Mason, in the _Journal, Asiatic Soc. Of Bengal_
(Vol. XXXVII, p. 162, 1868) says that the first historical
notice of the Karen is in Marco Polo's travels in the 13th
Century. He quotes Malte Brun on the basis of Marco Polo's
travels, as follows: "This country of Caride is the southeastern
point of Tibet, and perhaps the country of the nation of the
Cariaines; which is spread over Ava.' This statement is
confirmed by old Bghai poetry in which we find incidentally
mentioned the town of Bhamo to which they formerly were
in the habit of going to buy axes and bills or cleavers, as they
do now at Toungoo. When this poetry was composed they
live five hundred miles north of their present locality." These
geographical allusions seem so vague that it appears to be
impossible to build much of a theory upon them. Perhaps the
lines referring to Bhamo may refer to a trading expedition
and not to a line of migration. And the statement of Malte Brun is
only conjecture at the most.

In their excellent work on _The Pagan Tribes of Borneo_,
Hose and McDougall say that "of all the tribes of the
southwestern corner of the continent, the one which seems
to us most closely akin to the Kayans [of Borneo] is that
which comprises the several tribes of the Karen." (Vol. II,
p. 235).

The similarity in culture and physical characteristics of the
Kayan and Karen with some of the tribes of the Philippine
Islands, e.g., the Davao and Tinguian tribes, or between
the Karen and certain of the Malays, is strong. The
similarity of the name "Kayan" with that by which the Karen
are known to the Burman is also striking; but it seems fairly
clear that if this accidental similarity of name did not exist, the
Kayans would not have been considered closer than the
Dyaks in kinship to the Karen. Dr. J. H. Vinton, who has
had a life-long acquaintance with the Karen, thinks that
they are resembled more by the Dyaks than by the Kayans.
He expressed this view after a recent tour through Borneo.
These similarities suggest that most of these tribes are not
far removed from one another, and that they all belong to
the Indo-Chinese stock, which, in turn, resembles the
South China type, due no doubt to a common ancestry
in the remote past.

[ Illustration -- Karen Men from the Hills, Tharrawaddy District ]
{ The second man from the left is a village chief or headman. The fourth
is a plainsman, who is the teacher in Pankabin Village. }


The Karen are of medium height. On the plains they average
about five feet, four inches, in stature, and in the hills they are about
three inches shorter. The women are smaller than the men.[3-1] The
hill people have the harder struggle for a livelihood and are also
more liable to attacks of malaria. The Brecs show evidence signs of
stunted growth. On the plains and in the more fertile lower hills
we find that the Karen are a stocky race with broad, well-built
bodies, strong legs, and well-rounded calves. The legs are often
short in proportion to the body. Karen players on a football team
are usually noticeable for their sturdy appearance, in contrast with
the slimmer Burman boys. They are capable of considerable physical
exertion, but soon tire. The women are well formed and buxom.
They have an erect carriage, being used to bearing heavy burden,
on their heads or backs. Their teeth, like the men's, are stained
with continual betel chewing. In the hills their lack of bathing and
their accumulations of beads and charms detract from their
appearance; but when they have taken on more cleanly ways they become
not unattractive. Their youth is cut short by heavy work in
the field, constant childbearing, and nursing, and soon the signs of
age appear.

The color of the Karen varies all the way from a light
olive complexion to a dark coffee brown. On the whole, their color could
be said to range between that of the Burmans and the Chinese.
Those who work indoors are, of course, lighter than those who
work in the open. Many skins have a distinctly yellowish or reddish tinge.
Infants are often almost as white as European children.
Red cheeks are not infrequently found in the Toungoo hills.[3-2]

[ Illustration -- Karen Family with Traces of Negrito Blood (Profile View & Front View) ]
{ The rest of the villagers, to whom the family is related by the usual
web of intermarriages, acknowledge the difference of feature, but are
at loss to account for it. }

Though we often find considerable individuality in the facial
features of the Karen, they conform more or less to type, which
consists of the broad flat face of the Mongolian races with high
cheek-bones and widely set eyes. The eyes have narrow palpebral
openings, sometimes slanted, and the characteristic fold at the
nasal end. The nose is broad and flat without much of a bridge.
The plane of the nostrils is tilted upward, so that the septum and
nostrils are quite noticeable. The mouth is usually well shaped, but
a few individuals have thick lisp and a heavy Negroid mouth. The
teeth are quite regular and, when not stained with betel, are white
and shining.

In the Pegu Hills, in the village of Ngepe, I found a family that
had decidedly negroid features. The contrast
with the rest of the villagers was marked. Although I could get no
hint of a different ancestry in the case of the exceptional family
from that of the rest of the people, it was obvious that an admixture
of Negrito blood must have taken place somewhere.

The hair of the Karen is generally black, straight, and coarse.
Once in a while away hair is found, and in rare cases, it seems to
be almost as kinky as that of the African. Wavy hair is not admired,
but, on the contrary, is much disliked. The Karen have an
abundance of hair on the scalp. It often reaches to the waist, and
I have noticed a few instances in which it reached to the ground.
In the early days the custom was for both sexes to wear the hair
long, but now the men usually wear theirs short.

The men have scant beards which are seldom allowed to grow,
being pulled out with tweezers. The mustache is prized and is
coaxed to become as luxuriant as possible. In the few cases where
the beard is allowed to grow, it resembles the beards of Chinese
men. However, I know a Karen teacher in Bassein who has a beard
that would please any inhabitant of Russia. A mole with a few
hairs growing from it is greatly treasured, the hairs being allowed
to grow as long as they will. Hair on the body and chest of the
men is rare. I can recall only one man who had a hairy chest.
There is nothing unusual about the eyebrows.

The Karen seem to be susceptible to all the diseases prevalent
in the country. Children are seen more often than not with distended
bowels, due to worms. Enlarged spleen is the rule in the
hills, where malaria is so prevalent. A number of cases in which a
low vitality has caused ulcers to break out and involve the entire
system have come under my notice. Epidemics of measles are
much feared, due to complications induced by bathing soon after the
rash has disappeared, the bathing being thought necessary. Smallpox
does not cause much apprehension. The bubonic plague has
never claimed many Karen victims, but the influenza was terribly
fatal during the cool season of 1918-19. Tuberculosis is one of the
many diseases from the West that is claimed its victims among the
Karen people. Though their open-air life safeguards them somewhat,
their fear of demons causes them to cover their heads at
night, and they breathe only through their blankets. Those who
lived in the better built houses on the plains also deprive themselves
of fresh air by retiring into the close inner room of their homes in
order to avoid the smell of cooking, which they fear. Such
superstitious practices furnish ideal breeding-places for germs. The
unbalanced diet of the Karen also restricts their disease-resisting
powers. One hopes that, with improved ideas on sanitation and
hygiene, the people of this race will not only be relieved from the
present high rate of infant mortality, but also that those surviving
may attain greater longevity.

The presence of certain birth-marks on the children of Mongolian
parents has been thought by some scientists to be an important
criterion for distinguishing members of that race.[3-3] The Karen infants
certainly have these blue patches on the back and buttocks.
Sometimes they are so indistinct as to be hardly noticeable,
and again they are clear and bright. They are irregular in shape
and size. My observations confirm the accuracy of the census
returns, namely, that about seven out of ten children have these marks
at birth. They usually disappear by the time a child is a year old.
The Karen explanation for them is that they are the stains of leaves,
on which the spirits of the children sat or laid down to rest in the
course of their long and wearisome journey from their former
abode. These marks are thought to show that the children having
them will be strong, and mothers are glad to see them on their offspring.
Perhaps they reason that if the baby spirit was able to
stand the long journey necessary to come to the birth, it will
endure the longer journey of this human existence.

[ Illustration -- Sgaw Karen Young Bloods, Ngape Eh Village, Tharrawaddy Hills ]
{ Like most mountain people, the Karen are stocky race. }

I have noticed a few cases of homosexuals among the Karen,
thought they do not seem to be as common as among the Burmese.
These individuals, who assume more or less the dress and customs
of the opposite sexes, have been known to contract unions with others
of the same sex, and live as husband and wife. The cases I found
have all been on the plains.


The Karen draws the blinds over the windows of his heart and
leaves one to wonder what goes on within. I once asked an educated
Karen what he thought was the chief characteristic of his race, and
he immediately replied that they are a people who can be afraid.
Centuries of subjugation and oppression have filled them with fear.
During the protracted period of their tribulations, to be caught
by a Burman was to be stripped of everything, even of one's clothing,
and to be beaten into the bargain. Where only a few families
lived on the plains, the women with child dared not undergo confinement
in their houses, lest they could not escape from a sudden
attack by their oppressors. Karen cartmen still drive around
a village rather than through it, although they know there is little
danger of having dogs set on them, as there used to be. Not only
does the Karen fear his fellow-men, but he is also terrified by the
strange and weird beings, demons and ghosts, with which his imagination
and credulity people the world. Should he, even by chance,
offend any of these -- and it is easily done he thinks -- he must live
in dread of their vengeance. His religion is one of fear, precaution,
and propitiatory sacrifice. The trepidations of the past have been
perpetuated through generations and, though education has shifted
them in a measure, they still crop out on occasion even in the most
advanced members of the race.

The Karen is led into all sorts of difficulties by his timidity.
He is apprehensive and desirous of avoiding trouble with officers
or others. When brought into court to answer questions, often this
fear will lead him to deny any knowledge of the facts, instead of
relating what he has seen; or he may acknowledge the opposite of
what he want to prove. Not long ago I heard of a man who had
what seemed to be a good case, but on the witness-stand he swore
to the opposite of what he had told previously. When asked why
he did so, he replied that he was so scared that he did not know what
he was saying. In thus yielding to his timidity the Karen often
involves himself in serious difficulty, for his mistakes are easily

Shyness, caution, and concealment are fruits of this trait of
fear. I have often heard a veteran school-teacher remark that the
Karen never puts his best foot foremost. In the past it was not
safe for him to do so. Concealment was one of his natural means
of protection. To show signs of prosperity or admit having possessions
was only tempting his more powerful neighbors to come and
dispossess him. I know of recent instances of persecution of one sort
or another being visited upon certain Karen villages on account
of their prosperous condition. In the days of the Ancient Regime
the French peasantry stimulated poverty, in order to protect their
property from the tax-collector. The Karen has been preyed upon
in various ways in earlier and later times, and in his fear
and helplessness he has resorted to the method of the European peasant.
Shyness and caution are marked traits of the Karen women even
more than of the men. Indeed, I have seen all the inhabitants
of a village run to the jungle when I came in sight. A group of
girls out gathering firewood dropped their faggots and disappeared
as fast as possible at the approach of my party along the path. In
their attempts to hide their shyness, schoolgirls often succeed in
attracting the attention they are trying to avoid.

A leading authority on Burma has said that the Karen are
"absolutely devoid of humor."[4-1] Having had years of experience as
a missionary among these people, I may be allowed to differ from
the opinion just quoted. The authority referred to was a high Government
official, and I am quite sure that no Karen would be so
self-forgetful as to risk offending the dignity of such a personage.
One who has entered into intimate association with these people,
has been entertained in their houses, and has sat beside their fireplaces
will testify to their love of fun and their jolly laughter. For
myself I ask for no lighter-hearted companions than those with
whom I have traveled over the plains and hills, and whom I have
met in distant villages. They are keen enough to see the humor in
some of their folklore tales, in embarrassing situations, and in the
little mishaps of daily life, and to laugh heartily when these are
told. They are also capable of enjoying practical joke. This is
illustrated by the instance of a young man who by mistake shot
a vulture, as it flew up out of the bushes, and decided to serve the
breast of the great bird, cooked with curry well spiced, to some of
his chums. The flesh of the creature proved to be both tough and
strong, and when one of the guests left the group to wash out his
mouth, the host beat a hasty retreat. The other villagers, who
promptly heard of the unpalatable feast, amused themselves by
asking the guests how they enjoyed it.

[ Illustration -- KAREN BOYS ]
{ Most of the crowd that gathered to watch the foreigner have already fled.
Only a few brave boys remain to face the camera. }

[ Illustration -- Playmates: Karen Boys and the Sons of the Author ]
{ Notice the unusually curly hair of one of the Karen boys, all of whom
are brothers, children of a Bassein man and a Toungoo woman. }

The Karen are accustomed to say of themselves that "they put
a thing in the heart." They mean by this that they hold their peace,
but do not forget slights, grudges, disagreeable request, and the
like. If a Karen is asked to do something he does not want to do,
he may reply with a grunt suggesting an assent, but does not comply
with the request and fails to put in an appearance again soon.
He does not refuse at the time, fearing to cause trouble. In the
same way a slight or an insult is "put in the heart" without retort
or demonstration of anger. He dissimulates and waits for his revenge.
Before the British established orderly government in the
country, many a raid was executed to pay off a grudge or an insult
cherished in the heart. For the man of little or no influence in his
village there was a secret method of vengeance, namely, by resorting
to magic or to poison. It was the fear of this vengeful trait in the
Karen that for years prevented the Burman subordinate officials
from crossing Thaukgeyat Creek into the Toungoo Hills.

The repudiation of a friend is not unknown among the Karen,
but such conduct is rare. In general, they are cautious in entering
into friendships, but, having done so, are faithful and sincere to
those whose confidence they accept in exchange for ther own.
Blood-brotherhood is a recognized institution among them, having
been much more prevalent in the past than at present; and the bond
signified by it in most of the Karen tribes was stronger than the
ties of family. Westerners make friends more quickly than the
Karen, but Western haste and impatience are not winsome qualities
to the latter.

It has been said that the Karens are stubborn. They do not
reach quick decisions in regard to matters novel to them and can
not be forced to do so. But if given time to consider after a full
explanation, they are pretty sure to return later and offer
their reasons for not consenting to the proposition; and if allowed
to talk the matter out, their objections being answered and time
given for their consideration, they will most likely be persuaded.
When thus convinced, their loyal cooperation may generally be
depended on. I have known not a few Government officials who, by
such methods, have won the confidence and earnest support of the
people with whom they were dealing. It is unfortunate, however,
that the number of such officers is not larger. While the Karen have
not always been treated with proper consideration and have some
times failed to understand the aims and methods of the British
Government, they are deeply attached to it.

It is true that the Karen are not as quick-witted as some of the
other races of the Orient. Nevertheless, they are in some respects
out-distancing their more facile neighbors. They excel in the routine
of their daily tasks. This is observable in the schools, where
the Karen boys usually take the lead in the daily recitations, but
make a poorer showing in the written and oral examinations. Several
Government officers have spoken in high terms of their Karen
clerks, commending their faithfulness and honesty. Not infrequently
it happens that such a faithful worker finds that some
astute associate has gained the credit and reward that should have
been his. The Karen are not blind to disappointments of this sort,
as the following fable shows: A man, about to leave home, ordered
his pig and dog to prepare a plot of ground for planting as a garden.
The pig was industrious and rooted until he had all but finished
turning over the plot, while the dog spent his time lying under
a tree. Late in the afternoon, before the master's return, the dog
jumped up and scratched about here and there in the soft earth.
When he heard his master coming, he ran barking down the path to
meet him, and told him that the pig had been working about a short
time, while he had been digging all day. The faithful pig, meanwhile,
was so busy rooting in the farthest corner of the lot, trying
to finish before his owner's return, that he knew nothing of
what was going on. The credulous man believed the dog's deceitful
words, killed the pig, and only discovered his mistake when it was
too late. This fable is epitomized in the proverb. "The dog
scratches in the pig's place." For many a Karen this i all too true.

Early writers speak of the peaceableness, honesty, and goodness
of the Karen.[4-2] There are, of course, in every nation those who
believe any statement concerning the people as a whole. However, I
have no hesitation in saying that deceit and trickery are not common
among the Karen. I have been told by peddlers and other, who
often have to carry valuable goods and money into the jungle, that
they prefer to spend their nights in Karen villages and do so whenever
possible. In the Karen hills the paddy-bins, in which is stored
the year's supply of rice, are situated far away from the village
along the jungle paths. It is almost unknown for grain to be stolen
from them. Among some of the tribes east of Toungoo stealing
was punished, until recently, by death. Dr. Mason says that he has
never found a Karen who would not lie, if it was to his advantage
to do so. This does not agree with my experience.

In various respects, certainly, Karen conduct differs from European
conduct. To expect the same standards would be unreasonable.
Any fair estimate of the Karen, as of any other primitive
people, must taken into account the fact that morality with them is
group conduct. The behavior of the individual must be regarded
in the light of the life and customs of the group to which he belongs.
If the actions of the people., considered thus in relation to
their own social status, appear capable of betterment, efforts
should be put forth to lead the primitive folk to the higher level.

The Karen possess intellectual capacity commensurate with
that of other races of Burma. Being subject people in the country,
their ancestors were precluded from independent thought and action
in essential matters. With the advent of education a sufficient
number of the young men and women, though the proportion of the
later is small, has taken collegiate course with credit to show
that they are not inferior to others. The same may be said of many
who have won success in practical lines of work. I could name
several Karen occupying positions of responsibility that require high
mental attainments, who are demonstrating that they are not lacking

The old practice of village communities in exiling widows and
orphans to the jungle, and the occasional abandonment of little
children by their parents who were attempting to escape from
raiders are, happily, things of the past. Fear, the instinct of self-preservation, and
superstition serve to explain such phenomena,
which must not be taken as indicating that the Karen are lacking
in love for children or in humane sentiments. Nowadays orphans
find a home without difficulty; widows and aged persons are cared
for; parents enjoy their firesides and manifest love for their offspring,
with whom they are, in fact, too indulgent, even to their
hurt; and young men and women are not above giving tender care
to some little niece or nephew.

[ Illustration -- A Paku Schoolgirl, Toungoo ]

The Karen have been addicted to the use of liquor. Their
feasts and religious observances have been occasions for drinking.
It is reported that the Brecs are accustomed to store their grain in
two bins, one (often the larger one) for that of which liquor is to
be made, and other for that which is to be used as food. On the
plains I have not found the Karen greater drinkers than their
neighbors. With the decay of the old rites and the spread of Christianity
the evil seems to be on the decline. Among the members
of the Baptist churches, however it may be in the other denominations,
total abstinence is enjoined.

The Karen are lovers of music. In the early days they accompanied
the chanting of their poems on their primitive harps and
other instruments. The people of the Pegu Yomas, Tenasserim, in
the delta of the Irrawaddy, have interesting tunes, which have been
in use from the olden times. In other district they have contented
themselves with the rythm of chanting and moaning, melodies being
conspicuous by their absence. The Maw Lay and other religious
sects have had their own songs, which may be said to correspond
to Christian hymns. With the introduction of Christianity came
the music of the Western hymn-book and to this the Karen have
taken with their whole hearts. They love to sing and do not grow
weary of it, however late the hour. Occidental music has taken
such a hold on those who have become Christians that they have almost
entirely given up their native music. A few hymns are sometimes
sung to adaptations of their old tunes; but they prefer the
Western melodies, and few of the young people know any other.
They learn the new tunes readily and are able to sing glees and
anthems by ear after a moderate amount of practice. Their voices
are much softer than those of the Burmese and blend well in
choruses. Some of the young women have very sweet voices, which
seldom become harsh and rasping. While traveling in the hill country
I was delighted one evening with the sweet voice of a young
woman, which came floating up from the stream where she was
drawing water. She was singing an old "hta" or poem, while I
listened unobserved behind a clump of bamboos. No sooner did I
step into the open than she ceased, and I could not persuade her to
continue the song.

One discovers but few indications of a love of beauty among
the Karen. They make little attempt to ornament their houses or
their implements, so that the evidence of their possessing a sense
of color and design is practically limited to the woven patterns of
some of their garments. They have only a scant vocabulary for
colors. I have seldom heard them remark on the beauty of a sunset
or the glories of a sunrise. Sometimes they have called attention
to a pleasing landscape, but I have wondered whether they were
not doing so because they knew of my pleasure in such scenes.

The Karen is a plebeian. His manner at home are crude, although
he is not without a certain personal dignity. His shyness
in the presence of strangers, especially of those whom he
fears, causes him embarrassment. Under such circumstances he
often impresses one as being impolite. He is not servile. It has
never been his custom to "shiko".[4-3] The greatest chief is a comrade
among his men, who do not yield their self-respect in his presence.
Nevertheless, the inherent timidity of the race shows itself in the
avoidance of making a request in person. A request may expose
the one making it to the chagrin of a refusal and the one addressed
to the unpleasant necessity of giving an adverse answer. The Karen,
therefore, gets a friend to act as his intermediary. Even a boy who
wants to buy a book will have his classmate get it for him.

Amiability is another marked trait of the Karen, both of the
educated and the uneducated, rendering them acceptable in many
kinds of service. Young Karen women are in demand as nursemaids
all over Burma, and not a few have gone temporarily to
England and America in that capacity. They are kind, patient, and
faithful in their care of the children entrusted to their care.

The remarkable chastity of the Karen is also worthy of notice.
It has, however, been mentioned in several places in this work
and perhaps need not be discussed further in this connection, except
to say that the fear of the evil consequences of violating at the laws
of the elders has kept them free from any unhealthy customs
that are found in many parts of the world.[4-4]


In Chapter I, I referred briefly to the relationship of the Karen
dialects to the other languages of Burma and noted the bearing of
that subject upon the question of the origin of the people. I
adopted the grouping suggested in the last Burma _Census_ (that
of 1911), where those dialects are described as forming a Sinitic or
Karen group of the Siamese-Chinese sub-family of the Tibeto-
Chinese languages. This group comprises three principal branches,
namely, the Sgaw, the Pwo (including the Taungthu), and the
Bwe, which embraces several minor dialects in the Toungoo and
Red Karen country. Some of these latter forms of speech have
been very little studied. A few books have been published in Bwe,
but at present are superseded by publications in the Sgaw, the 
Sgaw language was reduced to writing by Dr. Jonathan Wade in
1832, the Burmese alphabet being used in denoting most of the
sounds, while certain symbols were employed for such letters as
had no equivalent in Burmese. In this way a perfect phonetic alphabet
was created.

It may not be out of placed in this connection to point out a
few of the marked characteristics of the Karen language. The
order of words in the sentence is that of the English, as well as of
the Chinese and Tai, namely, subject, predicate, and object. The
language is monosyllabic, except in a few instances, some of which
are more apparent than real. Each root may be used in any form
of speech, that is, as noun, adjective, verb, or adverb, by the 
addition of the proper particle or in combination with other roots.
Each syllable has a signification of its own and a grammatical relation
to one or more of the other syllables in every compound part of

Dr. Wade calls attention to the fact that the Karen often use
words in pairs, verbs being paired sometimes merely for the sake
of euphony, though generally to give fullness and force to the idea
intended. Such pairing of words, whether nouns, verbs, or other
parts of speech, invest the Karen language, Dr. Wade thinks, with
"a beauty and force of expression unsurpassed perhaps in any
other language in the world." These paired words, which are called
by the Karen 'father and mother words," may be parsed separately
or together according to their position in the sentence. They may
consist of two roots having similar meanings, or of a well-known
root together with one which by itself has no meaning now commonly
understood. Misapprehension is often avoided by the use of
paired words. For example, "ni" (with the circumflex tone) means
years, and the same syllable (with the long tone) means day. When
this monosyllable is carefully pronounced, one does not always
catch the difference; but "ni-thaw' unmistakably denotes day, because
"thaw" is another designation for this period of time; and
"ni-la" cleriy signifies year, the latter syllable meaning literally
month. Such compound words may have compound modifiers which,
when used with discrimination, give a pleasing finish to the speech.

The Sgaw dialect has six different tones and the Pwo an equal
number. The other dialect have various numbers, but not so many 
and difficult as the tones of the Chinese language.

The Sgaw alphabet consists of twenty-five consonants and ten
vowels. One character appears both as a guttural and a consonant.
There are no closed syllables in this dialect. The Pwo dialect has
three nasal endings which, Dr. Gilmore thinks, are a remnant of the
original speech. Evidence in support of this view is supplied by a
comparison of the meanings of the single word "hpaw" in Sgaw
Karen with the nasal forms expressing the same meanings in Pwo.
In the former dialect "hpaw" means one of three things, namely
cook, flower, or granary, while in the latter these meaning 
require the use of three nasal forms as follows; "hpawn, "hpaw,"
and "hpan." Other roots from the two dialects show a difference
of this sort, indicating that the Sgaw has dropped its original

There is no proper relative pronounce in Sgaw. The particle
"leu" serves in this capacity, as well as doing duty as quotation
marks, a preposition, and a part of every compound prepositions,
this last form of speech being one of the characteristics of the
language. The reflexive use of the pronoun is a notable idiom in the
Sgaw. The demonstrative supplies the place of the definite article.
A numerical affix or adjective is employed with every numeral.
Each of these affixes is supposed to denote the leading characteristic
of the noun to which it refers. Its use is similar to our saying in
English "cattle, five head," or "bread, four loaves."

The verb is almost always considered transitive and, if there
should be no word that could properly stand as its object, the nominal
pronoun "ta" is added to supply it. The verb "to be" takes the
objective case. The double negative is used with the verb after the
manner of the French and Burmese idiom, "t'--ba" corresponding
to the Burmese "m--bu."

The Karen numerals are based on the decimal system not only
from one to ten, but also upwards by tens and hundreds to tens of
millions. There is, however, a marked peculiarity in the Bwe
method of counting from six to nine, six being three couples; seven,
three couples-one; eight, four couples, and nine, four couples-one.

The Pwo dialect does not differ materially from the Sgaw in
structure, or greatly in vocabulary, as shown by a comparison of
the two by Dr. Wade, which indicates that thirteen-fourteenths of
the words of the Sgaw and Pwo are from the same roots. For one
familiar only with the Sgaw dialect there is difficulty in immediately
understanding the Pwo, because the nasals affect the pronunciation
of the latter. The Bwe and other Toungoo dialects seem
to have nasals and wide variations in tones. They also possess letters
that are lacking in the Sgaw, such as g, j, z, and a peculiar dj
that is impossible to represent in English letters. The Mopgha
have the letter f, which they pronounce highly aspirated.[5-2] The
Sgaw have no g, j, v, or z. They have both the aspirated and
unaspirated, k, t, and p. Besides these consonants, they have gutturals
and combined consonants to which there are no parallels in Western

Although in the early days the Karen had no written language,
it is not to be inferred that they were without a literature. On the
contrary, a large quantity of bard literature was handed down
orally from generation to generation, being taught by certain
elders to the youths who were arriving at maturity, in order that
they might transmit it in turn without change to those coming
after them. This literature comprises probably more than two hundred
tales, legends, and mythical stories. A large proportion of
these are in the nature of beast tales or fables, such as are found
in India, European, and Africa. Some of the myths and legends are
in the form of verse and were formerly recited at length at 
funerals and on other festal occasion, or were sung to the accompaniment
of the harp. There are also the epics containing the
"Y'wa" legends. Finally, a considerable amount of wise instruction
is contained in the numerous short sayings, Proverbs, and
riddles that have survived. Fragments of the shorter and longer
poems, chanted at funerals, have been quoted in the chapter on Funeral
Customs, and some of the tales and myths have been referred
to or paraphrased in other portions of this work. Further presentation
and discussion of the Karen literature is reserved for a future

[ Illustration -- A Karen Belle ]
{ Thought not particularly handsome, many of the Karen maidens
are very attractive. }


To describe in detail the costume of every tribe of the Karen
would be like going into all the minutiae of the tartans of the
Scotch and would of itself fill a volume. There are, however, 
certain characteristics of dress that prevail more or less widely
among the whole people, and I shall endeavor to point these
out. The "hse" is found in various forms among almost all hte
tribes. This resembles a smock in that it is a loose, unfitted garment,
falling from the shoulders over the body. This "hse" is made
by sewing together two narrow strips of cloth to form an oblong,
inverted "meal-bag." Holes are left in the seams at the upper corners
through which the arms are thrust, and another opening is
left in the middle seam at the top, which serves as the neck of the

For the men in the Sgaw and Pwo tribes living back in the
hills this garment still serves as their entire costume. It reaches
from the shoulders to the calves. In the Pegu Hills the Sgaw
wear a garment that is white above, except for red selvedge lines
along the seams, and has the lower third woven with red. The border
between the two colors may be more or less variegated and embroidered.
In the Moulmein and Papon districts and to the eastward
the garment is made of alternating wide strips of white and
red running its whole length.

Among the Bwe tribes the custom is to wear a shorter smock,
which fits a little more closely than the one just described.
It might be called a tunic. The loin-cloth (sometimes replaced by
shorter trousers) is worn with the tunic. Various branches of the
Bwe wear different arrangements of colors. The Paku wear a
white tunic with a narrow red border around the bottom. In each
village this border has a distinctive form. Among the other eastern
hill tribes we find the Kerhker, sometimes called the Gai-hko, wearing
a tunic embroidered with vertical figures like towers, from the
top of which lines radiate like the rays of the rising sun. The Bwe
tribes usually wear tunics of vertically striped weaves, some of
them, e.g., the Mopgha, with narrow red lines. In the early days
they wore scant loin-clothes, but nowadays they wear longer cloths
or Shan trousers, like many of the other hill tribes. The Brecs wear
short breeches belted in at the waist with a string. These trousers
are at first white with narrow red stripes, but soon become a dirty
yellow, growing constantly darker with wear and age. The so-called
"Pant Bwes" ornament their breeches with radiating lines
at the bottom. The Red Karen, who take their name from their
red garments, wear short breeches of red cotton and a short close-fitting
tunic of the same color. These soon become the color of dirt
from the generous accretions of that substance which adhere to
them. These people use a blanket, which is red and white striped
when new. They discard both the tunic and blanket in warm
weather. Cotton is the most common material used, but in Toungoo
silk is often used, either alone or with the cotton.

[ Illustration --  A Bwe Karen Man's Suit, Bwe Karen Hills, Toungoo District ]
{ The smock is of white silk with red stripes and embroidery woven
in. The loin cloth ("teh ku") is magenta and black. Both are of
silk, for every man of any account feels he must have one silk suit. }

In Lower Burma, on the plains, it has become customary for
the men to wear Burmese garments. The only time they put on
their Karen garments, if they have them, is when they hold their
"Bgha" feast. The different tribes to the east wear the Shan costume,
with more or less variation, all the way to the Chinese

[ Illustration -- A Karen Bamboo Comb ]

The Karen men knot up their long hair on the top of the head
or over the right or left ear, according to the custom of their particular
locality, fastening it with a small triangular bamboo comb.
No other head-dress is worn, except a piece of white muslin or other
light-weight cloth, which may be put over the head as a turban or
around it like a fillet, unless one should include the ornamental
head-bands of the Karenni youth who, before marriage, wear neck-laces
of stones that have been handed down from father to son for
generations, and ornaments for the head, neck, and ears, consisting
of mother-of-pearl buttons interspersed with the shining wings of
beautiful green beetles. All these are, however, given up at
marriage and become the property of the bride.

In the matter of adopting foreign dress the women are more
conservative than the men. Long after every man in a village has
taken on the Burmese costume, the women continue to wear their
characteristic black smock over their Burmese jacket and "longyi"

The Sgaw and Pwo women, after arriving at the age of puberty,
wear a smock ("hse") and a shirt ("ni"). Little girls wear a single
"hse," falling from their neck to their ankles, at least when it is
new. In some villages they wear a white "hse," without any ornament
or color, but in other places they wear a black garment ornamented
with colored yarns at the neck and around the armholes.
In some localities the maidens wear the long white "hse," reaching
to the ankles, until they are married; but it is more common for
them to put on the skirt and wear a shorter "hse" at about the
time they arrive at maturity.

The women's dress varies from one tribe to another, and in
some instances each village has its particular weave. There is considerable
general similarity of the Karen designs to those in
the Malay countries, in Borneo, and in the Philippines; but the
particular Karen design, among the Sgaw women at least, is that
supposed to be derived from the python. The story is that "Naw
Mu E," one of the mythical characters of ancient times, was kidnapped
by a fabulous White Python and carried off to his den.
Later, her husband, hearing of her plight, came and rescued her by
sacrificing himself at the mouth of the den, whereon the woman
was released and enabled to return to the upper earth again. Various
versions of the story exist, one of which is that she was compelled
by the python to weave patterns on its skin that still remain,
but on being released showed her contempt for it by weaving skirts
for herself of the same pattern, thus giving it the gravest insult
she could inflict. This pattern soon became general among Karen

Other patterns, of which there are many, are called by various
names, as seeds, little pagodas, cowries, etc Especially beautiful is
the pattern or weave worn by the Mopgha women which consists
of a variety of figures in magenta, yellow, and green on a black
ground. I have been told that the weaving of the designs for these
skirts has become a lost art, none of the young women of the few
villages of the Mopgha tribe having learned to weave these garments.
The Bwe women usually wear a black "ni" or skirt with
a few horizontal stripes of white and red running through the middle.

[ Illustration -- Women's Garments ]
{ (1) A "hko peu" or head-dress of a Sgaw Karen.
(2) A smock ("hse") and a skirt ("ni"), Sgaw Karen,
from the Pegu Hills, Toungoo District, The smock is
embroidered with colored yarns and
"Job's Tears." The middle of the skirt shows the
python pattern.
(3) A Sgaw Karen smock and skirt from Shwegyin District.
This smock is trimmed with red braid, except the
lower part which is fancily woven ("u"). }

The women of all these tribes wear the simplest kind of a
skirt; it is a straight slip which, instead of being gathered about
the waist, is drawn tight across the back, folded across the front,
and the fulness tucked in at the waist line, thus allowing the
action of the knees. The garment remains in place remarkably
well, although no belt is used. When the women bathe -- those on
the plains doing so with much more regularity than their sisters
in the hills -- they bring the top of the skirt up under the armpits
and fasten it over the breasts in the same manner as about the

The jackets or smocks of the women present a variety of 
designs. The most common is the plain black or dark blue "hse" with
little or no ornament on it. Sometimes it is decorated with small
rosettes or stars of colored yarns or, among the Pwo, with fern-like
figures. The prettiest decorations are made with the hard white
seeds of various shapes of the plant called Job's Tears (_Coix_). The
variety mostly used are those resembling barberries, called "bwe"
in Sgaw Karen and found all over the hills. These are sewed on
the finished garment in parallel rows, in rows forming V-shaped
figures, or in the forms of stars or rosettes and edging the arm,
and neck holes. Red yarns or pieces of red cloth are also sewed on
to add to the ornamentation. In Shwegyin we often see a "hse"
that is woven with elaborate designs of red and green on a black
ground, red tape being sewed in vertical lines on the body of the
garment and in horizontal lines over the shoulders. The head-dress
of the women is called "hko peu ki" and among the Sgaw women
consists of a piece of cloth about two yards long and a foot
wide. The middle part is plain white. At either end there is a
fancy woven ("u") portion about twenty inches long, red in color
and cross at intervals of two inches by transverse lines. In the
middle of these colored ends is a white zigzag line representing a
serpent. The other lines are in pairs, those equidistant from the
zigzag above and below being alike and having their special designations.
These names are, however, in archaic form, and their
meaning is not well known. There are long white fringes on the
ends of the head-dress and shorter colored ones at the ends of the
cross lines. When worn, it is twisted about the head in such a way
as to form a peak over the forehead with the colored fringes hanging
down about the eyes and the long white fringes down the back.
In a few villages in the Pegu Hills the women wear circlets ("hko
hhlaw") of bamboo or silver, around which they coil their hair. The
metal circlets are made of beaten silver a scant inch in width and
long enough to go once and a half around the head, being held
by a fancy clasp at the back, which keeps the band in place. Such
silver circlets are valued at about ten rupees or more, according to
the work on them.

The Karen make blankets of the same cloth that they use for
their garments. They use two strips of white edged with red selvedges,
each piece being four yards long. These are sewed together
lengthwise, and then one outer edge is sewed up to provide a
half-open sleeping-bag. The fringes of the open end are drawn up over
the head.

[ Illustration -- WOMEN'S HEAD-DRESS]
{ Half Size }

On the whole, the Karen are very careful about exposing their
persons. The women have always worn the closed skirts and not the
open "tamein," which was formerly in vogue among the Burmese.
They seldom go without their jackets, though in the hills older
women now and then leave them off. Little children run about
more or less naked. Boys often find their garments a bother and
thrust them aside, but men usually are very careful about keeping
their loins covered. When working, the men, who wear the "hse"
or smock, pull the right arm inside the armhole and extend it again
through the wide neckhole, so that the right arm and shoulder are
entirely free for chopping or doing any other work at hand.
They sometimes lower the whole garment to the waistline,
where they knot it up in Burman fashion and thus leave the upper
part of the body free. The Brecs are the poorest tribe of Karen
and wear the scantiest clothing consisting of short trousers. Often
these are much the worse for wear. These people have rough small
blankets, which they throw around themselves in cold weather. But
more often they appear without them. The Karen on the palins
bathe daily, doing so in their skirts ("longyi"), as do the Burmese.
After the bath they slip the fresh garment over the wet one, which
they allow to fall off as they fasten the other in place.

[ Illustration -- KAREN SKIRTS AND BAGS ]
{ No. 1 is a Mopgha Karen skirt, a black ground with silk embroidery in magenta, 
yellow, green, and red. The younger women have lost the art of weaving these
No. 2 is a Tavoy Sgaw Karen skirt woven in imitation of a popular
Burmese pattern.
The bags, Nos. 3 and 4, are Sgaw Karen, and
No. 5 is Bwe. }

The wet garment is then pounded on a stone or soused up and
down in the water a few times, and that is about all the laundering
it gets. White jackets are washed out with soap and, in the towns,
are given to the Indian washermen ("dhobies") for proper "doing

For protection from the rain the Karen use the wide-spreading
fronds of the palm, which are nature's models for the paper umbrellas
of the Chinese and Burmese. Workers in the paddy-fields
make raincoats out of thatch woven on flexible bark fibre stays,
which they tie across their shoulders. Three or four layers of the
thatch make a protection that reaches to the knees. For a hat they
tie a bit of palm leaf over the head, or wear a round umbrella-
shaped hat like those made by the Shan and Burmese out of the
sheathes of the Cocoanut-palm or of bamboo. While transplanting
rice on the plains a rain cover is made of these same sheathes or of
tough large leaves covered with a network of thin bamboo splints
bound with rattan. These covers are scoop-shaped and hang from
the head down the back, causing a company of cultivators, bent
over their work while wearing them, to look like long-legged 
tortoises wading in the mud.

Every Karen carries a bag ("hteu") slung over his shoulder
as a part of his outfit. It is his pocket, in which he carries everything
from money to the small game he has shot. The bag is woven in two
parts. One, which forms the straps, consists of a strip from four
to six inches wide and five or six feet long. Both ends are fringed.
The other piece is from six to eight inches wide and from two to
three feet in length. Each end of the long piece is folded lengthwise
in the middle and sewed together, thus forming the corners of
the bag. The short piece is folded crosswise in the middle and
sewed to these corners or ends, thus forming the sides of the bag.
The hemmed ends of the short piece from the edges of the mouth of
the bag. The cloth woven for these bags is usually red with lengthwise
stripes of white, yellow, or black. Different tribes have their
different patterns and shades of color. The Karen do not ornament
their bags so highly as do the Kachin tribes in Upper Burma.
Every Karen woman and girl has some sort of a necklace. It may
be a few seeds of the Job's Tears strung together, or some glass
beads purchased from wandering peddlers, or silver beads made
by Burmese silversmiths who visit the Karen villages during the
dry season to pick up odd jobs. A common variety of beads is
made by pounding out little disks of silver and rounding them into
beads, according to the shape of the disk. Some of these finished
beads are an inch in length and half an inch in diameter at the
middle, tapering off to almost a point at the ends. When strung,
they sometimes form chains so long that they encircle the neck
several times and hang down over the bosom.

Bracelets of silver are, like the beads mentioned above, pounded
out of coins (rupees) for the girls and young women, who not infrequently
wear anklets of the same material. Even little boys
sometimes wear silver bracelets and ankelts.

Disks of silver, with rude figures of peacocks, elephants, and
other Burmese figures, are often seen hanging from strings around
the necks of children. Coins are also used in the same way. These
are usually said to be simply for ornament, but I have occasionally
wondered whether they might not have some magical purpose as

Among all the Karen tribes the most peculiar adornments are
those of the Padaung women. These are rings of brass wire about
a third of an inch in diameter, worn around the neck for the purpose
of forcing up the chin and lengthening that member. As the
process of elongation is slow, only a few rings are used at first; but
as time goes on others are added, until the high metal collar thus
formed consists of from twenty to twenty-five rings. The greater
the length of the neck, the greater the beauty they think. The
appearance of these women is grotesque, for their heads appear
abnormally small above their long necks; and their bodies, around
which flap their loose garments, also seem disproportionate.[6-2] They
can sleep only with their heads hanging over a high bamboo pillow,
on which they rest their brass-armored necks. These rings are like
those forming the brass corsets worn by the Iban women of Borneo,
only the latter wear them lower down.

The Red Karen women wear, besides a profusion of beads
around the neck, a girdle or many girdles of seeds and beads of
various kinds and coils of lacquered rattans. These rattans are
also worn as rings around the legs just above the calves. They
often bulge out an inch or two from the leg and cause the women
to walk with a stride "like a pair of compasses" and to experience
some difficulty in sitting down. Indeed, it is necessary for them
in sitting to stretch out the legs straight in front of them.[6-3] It
is not uncommon to see similar garters, if one may call them so,
worn by many of the Karen, but usually they are made of a few
strands of rattan interwoven in a neat band of about a half an inch
in width. Some say that they wear these simply for ornament, and
others think that they find them useful in walking long distances.
In fact these leg-bands perform somewhat the function of the
rubber stocking of the West.

[ Illustration -- A Padaung Couple, the Wife with Neck-rings and Leg-rings ]
{ A large share of Padaung wealth is lavished on feminine attire. The brass
rings around their legs and necks often weigh twenty pounds. This lady is
not very stylish, for her neck has not been stretched enough. The longer
the neck, the more attractive the lady. }

Among some of the Karen tribes to the east brass or other
wire rings are worn on the legs, either from the ankles up over the
calves, or from the knees up the thighs, or with only one or two
rings at invertals on the legs. The arms are also more or less laden
with brass circlets, as may be seen from Scott's description.[6-4]

Earrings are worn by both Karen men and women, but
are usually in the form of plugs instead of rings. The silver ear
plug of the Sgaw resembles a spool with one end flaring out more
widely than the other. The larger end may be nearly two inches
in diameter at the rim, tapering down to a little less than an inch
in diameter where it joins the cylindrical part which fits the hole
in the ear-lobe. The men wear plugs that have the ends covered
over with a plate of silver, while the plugs worn by the women
are left open. Through these openings leaves or flowers are often
inserted. Sometimes plugs made of a rolled strip of palm leaf fill
the holes in the ear-lobes, these holes being rarely more than an
inch in diameter. When the holes for the ear plugs are in process
of being enlarged, the little rolls of palm leaf are as tightly wrapped
and as large as possible when inserted. They then tend to loosen,
and in so doing stretch the lobe. Sections of a stem of bamboo
are sometimes worn by hill people in the lobes of their ears or
in the absence of anything else, a buttonaire of orchids or other
flowers found in the jungle. More than once have I seen orchids
that would bring fancy prices in a Western city fringing the dirty
face of some half-naked urchin.

[ Illustration -- WOMEN'S EARRINGS, HALF SIZE ]

Karen men not uncommonly wear beads or strings about their
necks, besides other ornaments on their arms and legs. But perhaps
the ornament peculiar to them consists of the boar's tusk
comb, such as their ancestor, "Htwa Meh Pa," made after he had
killed the mythical boar. This is worn behind the ear, hanging
down as a sort of earring. The comb, which is not unlike the
ordinary Karen comb, is made of strips of the outer shell of the
bamboo, each about two inches long, and held together by a sealing-wax
produced from the gum of a tree. The upper or pointed end of
the comb is made small enough to be inserted into the open end of
the tusk, where it is fixed in place with wax. (See _Frontispiece_,
which shows how a comb is worn.)

[ Illustration -- A BOAR'S TUSK COMB ]

{ This illustrates the way in which the women secure their skirts by drawing them tightly
to one side and then folding back the slack and tucking it in on the opposite side. }



The seasons in Burma are clearly distinguished, the year being
divided into two parts by the monsoon, which is the periodic
wind of the Southern Asiatic tropics that for six months, between
April and November, blows from the southwest off the Indian
Ocean, bringing clouds and moisture which produce the never-failing
rainy season, as the Karen name for it, "ta su hka," signifies.
In November the monsoon shifts to the opposite quarter and the
dry season or "ta yaw hka" follows, being again six months in
duration. This latter period is subdivided into the cool season or
"ta hku hka," from the middle of November to the first of February,
and the hot season or "ta ko hka," during which the sun is
waxing hotter and hotter until the beginning of the rains in May.
The rainy season has a fairly even temperature with a mean of
about eighty degrees, Fahrenheit, while the dry season is marked
by variations ranging from about fifty to over one hundred degrees.

The Karen term for year is "ni" and for a generation, their
longest unit of time, it is "so." Eternity is designated by reduplicating
the root "so," for example, "so so," or, with this couplet,
"so so xa xa."

According to Karen reckoning, the year is divided into twelve
lunar months, a month of twenty-nine days alternating with one
of thirty. Thus, they have six months of twenty-nine days each
which total one hundred and seventy-four days, while the six intervening
months of thirty days each total one hundred and eighty
days. These two totals added together give but three hundred and
fifty-four days. This arrangement of the calendar necessitated the
addition every three year of an extra or intercalary month to
make the reckoning of time correct But the calendar was so poorly
kept that confusion arose, and the people do not agree among themselves
as to the proper order of the months, or the beginning of the
year, or even as to the correct interpretation of the names of the
months in all cases.[7-1] However, the names in the commonly
accepted order are as follows:

1. _Th' le_, the searching month, when the villagers hunt for
a new village site. It corresponds to the Burmese month,
_Pyatho_, and to the moon of January.

2 _Hte ku_, the cutting month, when the Karen cut the jungle
preparatory to cultivation. It is equivalent to the Burmese
_Tabodwe_ and to the moon of February.

3. _Thwe kaw_, the brewing month, when the women prepare
the mash for brewing liquor. By some it is said to signify
the month of burnings, for at this time they burn over
the ground that was cut in the previous month. It is
equivalent to the Burmese _Tabaung_ and to the moon of

4. _La hkli_, the month of yams, because at this season the
people were often reduced to the necessity of eating the
tubers of the wild yam. It is equivalent to the Burmese
_Tagu_ and to the moon of April.

5. _De nya_, the lily month, when the wild lilies bloom. 
Equivalent to _Kasone_ of the Burmese and to the moon of May.

6. _La nwi_, the seventh month, corresponds to the Burmese
_Nayone_ and to the moon of June.[7-2]

7. _La xo_, the eighth month, is equivalent to the Burmese _Waso_
and to the moon of July.

8. _La hku_, the shut-in month, when it is difficult to go about
on account of the heavy rains. It corresponds to the Burmese
_Wagaung_ and to the moon of August.

9. _Hsi mu_, the month of a little sunshine, when after the
heaviest rain there is a little fair weather. It corresponds 
to the Burmese _Tawthelin_ and the moon of September.

10. _Hsi hsa_, the month of a little starlight, when the stars
being to show themselves occasionally. It corresponds
to the Burmese _Thadingyut_ and to the moon of October.

11. _La naw_, the month of the "naw," when from the seeds of
this small plant is extracted an oil much like sessimum
oil. It is equivalent to the Burmese _Tezaungmon_ and to 
the moon of November.

12. _La plu_, the month of eclipses, when the moon dies and
hence the month for funeral ceremonies. It corresponds
to the Burmese _Nadaw_ and to the moon of December.

It will be noticed that in the list as given above the seventh
and eighth month are number 6 and 7, respectively. Two 
suggestions have been made to explain this incongruity. One of these
is Dr. Mason's suggestion to the effect that originally the first
month was _La plu_ (December), which would not only correct the
incongruity, but also make the Karen calendar correspond to that
of Tibet, which begins with December.[7-3] The other explanation was
given to me by a Karen teacher, who says that the month of _La
hkli_ (April) is the one that is repeated every three years in order
to correct the calendar, and that the periodic interposition of this
extra month is responsible for the names of the seventh and eighth
months and the disagreement of those names with their serial numbers
in the list. To me this explanation seems very dubious. One
Karen writer attempts to correct the incongruity between the
seventh and eighth months and their serial numbers by proposing
to transfer _La hku_ (August) from its generally accepted position
in the list to a place before the seventh month, but, of course, this
is not a feasible change. As many Karens associate the month for
funeral ceremonies (_La plu_) with the end of the year, they do not
think it should be shifted into first place in the calendar.


Few of the Karen people can tell the days of the week, except
according to Burmese or Christian nomenclature. Severl old
men have given me names for the days, which, they say, were
in use a long time ago. There are seven of these, as may be seen
in the following tabulation:

Sunday     _Li naw_            The eagle's beak
Monday     _Htaw meh_          The long tooth
Tuesday    _To mu_             The slanting sun
Wednesday  _To kyaw_           The leaning oil tree
Thursday   _Thi thwa_          The big comb
Friday     _Mu daw hpa_        The divided sun day
Saturday   _Mu htaw k'hpu_     The pig's stomach day

I have found no traditions or other information relating to these

The Karen divide the day into the following seven parts or
sub-divisions: (1) _mu hse wah taw_, dawn;
(2) _mu heh htaw_, sunrise;
(3) _mu heh htaw hpa htaw_, the sun is high;
(4) _mu htu_, noon;
(5) _mu xe law_, the sun declines;
(6) _mu haw law_, evening; and
(7) _mu law nu_, sunset.

The night also has its divisions, such
as _mu yaw ma_, meaning that the sun is deep down;
_hpa hpaw mu_, midnight or literally midway between the suns,
and _hsaw o_, cock crow or early morning, of which they
distinguish three stages. In conversation a Karen indicates
the time of day or night by pointing to the sun's position
as it was at the time to which he
is referring, pointing upward or downward as the occasion requires.
More than once in the narration of some story I have heard the
different members of a group dispute about the exact angle at
which the sun stood when the incident occurred, the difference 
between the angles indicated being not more than a degree.

When a Karen speaks of some object, he is likely to indicate its
size by comparing it with some part of his person. For example,
he will describe a bamboo as being as large around as his arm, or
the limb of a tree as being the size of his thigh. Applying the same
principle, he has devised a system of rough units of measurement,
such as the length of the forefinger, called _t' su mu_; the distance
between the end of the thumb and the end of the forefinger, _t' hpi_;
the distance between the end of the thumb and the knuckle of the
little finger when the fist is doubled up, _t'so_; the interval between
the end of the thumb and the end of the middle finger, _t' hta_; the
cubit or the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger,
_t' pla_, and the reach of the outstretched arm, _t' hkli_. Inasmuch as
all of these units of measurement vary with the size and proportions
of the individual, allowance is generally made for such variations.
The cubit is commonly employed in all building operations, and
men with long arms make the proper correction by measuring from
the elbow to the first joint instead of to the tip of the middle finger.
Contrariwise, small men add to their cubit the width of a finger
or more to bring it to the standard length of a half-yard, which
it is nowadays made to equal.

[ Illustration -- TWO SGAW KAREN MAIDENS ]
{ One from Tharrawaddy and the other from Tavoy District. The
Tavoy girl (on the right) is wearing a smock made of black
velvet purchased in a bazaar and trimmed with embroidery of
colored yarns. She also has on a head-band such as is worn in
that district. }

Measurements for longer or shorter distances are specified
in relative terms, borrowed from one form or another of physical
exertion. Such measurements are: the pace, _t'hka_; the stone's
throw, _t' kwi leu_; a call (that is, as far as one can hear a shout),
_t' kaw_. An indefinite distance of a mile or two, which one might
walk without stopping, is a stage, _t' taw leh_; a half-day's journey,
_t' mu htu leh_; a day's journey, _t' ni leh_, and so on. The Karen may
on occasion speak of a month's or a year's journey to very distant
places. Another method of designating distances by intervals of
time during which physical effort is required is to specify the number
of betel chews or quids that would be consumed during the
trip. For instance, a Karen is apt to inform one that a certain
village is three or four betel chews distant. As it requires from fifteen
to twenty minutes to dispose of a quid of betel, the village in question
may be estimated as being three or four miles away.


It often happens that the Karen find their way through the
jungle at night by means of the stars. The more brilliant constellations,
called _hsa t' so_, are well known and have their particular
names. Of these, the Great Bear (_Hsa k' htaw_, literary the Elephant)
and the Southern Cross (_Meh la ka_) are referred to the most
frequently, because they signify north and south, respectively.
These two constellations were supposed, according to an old legend,
to have been brothers, being thought to resemble each other in appearance;
but on account of a quarrel they separated and went to
the opposite ends of the heavens. Orion is known by the name of
the Stealthily Shooting Stars (_Hsa kwa hka_). A legend relating to
the three stars of Orion's belt, which are named _Hsa yo ma_ (stars
that seized wives), recounts that these stars kidnapped the daughters
of the Pleiades, which are regarded as the great ones of the
heavens. Later the three culprits were caught and reduced to the
degraded position of servants to their parents-in-law. The Archer
--Sagittarius of the ancients -- is called the Bow-head Star (_Hsa
hkli hko_, literally, the head of the bow where it is joined to the barrel
of the crossbow). The Pleiades are named _Hsa deu mu_, a term
signifying a collection of people closely related to one another;
while three stars just east of the Pleiades, which look as though they
had broken away from the original group, are called _Deu mu law
hpa_ (those separated from the company). Three stars south
of the Pleiades, which form a triangle, bear the name of the
Loom (_Hsa hta hko_), because the geometrical figure indicated by
their positions suggests that enclosed by the floor, which forms the
base; the wall, the vertical side; and the inclined warp, the hypotenuse,
of the loom in the living-room of a Karen home. It ought to
be added that the rising of the morning star, _Hsa tu ghaw_, marks
the time for the Karen to get up in the morning; while the appearance
of the evening star, _Hsa tu ha_, informs him that the end of
the day's work has come and with it the time for going home.

The Karen take note of shooting stars, which they speak of
sometimes as _Hsa yu_ or flying stars and sometimes as _Hsa hpo tha_,
youthful stars. Catching sight of them, people say that they
are going to visit the maidens. They give to comets the obvious
name of tailed stars, _Hsa meh htaw_, and are not different from
other superstitious races in believing that their coming brings
calamity. The planets have impressed them as "wandering stars,"
while they leave the fixed stars without names, except the Pole
Star, which they call the Mouse, and a star near the moon, which
they describe as the star that draws the moon, _Hsa mo la_. The
Milky Way reminds the Karen of their flowering fields of paddy
and receives the poetic name of the paddy flower stars, _Hsa bu

Like the Chinese and other Oriental peoples, the Karen 
attribute the eclipse of the sun or moon to some monster that devours
the luminary. The Karen, however, do not discover this monster in
the dragon, but believe that dogs do the devouring. According to
the legend, a certain personage, who possess the elixir of life, had
four dogs. On one occasion when he was absent from home, the
moon descended to earth and stole his wondrous cordial. On his
return, finding the elixir had vanished, he constructed a ladder of
rice-straw and mounted aloft with his dogs. But just as he was
stepping upon the moon his ladder broke, causing him and one of
his faithful beasts to fall to earth and lose their lives. The other
three dogs were so fortunate as to find secure footing on the firmament.
Now and again they become enraged at the recollection of
the umtimely fate of their master, attack and swallow the moon,
and thereby produce the eclipse. One of these faithful dogs is black,
and for some unknown reason is unable to swallow the moon
entire and so causes only a partial eclipse; but the yellow one
devours it completely, and it can be seen shining through his hide,
which accounts for the color of the luminary during a total eclipse.
On escaping through the animals' bowels, the moon regains its
former brightness.[7-4]

{ This is a protection not only against bad characters, but also against wild animals. }


The Karen on the plains live in houses of Burmese construction,
which are therefore outside the scope of this work. In the Pegu
Hills we find the single-structure village, which seems to have
been the characteristic Karen dwelling from early times. It might
be described as a bamboo apartment-house on stilts, accommodating
on the average from twenty to thirty families. It is spread out on
one floor, and each family occupies not one "flat" but a room, called
in Karen "deu," which faces a central corridor running the length
of the barrack.

Such a village, "th' waw," is usually rebuilt on a new site each
year. The new location is sought by the local chief during the hot
season, after conference with the elders and after the crops have
been brought in. The place selected by the chief is fairly level,
adjacent to the area to be cut over the coming year, and near a
spring or stream that will not dry up during the hot weather. In
the old days it was also necessary to choose a site that would be
high and easily defended agains raids. Before the decision is
finally made, the chief must consult the auspices in the form of
chicken bones, and if these are propitious and no laughing-bird
(_Lanius_) calls "chet, chet," the men begin to cut bamboos with
which to construct the village.

The bamboos selected for posts are twenty or more feet long
and usually from four to six inches in diameter. They are set in
the ground at intervals of four or five cubits (six to seven and a
half feet). Holes are chopped through these large upright at a
height of from six to eight feet above the ground and pins are
thrust through on which bamboo girders of the same size are 
fastened by means of withes. At right angles to these girders and
resting on them, other bamboo poles, slightly smaller in size, are
tied at regular intervals of about a cubit to form the floor joists.
The floor is made of large bamboos, split, flattened out, and secured
to the joists by means of withes of the same material. It is six
or eight feet above the ground, springy, and seamed with cracks,
through which rubbish and wash water may be disposed of. As
the floor of the corridor is subjected to much heavier wear than
that of any single room, it is made of round bamboos securely tied 

[ Illustration -- Part of a Mountain Karen Village, Tharrawaddy District ]

[ Illustration -- Stockade and Gateway of the Village, Re Tho, Tharrawaddy District ]

Some six feet or less above the girders -- my head has sometimes
found that it was not fully six feet -- another set of holes are
hacked into the posts or uprights, through which pins are run ot
serve as supports for the "wall-plates," as the English residents
of Burma call them, which run parallel with the girders below, and
are secured in the same way. Other bamboos, parallel with the
floor joists, are tied on the wall-plates at intervals of three or four
feet. These beams give stability to the building. The tops of the
posts may be only a little above the wall-plates, or they may run
up several feet to the roof-plates, which are secured by pins and
bamboo withes like the beams below. There may or may not be
a roof-tie running across above the wall-plates. On the roof-plate
rest the purlins or rafters that carry the interlocking half-sections
of bamboo of which the roof is formed. This kind of roof may have
supplied the model for the native round tiles used so extensively in
China and throughout the East. The bamboos to be used in the
construction of the roof must be straight and three or four inches
in diameter. They are split down the middle. The halves are laid
close together with the concave sides uppermost, and the cracks
between their edges are covered by a second row of halves laid with
their convex sides uppermost. This overlapping of the concave by
the convex halves give a tight roof, the rain running down the
troughs formed by the concave halves and off at the eaves. if one
set of interlocking or overlapping bamboo "tiles' is not long enough
to make the roof, a second set fits far enough under the higher set
to catch the drip from above. Sometimes the roof covers the whole
structure, including the corridor. In that case it has a ridge in the
middle; otherwise the ridge may be over the row of posts next to
that standing at the corridor. If the village-house stands in a windy
location, where the rain would sometimes be driven up the roof, a
small bamboo strip is tied at right angles across the upper ends of
each set of "tiles." This is the more necessary because the roof is
never steep, having a slope of not more than twenty degrees.

The walls of the village-house are constructed of flattened bamboo
lengths nearly long enough to reach from the floor to the wall-plates.
Three horizontal bamboo poles of small diameter are run
through the posts, holes having been made for the purpose, and the
flattened bamboo stripes are woven between these. Such a wall contains
numerous cracks and apertures, and may be easily removed
to allow a corpse to be carried out. Similar partitions divide the
sleeping apartment from the rest of the family-room.

[ Illustration -- Plan of Shataw Village, Tharrawaddy District ]

When we come upon such a village, we may find it surrounded
by a stockade, as in the case of those in the Tharrawaddy district,
where protection is thus obtained from tigers and other animals
of the jungle and also from human prowlers. The stockade is made
of bamboo poles, re-inforced by four rows of sharp pickets woven
in and out of the fence. The gate of the stockade is
constructed of large bamboos suspended from a cross-piece, so that
they knock against one another when any one enters. Thus, the
approach of a visitor is well announced. Once inside of the enclosure
and past the multitude of yelping dogs which the villages
keep, the visitor comes to the ladder by which access is gained
to the communal abode. The ladder, like everything else, is made
of bamboo and has small loose rungs that can be easily removed.
To an American it looks inverted, for it is narrow at the bottom and
wide at the top. If the sun is high, heat is reflected from the burning
hot bamboos. Mounting to the floor, one steps gingerly along,
fearing the round flooring may turn under him. The hollow bamboos
resound, as each rubs and creaks against its fellows. The whole
population seems to be peering out of their doors or peeping through
the cracks. The visitor enters a doorway, without its door. The
first thing in the room that strikes his attention is the fireplace
("hpa k' pu"), which is only a little way from the entrance. The
intervening space is largely filled with water-joints, rice baskets
and various household utensils. This is called the water-joint
place ("hti pu law"). The fireplace consists of four upright bamboos
fastened in the floor beams below and reaching to the crossbeams
above. On the floor a rough box-like enclosure is built around
the bottoms of the poles and filled in with dirt and ashes. Three
round stones, or more in case the family has two pots boiling at
once, give support to the cooking vessels; while the fire underneath
is fed with dry bamboo fuel. About three feet above the ashes
there is a shelf made of bamboo splints with their hard surfaces
downward to the fire. The soot deposit on the under side of this
shelf prevents the flames from doing any damage. Pots, plates, and
other utensils find their convenient resting-place upon the shelf.
One or two other shelves above this serve as catch-alls for herbs,
baskets, tin lamps, unused food, large knives ("dahs"), and almost
anything else that finds its way into the house. A hole cut in each
of the two front poles of the fireplace a little way above the floor
serves as a holder for the bamboo stick kept for stirring the cooking
rice or other foods.

A smaller box of ashes in the center of the room supplies a
fireplace for the warming of the family when the air is chilly of
nights and mornings. It is then comfortable to sit about the fire,
as one visits and tells stories.

The Karen have little use for artificial light. They get up with
the sun and go to bed with the chickens. Often the flaring light of
the bamboo fuel in the fireplace serves for light, while they entertain
visitors or do odd bits of belated work. When they need something
more than this, they use a cup containing crude earth-oil (petroleum
is found in large quantities in Upper Burma) with a wick
sticking out, or they make torches from the resinous oil of
the "xaw" (_Dipterocarpus_) tree. These enormous trees when
tapped yield a good run of oil. After each run of sap
they scorch the hole and get another run. The oil is
mixed with bits of dry wood or punk and moulded into
sticks about a cubit long and an inch in diameter by putting
it into joints of small bamboo. When it has dried,
it is wrapped in palm or pineapple leaves and tied
up with bark fibre. When needed for use, one end is
loosened and applied to the fireplace for
lighting. It is then set on a rough stand fashioned out
of wood, on which it rests in an oblique position and in this manner
burns to the best advantage. Nowadays little tin lamps made by
Burmese tinsmiths after the pattern of the old European lamps
are in common use. These hold a cotton wick and give a little light
and some smoke, as they have no chimneys.

[ Illustration -- A TORCH WITH ITS STAND ]

Usually beyond the cooking place a small partition extends out
about four feet from the wall, forming a little alcove and hiding
from view the family sleeping-room. The latter is a small apartment
not more than eight or ten feet each way and is supplied
with either a few rush mats, such as the Burmans are in the habit
of sleeping on, or a single large bamboo mat, besides a quantity of
old clothes, blankets, pillows, and rags scattered about or hanging
from the rough ends of the walls. At either the front or back of the
large outer room, whichever is toward the east -- the place of honor
in a Karen house -- is a raised platform called the "hso hko." This
is about a cubit's height from the floor and has a mat on it worn
shiny with much sitting. It is the place where guests are received,
especially if they are people of note. Here against the wall are a few pillows,
which may be half-round bamboos of giant size, that is, from eight
to ten inches in diameter, or cloth pillows filled with fibre from the 
cotton tree (_Bombax heterophylla_). The guest is invited to sit
on the platform and to partake of the contents of the fragrant
betel-box, which is sure to be hospitably pushed in front of him.
The cradle usually hangs from the crossbeams in the middle of
the room, being held up by fibre ropes, although occasionally
elephant chains are called into use to give full measure of security.
The cradle itself may be a blanket swung up at the four corners, or
it may be part of the trunk of a large hollow tree. A basket-work
cradle is scarcely ever found in old Karen homes.

[ Illustration -- Plan of a Karen Family-room ]

At the back of the family apartment the bamboo joists and
flooring project several feet beyond the wall, forming a primitive
back veranda where clothes are hung to dry; rice (paddy), fish,
fruit, and vegetables are set out in the sun, and other domestic
operations are carried on in private.

In a few Karen villages a young men's club- room ("blaw") is
still maintained, but not in most. Where such a room exists, it does
not differ in general appearance from a family-room, except that
it has no partitions. The hearth in the middle of the space serves
as a social fireside on cold mornings and evenings. At the east end
a raised dais extends the width of the room, being used both for
reception and for sleeping purposes. Guests, unless closely related
to some family in the village, usually sleep here, except when, as
a mark of respect, they are invited to sleep in a room apart on the
"hso hko" with the men of the house. Women guests sleep in the
family sleeping-room together with the women folk and children.

The old type of Karen village-house, such as we have been
describing above, is being modified by contact with the Burmese
way of building, and every stage of evolution from the village-barrack
to separate family houses may be observed in Karen villages

When an epidemic breaks out in a bamboo village-house, the inhabitants
are not held there by the considerations that ordinarily
prevent the dwellers in durable towns and cities from taking their
prompt departure. At best the Karen village-house is habitable
only for a year or two, was built by the combined efforts of the men
of the little community from material of which the supply is abundant,
and can be replaced quickly. When, therefore, disease begins
to spread among the adjacent families, they scatter to the four
windows with their most necessary belongings. Soon they gather and
build another village on a new site and, having removed the last of
their possessions from the old infected structure, leave it to decay
or set it on fire.

When a village community is removing from one site to another,
the women prepare food and liquor for the journey, pack up
their belongings and leave them in the jungle near the path, if they
do not wish to take them to the new place at once, and, finally, prepare
the offerings to be left behind. These offerings consist of four
balls of cooked rice, one white, another made black by being mixed
with charcoal, and the other two colored red and yellow, respectively,
by the admixture of colored pigments. These balls are placed
on a large winnowing-sieve that has been woven by the women for
the purpose at the very last. This tray and its offerings are carried
to the central part of the house, where it is visited and spat upon
by every member of the village. They then repeat the following

"Let all sickness and pain depart. Depart all colds.
Go eat your black rice, your red rice.
Go eat your betel and its leaves.
Go eat with your wife and your children.
Go stay in your house."

After thus addressing the spirits, the villagers take up their burdens,
beat their drums and gongs, and set out for their new abode --
a sight, indeed, for a motion picture camera.

On arriving at the new house, they do not enter it at once, but
wait until some one has plucked from adjacent trees seven twigs
growing upright, and with these has swept out the rooms. As the
sweeper goes through the house he repeats the following incantation:

"Go away, all evil spirits.
Depart, all devils.
We and our children are going to stay here.
Do not remain near. Go. Go."

The members of each family then take up the various household
tasks, including the building of the fireplace. If this is not completed
the same night, they tied up their wrists to keep their "k'las"
from wandering away and finish it the next morning. This is done
among the Karen of Siam.

In the precedding pages of this chapter I have attempted to give
a description of the Karen village-house. I do not say "home," for
the Karen language has no word for home. The house is, however,
something more than the eating and sleeping place of the village
families: it is the center of their domestic life and worship and as
such possesses a certain amount of sanctity. From what has been
said above, it is clear that the village structure displays no attempts
at artistic decoration, and is not made attractive by any of the
touches that give so rich a meaning to the word "home" among
Christians. The Karen bamboo house, located in a tropical climate
as it is, affords a certain amount of physical comfort; the breezes
blow through its airy walls, and one may lounge and gossip within
during the heat of the day and not experience great oppression.
At night, when the cool air begins to make itself felt, the open
fire with its cheerful blaze attracts the story-teller, while out in the
shadows the youthful lover strums his harp, and the children and
the dogs play about in sufficient quietness not to disturb their

Everywhere common dogs are kept by the Karen. These are
the ordinary smooth-haired pariah hounds, which are familiar to
the traveler in all parts of the peninsula. Besides these there are
the hunting-dogs, mentioned in the chapter on Hunting and Fishing.[8-1]
Only in recent days have the Karen shown any inclination to
raise cats. In the early days they professed not to eat these felines;
but I can testify that, whatever their former antipathies to the cat
tribe may have been in this regard, they no longer hesitate to eat
the wild varieties of cats that are to be caught in the jungle. They
also find rats palatable.

Pigs and fowls are the most common domestic animals among
the Karen. Dr. Mason speaks of the pigs as being of the "small
Chinese variety."[8-2] They are the property of the women and know
their mistress's voice. When a woman dies, her pigs are killed in
order that their "k'las" may accompany her into the next world.
The fowls are of a variety not unlike the wild jungle-fowls found all
over the country.

On the plains buffaloes have been extensively bred for use as
draft animals and in cultivating the paddy-fields. As they are
slow-going creatures the small native oxen, often mistakenly identified
with the "sacred ox" from having a hump like the cattle supposed
to have been used in ancient Israel, have largely superseded them
for draft purpoes. In the Toungoo Hills oxen are employed to
some extent as pack-animals, especially by the Paku tribe. Both
the Paku and their neighbors, the Mawnepgha, raise a few goats,
while the Red Karen are breeders of ponies to some extent.

[ Illustration -- Sideview of a Bamboo Karen House, Kaindagyi ]


The dietary of the Karen includes almost everything edible in
the way of vegetables that grow in their country. A great variety
of fish, birds, and animals are also partaken of; but it should be
said at once that three-fourths, if not seven-eighths, of the amount
of food they consume is rice, of which they raise many varieties.
Next to rice they resort in time of need to millet, maize, and roots,
especially yams of different kinds. Besides gourds, sqaushes, eggplant,
roselle, sweet potatoes, and the edible fruits, the Karen eat
the tender shoots of many plants and trees, including the bamboo.

All kinds of fish and eels, some varieties of crabs, snake, locusts,
and grasshoppers, snails and other mollusks, and even certain
varieties of ants are comprised in the menu. Flesh of all sorts
from that of the elephant to that of the rat is eaten with relish.[9-1]
In the realm of feathered creatures the variety is equally comprehensive,
ranging from the sparrow to the peacock, not even omitting
the crow. Fish-paste, called in Karen "nya u"[9-2] but commonly
given its Burmese name of "ngape," is greatly prized by the Karen,
who think that it adds a very savory flavor to their frod. On the
plains they buy it from the Burmans from whom, it may be, they
have adopted its use, but sometimes those living near streams or
lakes make it for themselves.

Notwithstanding their inclusive diet, the Karen have no idea
of what we call a balanced ration and, after all, are more or less
undernourished. They also practice constantly the habit of betel
chewing, which benumbs their sense of taste. For these reasons
they crave highly seasoned foods. Chilies or red peppers are 
considered a necessity, while meats and powdered condiments of spices,
tumeric, and chilies are used only to make the pungent curry sauce
with which the cooked rice is flavored. Salt, which is obtained at
the bazaars, is also used in seasoning.

Inasmuch as rice is the chief article of diet among the Karen,
a few words should be said about its preparation. "Paddy," which
is the grain before it has been cleaned for cooking, is brought home
from the bins in which it has been stored and spread out on mats
to dry in the sun. It is then pounded in mortars to rub off the outer
husk. A second pounding removes the inner skin covering each
grain and polishes the rice pure white. As cleaned rice
does not keep as well as paddy, the natives pound only enough
to last a week or two. The kernels are washed in a basket with a
sieve-like bottom and are then poured into a pot of boiling water.
They are allowed to cook vigorously for ten minutes or less, until
they swell and become soft enough to crush easily between the
thumb and finger. The water is then poured off and the pot set
back in the hot ashes to dry out any remaining water. When the
rice is served, it remains whole, firm, and slightly hard. Soft boiled
rice is most unpalatable to the Karen, who think it not so sustaining
as the less cooked cereal. Nowadays the cooking is done in most
places in earthen pots, which are bought from Burmese or Shan
traders. These pots are of red unglazed clay, cost but a few annas,
(one anna is equal to about two cents or an English penny), and
last with care for some time.

Besides the rice used for ordinary meals there are many varieties
of glutinous rice that are cooked or steamed on the plains
for an early morning meal or for special feasts. The steamers are
made like the Burmese pots, but with a number of small holes in the
bottom. These are placed over vessels of boiling water, the steam
of which rises through the openings and permeates the grain. I
have been told that when a rare feast is desired, the rice is steamed
over a vessel in which a chicken is boiling, and the rice becomes
flavored with the fowl. Steamed glutinous rice is sometimes mixed
with sessimum seeds and pounded in a mortar until it becomes a
sticky paste. This mixture is called "to me to pi."

It is reported that long ago, before the Karen had as much
dealing with the Burmese as they do now, they cooked their rice
in joints of bamboo. At any rate, this is their present practice
when out in the forest. The hunter or wayfarer in the jungle puts
his rice into a large joint of bamboo, which he stands at the edge
of a little fire until the contents are sufficiently boiled. The hard
silicious sheathing of the bamboo easily withstands the heat of a
single cooking. Once used, the joint is throw away, for there are
plenty more to be cut as occasion demands. Sometimes cooked rice
for a journey is carried in the same joint in which it was boiled.
Certain kinds of bamboo, such as the thorny variety "wa hsgu,"
which grows in low lands, impart a special flavor to the rice that is
cooked in them. Rice deriving its taste from the thorny bamboo is
thought to be one of the most delicious viands that can be obtained
and is called "me taw." When certain kinds of bamboo bear fruit,
which is at long intervals, their seeds are often cooked and eaten in
place of rice.

[ Illustration -- POUNDING PADDY IN A MORTAR ]

The larger vegetables, like pumpkins, yams, etc., are cut up
and boiled until soft. Green fruits and shoots are also cooked,
although many spicy kinds of shoots and ripe fruits are generally
eaten raw.

There are intervals when a village community lives only on 
rice eaten with a little salt, fish-paste gravy, and red peppers. After
a fishing or hunting expedition, however, or when some feast is
held, the people gorge themselves with as many kinds of meat or
fish as they can obtain. Larger fish and the flesh of animals are
cut up and cleaned before cooking. No part of an animal is wasted.
The intestines, when properly cleansed and prepared, are considered
especially toothsome. The best-liked meats are pork and venison.
Birds, pigeons, and ducks are also regarded as good eating. Small
birds are often cooked without other preliminaries than a hasty
plucking of the feathers. Meats are ordinarily cooked with the
oil pressed from sesame seeds and flavored with condiments more
or less in the manner of Indian curries. For this purpose a larger
or smaller quantity of the following spices are used: tumeric, ginger,
cloves, cardamon seeds, and cinnamon bark, besides tamarind,
lime-juice, and the inevitable salt and chili. Fisherman and
hunters like to roast small game, fish, or strips of meat from larger
animals between splints of bamboo hung near or over a camp fire.
The Polynesian way of baking such foods is often employed, the
fish, flesh, or fowl being wrapped in plantain leaves and buried in a
pit, which is lined with stones made hot by having had a roaring fire
on them. Meat in excess of immediate needs is cut into narrow
strips and dried on a rack over a fire. The strips are then covered
with salt and stored away for future use. Fish are dried in the
same way. Such preserved foods are eaten by the workers in the
fields or help to furnish forth the repasts on a journey. In the
hills, so far as I have observed, the Karen does not fry his food;
but on the plains, where he has more or less taken up Burmese
ways, cooking food in fat has become somewhat common. This is
usually done outside the house, however, because the Karen, like
the Burmese and Shan, have a superstitious fear of the smell of

[ Illustration -- The Fireplace in a Hill Karen House ]
{ The housewife is watching the pot boil. Signs of approaching civilization
are apparent, such as the enamel plate and the kerosene oil tin. }

While cooking is preeminently the women's work, it seems that
nearly every man can cook and does on occasion prepare his own
food. I have eaten many a tasty meal prepared by Karen men, who
considerately took pains to have clean utensils and to use only such
condiments as they knew white men were likely to relish.

The serving of food among the Karen is a simple matter. The
rice is emptied into a tray, the meats or vegetables are put in little
bowls, and all are set on a mat on the floor. The members of the
household squat around this "family board" and eat with the hand.
They pour gravy from the meat, fish, or other side-dishes on the
rice, work it in with the fingers, and convey the food in compact
lumps to their mouths. Among the more primitive large plantain
leaves often serve as trays and plates. The Karen on the plains
use separate dishes of china or enamel-ware, which are readily
obtained in the bazaar. These are set on a low table, standing no
more than six inches above the floor. This manner of serving is in
vogue among the Burmese. There is not much sociability about a
Karen meal. Each person attends to his eating until he has finished,
when he rises, rinses off his hands, quenches his thirst with a drink
of water, and withdraws to sit down or leaves the house without
formality. The members of a family generally eat together; but
if guests are present, the women usually wait until the men are
served. Large quantities of food are prepared for wedding and
funeral-feasts, which, as a rule, the men and women partake of
separately without particular order or arrangement.

The safety-match is nowadays the common means employed by
Karens in producing fire; but formerly the flint and steel were used
as they were all over the world in the early days of the nineteenth
century and before. A simpler, and probably indigenous,
method was by the friction of two dry pieces of bamboo. One
piece was sawn back and forth through a groove cut crosswise on
the crest of another, the latter being a half-section of large bamboo
laid over a quantity of shavings or punk. The heat thus generated
in a minute or two produced smoke and a flame, and the tinder
caught the blaze. A generation or two ago Karens carried fire
pistons, when on a journey, to light their pipes. The description of
this simple mechanism, which has been given to me, is that it was
a bone or metal cylinder with a small hole at one end into which a 
tight-fitting piston was driven by a sharp blow and then quickly
withdrawn. The air within was thus sufficiently compressed and
heated to ignite a bit of tinder at the bottom of the cylinder.[9-3]

Milk does not form a part of the diet of the Karen people any
more than it does of some other Oriental races. There is little with
which to feed babies whose mother can not nurse them. However,
it is a comparatively rare thing for a mother not to be able
to nurse her child. The first solid food given to babies is rice
that has first been masticated by the mother. The kind of food
eaten by the parents is given to their children as soon as they cry
for it. This, I think, is one of the most fruitful sources of the high
death rate among Karen infants.

The people in the hills eat three meals a day, one soon after
rising, one at mid-day and the third in the evening after the work
is done. On the plains an early "chota hazri" of glutinous rice is
sometimes, but not always taken.[9-4] The regular morning meal comes
somewhere between eight and ten o'clock and the afternoon repast
between three and five. Tea is coming to be much used among the
Karen, either the native pickled tea which is imported by the Burmese
from the Shan states, or the Chinese and India teas which
are now sold all over the country. The Karen drink their tea without
milk and often put in a little salt in place of sugar. Coffee is
used to some extent in the Karen hills and is drunk without milk,
unless some one has brought home a can of condensed milk from
town, this preparation being considered a most delicious sweetmeat.

Alcoholic beverages are brewed or distilled among the Karen.
A kind of rice beer is made by allowing boiled rice to stand in jars
of water and ferment. Old fermented rice is left in a jar, and fresh
rice water is poured upon it. After standing several days, it acquires
the desired strength or percentage of alcohol. Distilled
liquor is obtained by boiling the fermented beverage in a closed
vessel, from the top of which issues a bamboo pipe that leads to another
vessel in which the steam condenses. A more concentrated
solution of alcohol is thus secured. On the plains the glutionous
rice, which is raised there, is much more commonly used in making
liquor than the ordinary grain, because it contains a higher 
percentage of sugar. The plains possess another source of intoxicant
in the "toddy-palms." The juice of these
palms, which exudes from the cut stems of the fronds, is collected
and allowed to ferment, thus producing a liquor that is responsible
for much of the crime committed by the rural people of all races.

In former days, in the more backward Karen districts and in
Siam, the preparation of drink constituted a considerable part of
the work of the women. It was used with every meal and was
regarded as a necessary part of the native diet. Large quantities
of liquor were provided for every festival. But its use is lessening
among the more progressive natives and is rapidly disappearing
among the Christian Karens.

The use of betel and tobacco is prevalent among the Karen people.
Inded, one might say that it is almost universal among them.
The betel-box is always carried on a journey and is ever at hand
where work is being done. When the guest arrives, the first act
of hospitality is to push the box, replenished with its masticatories,
in front of him. Betel, in the estimation of the Karen, forms a 
part of his food. Small bits of the areca-nut are laid on a fresh
green leaf of the piper betel vine; lime is also smeared on the leaf,
and perhaps a few cloves or shreds of tobacco leaf are added; the
betel leaf is then folded into a wad and put into the mouth. In the
process of chewing this "quid" the saliva is turned to a bright red,
being secreted in such quantity that frequent expectoration is necessary.
Wherever this spittle falls it leaves a red stain. The
interior walls of the houses, especially in the corners, and the floors
near the cracks are much stained with red. It is not safe to stop
under a window or beneath a house, unless one is sure that nobody
is within. An early missionary, who traveled with a white pony,
was surprised one morning to find his animal wonderfully streaked
with red, which yielded only to a vigorous washing. Betel chewing
stains the teeth black, though it does not materially injure them,
except that the hard usage wears them down or causes them to
break off prematurely. Karens often speak of a short space of
time as being about a betel-chew which, strictly speaking, would
mean fifteen or twenty minutes. The women in the hills, instead
of chewing the quid, allow it to remain on the tongue and jul lit
for hour at a time, much to the annoyance of any one trying to
follow them in their conversation, which they keep up meantime.

{ Nos. 1 and 2 are sections of bamboo decorated with etched designs;
Nos. 3 and 4 have monkey-bone stems, and
No. 5 is a bamboo root decorated with silver bead-work. }

The areca-nut is cut up with a kind of scissors or a sickle.
Some use a section of deer's horn about six inches long in breaking
up these nuts. The horn is perforated by a hole large enough at one
end to admit a whole nut, but considerably smaller at the other end.
In being driven through this orifice the nut is broken into bits,
which issue from the smaller opening. This nut-breaker is not
used as much now as formerly. The areca-nuts and other supplies
for betel chewing are kept in the ever present betel-box, which in
the hills may be nothing more than an end of bamboo or, among
those having due regard for the social amenities connected with the
practice, is likely to be a round laquer receptacle or, in rare
instances, even a brass box. These more pretentious containers are
fitted with one or two trays, on which the supplies are conveniently

The habits of tobacco smoking is almost as prevalent among
the Karen as that of betel chewing. It is indulged in by both sexes
and all ages. The dried leaf is rolled into a rude cigar and smoked
without further preparation. Pipes of various kinds are also used.
The Karen analogue of the American corn-cob pipe is the simplest
form, consisting of a short section of a small bamboo with a stem
of the same inserted in the side. An approach to our brier-root
pipe is made of a curved root of bamboo, nicely smoothed off and
fitted with a stem of monkey-bone or silver. The bowl of this latter
kind of pipe is sometimes supplied with a silver lining and has a
silver wire wrapped around it by way of ornamentation. The
ordinary straight pipe may be etched with geometric figures in fine
lines and with borders of saw-tooth and star designs. Designs
incised on bamboo are found throughout the Malay countries, Borneo,
and the Philippine Islands.[9-5]

{ The bamboo platform and basket contain the offerings of the "ta maw
a hku" ceremony. Two kinds of rat traps are seen at the left. On the
right is a "wa hkaw" or spear trap, the point of which is under the offerings
at the opening there. } 


The Karen's chief occupation is the cultivation of the most
important article of his diet, namely, rice. Throughout the Orient
this grain is called "paddy" during all the stages of its growth and
curing, until it is husked and polished ready for cooking. The method
of cultivation in the hills is widely different from that on the
plains. We shall consider the former first, as it is more primitive
and, until recently, was practiced by far the larger number of the
people. In Burma this more primitive method is often spoken of as
the "ya" cultivation, from the Burmese word designating it. It is
characteristic of this cultivation that a new hill field, called "hku"
in Karen, has to be selected, cleared, and buried off each year. The
planting of the grain must follow immediately after all seeds and
all roots have been destroyed by fire, or no crop can be raised
with the primitive implements in use, on account of the rapid resuscitation
of the jungle. The ashes from the consumed vegetation
act as a fertilizer, without which the crop would scarcely be worth
the reaping. At the present time the Government so limits the
areas open to the Karen for cultivation in some districts that a
sufficient interval does not elapse between plantings is to allow the
growth of enough timber for the production of the ashes necessary
to fertilize the soil properly. Hence, crop production is declining
in these districts. At least seven years should intervene before a
plot is cleared and planted a second time, and even this period is too
short for the production of the best crops.[10-1]

When a crop has been harvested, the village chief and elders
choose the ground to be cut over the following year. Each village
has its well-recognized farming areas, beyond which are the lands
of the neighboring village. Each member of the community then
picks out his particular plot for cultivating, takes home a lump of
the earth, puts it under his pillow, and sleeps on it. If he has an
auspicious dream, he consults the chicken bones for a confirmation
of the good omen. Securing this confirmation, he regard his choice
as fixed. Otherwise, he selects another plot and repeats the ceremonies.
Once his selection is approved by the auspices, the spot
is called a "du la," and he clears a little space on the land, after
which he addresses the spirits as follows;

"Depart all you evil spirits ('ta we ta na').
We are going to work here for our food,
To get sustenance for our wife and children.
Let no sickness come upon us.
We are going to work until it is finished."

Next he places a lump of soil on the clearing and, having wrapped
the chicken bones in the leaf of a creeper ("ki ku"), he touches the
lump with them, raises them towards the sky, and again touches
or strikes the clod with the mystic bones. He now breaks these
apart and scrapes them until he can insert splints of bamboo into
the holes of the bones. If this act of divination is also successful,
he is ready for work.

[ Illustration -- A Hillside Plot Cut Ready for Burning ]

[ Illustration -- A Paddy-bin for Storing Grain in the Field ]
{ The bamboo clappers in the foreground are for scaring away the birds.}

In the early days, when much of the primeval forest was still
standing, the Karen would clear out the brush and bamboos from
among the giant trees on the hillside they were preparing to cultivate.
Then they raised platforms at the foot of the trees from
which they could cut them above the broad-spreading buttresses
at their base, leaving enough of the trunk intact to keep them from
falling. When the whole hillside tract had been cut over in this
manner, they felled the uppermost tree so as to crash down on
those just below, and these in turn would bring down others until
the whole mountain side seemed to be swept by a mighty avalanche,
which resounded far and wide across the valleys, drowning the
shouts of the people who were wild with excitement at seeing the
culmination of the labor of weeks. The fallen timber and heaps
of brush had still to lie for a fortnight or more in the hot sun until
dry enough to burn.

The burning-off process, which is always a necessary part of
clearing the land as mentioned above, is preceded by its appropriate
ritual, in order to prevent any wandering shades or "k'las" from
being consumed. As a means of warding off evil, the ritualist ties
up his wrist and, as he does so, invokes the "k'las" as follows:

"Pru-u-u k'la, come back. Remain not in the forest,
Nor in the places where the jungle is newly cut.
Do not stay with evil demons.
We are about to burn our cutting.
Come back and stay in the house. Come back."

In lighting the blaze, they do so with fire from bundles of twigs
that have first been sprinkled with the blood of a fowl. The burning
is carefully watched, so that the fire may be kept from spreading
to the surrounding forests. When bamboos are burned, the air
in the hollow joints expands and bursts the stems with sharp 
reports. A burning field sounds like the fusillade of a battery of
machine guns and affords as much delight to the Karen as a packet
of firecrackers to a small boy.

When the rains have begun, the villagers begin their planting.
With a sharp stick or the point of a long knife ("dah") they make
tiny holes in the soft ground about a foot apart and drop into each
two or three seeds of paddy. The field is now called a "hku." About 
this time also each family builds the little hut in its plot of ground
that is to serve both as a shelter and home until the harvest shall
have been gathered. It is a rude affair made of a few bamboos,
either saved when the field was cleared or newly brought from the
jungle, and consists of a platform, roof, and loosely fitted sides.

When the paddy has sprouted and tinged the hillside with
green, another ceremony ("theh a khu") must be performed. Offerings
of liquor and a fowl, which has been cooked at home, are placed
upon an altar with a platform and roof, built upon six posts.
The platform consists of two parts, the upper, enclosed like a miniature
hut and the lower, open like a porch. Sometimes a second altar
is erected upon four posts and is called "ta th' mo." Close by the
first altar a flaring basket ("ta theh") is set up, which is made
of splints woven through the split end of a bambo, the other end
of which is planted in the ground, and a similar "ta theh" is placed
in front of the latr. A cup containing some rice mixed with chaff,
from which projects a little bamboo branch, is put upon the altar.
The little banch is a 'hto bo" or pole. Water is now poured over
the offerings, and the cup of liquor brought from the house is placed
at the foot of the altar posts. Along the path leading to the altar
sharp bamboo spikes are set, following a custom said to have been
handed down from earlier times, to prevent wild elephants from
disturbing the offerings. When all these preparations have been
completed, the spikes and the altar are smeared with the blood of
a fowl, and the spirits are again addressed:

"Let this cool you and please you, O Lord of the hills, O Lord
of the land, Lord of fire, Lord of heat and cold. I am making
you cool and comfortable. Therefore, moderate the heat of the soil
and make the paddy good. Make the rice good. Do this until the
field is full."

If there is a second altar, its posts are smeared with the blood
of another fowl, while the suppliant prays:

"I am offering you that which is good, that which is comforting.
Therefore make the rice and paddy good, and cause it to fill
the whole field."

An offering of a live chicken, with its legs tied together, is
laid in the basket near the larger altar, while the following words
are uttered:

"I have prepared this for you. I am doing you good. I am
making it comfortable for you. When the eagle flies, the crow is
afraid. When the laughing-bird laughs and the barking-deer barks,
let us not fear their bad omens."

The suppliant now burns the feathers off of the dead fowls;
lasy down five yam leaves; cuts bits of the tip of the bill from each,
treating the nails and extremities of the wings in the same
way; carefully distributes the different clippings from each fowl
on each of the leaves, together with a morsel of rice and, finally,
disposes one of the leaves upon each of the three offering-places
mentioned above, besides one upon the roof of the hut and one upon
a stump in the field. Then he dips a cup of liquor and, holding it
aloft, pours out a libation, saying as he does so:

"Come partake of your liquor and your rice. Make the rice and
paddy better. May we work and eat in comfort and pleasure. Let
us not be overtaken by illness. May we work until the task is
finished and eat to the end."

[ Illustration -- Off for the Fields with Baskets and Bags ]
{ The Karens always travel single-file. This picture shows four
patterns of smocks trimmed with white seeds. }

After examining the bones of the sacrificial fowls to learn their
omens, the suppliant and his family cook and eat the chickens.
He then weaves a basket with large meshes and on a leaf laid in the
bottom places a black pepper and sprinkles some salt. He takes a
small branch from an upright-growing plant and, moving about in
the growing grian, strikes both the grain and the basket, which
he is carrying, and recites this prayer:

"O Guradian Bird of the field, do not let anything eat the
paddy in the plot where you watch. Do not let men come in or go
out. Do not permit any one who may get in to redeem himself with
money, but cause him to expiate his transgression by increasing
the yield of grain."

Then, cutting off the head of another fowl, he smears its blood
on the basket, which he sets down in the path near the edge of the
field, and returns to his house.

In many places these rites are not now so carfully observed
as the above account implies. Sometimes the larger altar is
dispensed with altogether, and the offerings are placed upon the little
altar and in the flaring baskets. Where the elaborate ceremonial is
dying out, a single fowl may be used in place of several as an obligation
sufficient to please the spirits and secure a plentiful harvest.
In the illustration {Offering and Traps} from a photograph taken in the Pegu
Yomas, are shown the various offerings, including the live chicken
that has been left on a post to die. The flaring baskets with the
other offerings are also shown. The bamboo reaching above the
other things was set up to mark the height which, it was hoped,
the paddy might attain.

Having sought the favor of the unseen powers that preside
over the growing crop, the cultivator has soon to turn his attention
to the numerous enemies that prey upon his field from the neighboring
jungle. Elephants, wild pigs, and a number of small animals,
including rats, eat the tender plants and later feed on the ripening
grain. Birds and wild fowl of various kinds are also destructive
from the time the grain is in the milk. Supplication on the the Guardian
Bird of the field does not relieve the rice-grower from the need of
fencing his plot with reeds and bamboos, setting traps and snares,
and erecting scarecrows and clappers to keep devouring creatures
from his grain. Little hoeing is done, but the Karen and his whole
family occupy themselves in watching the growing paddy, operating
the clappers, and clearing the traps. When wild elephants appear in
the field, those on guard are unable to do more than produce affrighting
noises from a safe distance, in the hope that the great animals
will be scared away before they have destroyed the entire crop.

As soon as the rains are over in October the hill rice ripens
very quickly, and the harvest-time is near. Among some of the
people it is the custom of the eldest member of the family to reap
a little of the grain as the first fruit, as it were, of the season's
produce. After this has been done, the whole family take part in
the reaping. The implement used is a sickle ("xeh"),
the long handle of which bends backward from the grip, the tool
as a whole having the shape of the letter S. The outer end of the
sickle extends under the arm of the reaper, enabling him to cut
with greater ease than if he depended only on his wrist muscles.
The grain is cut about half-way down the stalks and is tied in small
sheaves no larger than can be easily grasped with one hand. Even
though all the paddy in the plot could be cut in one day, a fraction
is left for reaping until the next morning, in order to have the crop
good and make it last longer. The sheaves are thrown into piles,
and then collected near the hut, where they are beaten out. In
some places the sheaves are beaten over the edge of a trough
improvised from half of a hollow log, and in others they are beaten
over a horizontal pole tied by withes to two bamboo posts, the pole
being about three feet above the ground a large bamboo mat is
spread down under the pole or the trough, as the case may be, to
catch the grain. Those who engage in the beating are careful
to tie up their wrists and call in the "k'las" or wandering shades.
They also deem it necessary to complete the threshing before they
leave the place. Both men and women or either alone serve as
threshers. When the paddy has all been beaten out, it is winnowed
by hoding it aloft in a tray or basket and letting it fall, while the
wind carries the chaff to one side and the grain falls on the mat.
The grain is now ready to be stored in a bin built in
the field or along the path leading to the village. In the districts
inhabited only by Karens these bins are to be found along the
jungle trails a mile or more from any village or house. Stealing is
very uncommon in these regions and is severely punished if 
detected.[10-2] In the Pegu Hills near the Burmese the same security
does not exist, and the paddy is stored within the village stockade.
The grain is carried in baskets on the backs of the beaters
and is poured slowly into the bin so as not to settle
compactly. Should a basket slip and fall into the bin or its contents
be dashed in, a fowl must be killed and an offering made. The
storing of grain must be finished as speedily as possible; but if it
can not be done in one day, the workers may rest over night.

[ Illustration -- Plowing a Paddy Field in Lower Burma ]

[ Illustration -- Women Transplanting Paddy ]
{ They simply push the plants into the soft mud, and they grow
without further attention. }

The task of storing finished, they bring an offering for "Hpi Bi
Yaw,"[10-3] consisting of a clod of earth, a morsel of rice, and a small cup
of liquor. These are placed on the paddy in the bin, and a prayer
of thanksgiving is said to her. After these ceremonies the 
cultivator feels at liberty to take grain from his store and carry it home 
for food.

A small supply of paddy is always put aside in a special basket
for seed, each family preserving its own, which is supposed to date
back to a time when its forbears had an unusually good crop in some
favorable year. Only in the last extremity will a Karen eat his seed-grain.
There are many varieties of rice having their special names,
each cherished by particular localities and families. Hill rice is
greatly prized as being more delicious than plains rice.

The Karen raise different kinds of vegetables in their rice-
fields, such as certain varieties of gourds, beans, yams, a kind of
sweet potato, and peppers of various sorts, especially the red chili
so generally used for condiment. Cotton is also grown in the fields
along with the rice, standing until long after the paddy has been
reaped. The cotton is usually considered to be the women's crop.
They tend it, gather the bolls, and carry them home. The other
products of the field seem to belong to all members of a family
alike. The tips of various plants are used for greens. These must
be plucked with the fingers and not cut off with a sharp instrument,
inasmuch as the spirits dislike their being dissevered with a knife.
A few plants of cockscomb are grown in the field, the red variety
("hpaw ghaw") being preferred to the yellow because they are
supposed to dazzle the eyes of the demons and prevent their harming
the crop. In the lower hills sesame is often raised for its
seeds, which are threshed out and sold to the Burmese, who press
the oil out of them. This is serviceable in cooking and lighting. It
is said to be not unlike linseed oil in certain respects, but supplies
a large amount of the fats required in curries.

In the Toungoo and Shwegyin Hills great quantities of betel-nuts
are grown. These regions furnish, I believe, the greater part
of the supply of these nuts for all Burma. The trees bearing them
are tall slender palms (_Areca Catechu_), which flourish in moist
mountain valleys where they are shaded by larger trees. The nuts
grow in clusters just below the crown of leaves. A tree may produce
as many as four hundred nuts a year, which are sold in
baskets at three or four rupees a basket. There are several 
gardens that number these palms by the thousands and many others
by the hundreds.

Plantain gardens are cultivated on the bottom-lands near the
rivers, where there are rich alluvial deposits. Plantains or bananas,
of which many varieties exist, are comprised in the genus _Musa_.
The stem grows from four to fifteen feet in height and produces
sprouts, which are set out at the end of the rainy season and begin
to bear by the next year. The new plants send out sprouts in their
turn, these growing from the sides of the herb and continuing its
life indefinitely. Some varieties of the plantain in the hill-country
hear very delicious fruit, which I have almost never seen on the
plains. As far as I know it is raised for home consumption,
although it may be sold in a few cases to Burman and Shan traders 
for a small price.

In the Toungoo and Moulmein districts oranges are extensively
grown. The groves are along the well-watered valleys, and the
fruit is ripe in late September and in October. Nothing has been
done, so far as I am aware, to improve the varieties, but a ready
market is open to the fruit produced. The Karens bring the supply
down to Toungoo in dugouts, and sell it to traders on the river
bank at prices varying from one to three or four rupees per
hundred, according to the size and quality of the fruit.

A few years ago coffee was widely planted in the Toungoo
distircit; but a blight ruined the greater pat of the groves, and the
industry ceased to develop. A little is still raised here and there,
but it is of an inferior grade.

Tobacco is grown along the sandy banks of the rivers, not in
large quantities but sufficient for home consumption and petty
trading. It is cured in the most primitive way and consumed in
many forms.

I have been informed that in the early days the Karen trained
the vines of the betel leaf creeper (_Piper Betel_) to run up a 
certain kind of rough - barked tree, which a few vines would completely
cover with their glossy green foliage, supplying a large crop of
leaves and thereby a considerable income for the posseror of such
a vine-clad tree, which was called "pu la". Wanderers of other
nationalities, happening to discover such trees, dispoiled them of
their treasure by cutting the vines. Thus, but very few "pu la"

Dr. Mason tells such that "Karen boys and maidens engaged in
harvesting these leaves with great zest and it was not uncommon
for young men, in seeking companions to inquire who were the
most agile climbers of 'pu la' or betel leaf tree."[10-4]

The Karen in Toungoo have always raised more or less silk
and woven the material for their best garments from it. The silkworms
are of a native variety and spin a thread far inferior to that
of improved species. Not many years ago the attempt was made
to introduce a worm of larger size, but it met with ill success,
because the creature made a peculiar creaking sound in chewing the
leaves of the mulberry tree. The superstitious people thought the
new worms were possessed of some strange demon and killed
them, in order to ward off an unknown danger.

Many of the inhabitants of Karenni gather stick-lac, which is
the deposit of an insect on certain trees found in the jungle. They
also increase the supply by attaching the insects to other trees.
The deposit is used extensively in making red dyes[10-5] and is marketed
in Toungoo on the twigs to which it is attached.

The Karen is skilled in all jungle-craft. He knows the woods
and what may be found there. He has learned, among other things,
that bees establish their hives high up in the branches of the oil-tree
(_Dipterocarpus lociis_). When he finds a new hive he marks
the tree by putting a tuft of grass at its foot. Others will recognize
the mark and respect his cliam. To climb the fifty or seventy-five
feet to the lower branches of these giant trees is no easy task.
However, it is accomplished by means of pegs driven into the trunk
and a rope encircling it. Often a honey-gatherer makes his ascent
at night, lest he grow dizzy in looking down from such a height.
Once at the hive, he smokes the bees out with a smudge and collects
the honey into joints of large bamboo. The Karen villagers in the
vicinity of Thandaung used to be called "Wild Bees" by the
Burmans of Toungoo, on account of the supplies of honey which they
brought in from their hills.

Besides the pursuits already mentioned, the Karen of the hills
sometimes engage in other occupations, such as transporting produce
and luggage from the town into the hill-country or to trading
centers. They cover long distances, and before the recent war they
received about eight annas (about tewnty-four cents) a day for
such work. In a few villages they raise oxen, which they train as
pack-animals to carry grain and other produce of the hills to Toungoo
or other markets. WIth two baskets slung on either side of a
rough pack-saddle, these oxen can carry not more than one hundred
and fifty or two hundred pounds each.

Karen men are experts at catching and training elephants and
often become most excellent drivers for these intelligent beasts.
Several travelers testify that Karen drivers seemed to be more
gentle with, and careful of, their elephants than Burman drivers
and acknowledge the pleasure which they derived from seeing the
Karens handle their charges. Owners of elephants are usually
employed by the Goverment Forest Department to draw logs out
of the jungle to the streams, by the current of which they are 
floated down during the rainy season. This is a lucrative business,
but the risk involved is large, because the elephants often sicken
and need attention to restore them to working condition.

In some localities forest officers have employed Karens living
in the hills to tend the adjacent forest reserves. But the Karen has
a distaste for steady work under supervision, especially if the
immediate overseer is a Burman. The latter usually does not hesitate
to exhibit his feeling of superiority and to appreciate an undue
share of the rewards. Only in a few instances have I known satisfactory
results to be obtained through such an arrangement; but
the few officers who did secure satisfactory results had a good word
to speak for the Karen.

The Karen on the plains in Burma practice methods of cultivation
life those of the Burmese, which have often been discribed.
When the rainy season is about to being in May the cultivator, if
his land is at a distance from the village, carries thither a few
bamboos and some thatch and builds a hut in his field. Here he
lives during the cultivating season. The rains having softened the
hardy clay soil, he may resort to the very primitive practice of
driving a few cattle or buffaloes around over a muddy place until they
cut the ground with their sharp hoofs and thus prepare it, after a
fashion, to receive the seedlings. Or he may use the method of
scratching the ground with a primitive wooden plow, called a
"hteh." During recent years, however, iron points have been imported
which make these implements more effective. If there is
considerable water, he has still a third alternative, namely to use
a kind of rough harrow, named a "hto tu." 

Previously, and as early as possible, the cultivator has prepared
as all lot in which he has sown his paddy seed. When the plants
have reached about a cubit's height, they are pulled up, tied in
sheaves, and carried to the water-soaked field to be set out. This
work is done either by the members of the family or by women
hired for the purpose. It requires about five person to transplant
an acre in a day, their compensation being approximately eight
annas a day each. The process of transplanting consists merely
in sticking the plants into the mud, usually by hand but sometimes
with a forked stick.

After this has been completed, little remains but to regulate
the quantity of water on the fields by opening or closing the small
dikes enclosing the plots. Later, when the grain is in the milk,
brids are often rapacious, and I have seen Karens scaring them off
their fields with a kind of slingshot. With this device they throw
mud balls ("naw blu tha") from which a stalk of grass trails, fluttering
and whirring as it files, to the confusion of a flock of sparrows
or weaver-birds. Larger balls, moulded and riced beforehand, have
a hole through the middle. The air whistles through this when the
ball is in swift motion, and big flocks of birds are badly scared by it.
The slingshot, with which these two sorts of missiles are cast, consists 
of a bamboo of four of five feet in length with a rope attached,
the missile being hurled from the end of the rope. It flies with
amazing swiftness and to a great distance.

[ Illustration -- Reaping Paddy with Sickles ]

[ Illustration -- A Threshing-floor on the Plains ]
{ Oxen and buffaloes treading out the grain }

In October the rainy season is at an end, the ground begins to
dry, the paddy turns a golden yellow or, as the Karen says, "becomes
red," and by the first of December is about ready to be reaped. If
it is not already leaning over, a man walks through it with a long
heavy bamboo and pushes the stalks all in one direction to an angle
of about forty-five degrees, so that it will be easier to cut.
With sickles like those used in the hills, the members of
the family reap in the direction in which the stalks are bent and
bind the grain in sheaves about a foot in diameter. The average
reaper will cut one hundred and fifty sheaves a day, but the best
workers have a record of two hundred and fifty. Nowadays the
sheaves are usually collected on the same day they are cut, and
carried to the threshing-floor, which is near the hut or, in the case
of the fields lying near the village, is just outside the village gate.
If they should be left in the field, they might not be there next
morning. The pile of sheaves is always guarded, some of the men
spending the night on it. They also take the precaution to hang up
a gourd with a hole in it which, with a breze blowing, emits sounds
like mumbled voices.

The threshing-floor is a plot of ground perhaps a hundred feet
square, or larger in proportion to the quantity of grain to be trodden
out, which has been packed hard and flat by leading cattle
around on it, or by using a cart or a drag for the purpose.
A smoother surfae is secured, not unlike that of a dirt tennis-court,
by covering the floor with a coating of cow-dung. The name
applied to the threshing-floor is "t' law," which is a corruption of the
Burmese word "talin." The paddy sheaves are piled up in tiers
around the "t' law" so as to shed water, should untimely showers
fall before they are trodden out. For the threshing, however, the
sheaves are distributed evenly over the floor to a depth of two feet
with the heads of the grain on top. Banks of sheaves support the
sides of the layers. The process of separating the grain from the
head is a tedious one. From two of a dozen cattle are tied together,
and a boy or girl or, if neither of these is at hand, a woman takes
the nose rope of the nail nearest him and stands in the center of
the floor. The threshing often begins soon after midnight and continues
until sunrise, the cattle being constantly prodded on their
apparently endless round. At the conclusion of the tiresome task
the other members of the family appear, remove the bulk of the
straw, sweep up the smaller fragments, and begin to winnow the
grain. This is accomplished either by holding it aloft in a
basket and letting the wind blow off the chaff as it falls, or by
pouring the grain and chaff from a platform four or five feet into a
loosely-woven tray swung from a tripod of bamboos. To insure that
all the chaff and dust are driven off, men and women fan the grain
with closely-woven trays as it falls upon the pile.
The winnowing process being finished, an offering for "Hpi Bi
Yaw'[10-6] (the Karen Ceres) is placed on the apex of the pile. Lest
any one should try to help himself to the grain, little tufts of 
charred straw are put at close intervals around the pile, after which
those who have been doing all this dusty work unwrap their heads,
repair to the village well or tank and indulge in a refreshing bath.

[ Illustration -- Winnowing Paddy ]
{ The grain is poured through a sieve in order to scatter it as
it falls, so the wind can blow off the chaff more easily. }

[ Illustration -- Fanning The Paddy ]
{ The man on the top of the pile throws a trayful of sweepings from
the threshing floor into the air and those below fan it as it falls
and thus drive away all the chaff. }

In these days it is the usual practice to sell the grain to the
traders directly from the threshing-floor. Sometimes it is stored
for a few months in the hope of an advance in price, but most of the
smaller cultivators are compelled by their poverty to sell at once.
The buyers may be Burmans, but in these later years are more
often Chinese. A few Karens have done some trading in paddy,
although they are generally not so succesful as the traders of the
other nationalities.

The grain kept for family use is stored in bins of bamboo made
in the shape of great baskets or "weh." These "weh" vary in size
from those having double the diameter of a bushel-basket up to the
huge ones of ten or twelve feet in diameter and of equal height.
They are set upon platforms several feet above the ground and
adjoining or close to the house. The planks forming the bottom
are firmly secured together and coated with cow-dung. After a bin
has been filled, the top is covered with a layer of straw, well packed
in, and a thick coating of cow-dung is spread over it to seal the

It is not my purpose in this work to enter into a detailed 
economic study of Karen agriculture. Here I have but a few observations
to offer. Under the conditions obtaining just before the World
War, the economic outlook for the Karen cultivator was none too
good. The Karen people are no more provident than the Burmese.
At the beginning of the season they borrow money, for which they
must pay one hundred baskets of paddy for fifty rupees of money.[10-7]
If they have no oxen or buffaloes of their own they must hire them,
paying from fifty to sixty rupees a yoke for the former and ten
rupees additional each for the latter. To hire a man to work in the
rainy season and to plow costs about the same as paying for the
use of a team of oxen. If he is employed until the threshing is
finished, he costs another fifty rupees. The yield per acre varies
all the way from twenty-five to seventy baskets, according to the
quality of the land and whether a little manure has been used or
not. For many years the price of paddy remained close to one
hundred rupees for one hundred baskets, being sometimes a little
below and at others are few rupees above that price. Before the
war competition and speculation had forced the price up gradually,
until it reached a maximum of one hundred and thirty-five rupees.
No one can presume to predict the outcome of the present unsettled
conditions. We can only hope that better days are in store for
the cultivators, whether Burman or Karen.

If, before the war, a man owned his field and cattle without
encumberance or other debts, he could til some twenty acres and
make a comfortable living for himself and family. If however, he
was under the necessity of borrowing money and hiring men and
cattle, he could hardly keep his head above water.

There are some Karens who own large fields. They may have
acquired them by careful management, by purchase, or by foreclosing
loans. Many of these proprietors make a business of
hiring out their fields to men who cultivate them at a rental of from
ten to fifteen baskets of paddy per acre, the cultivator supplying 
his own materials and help. In case the owner has oxen, he rents
them at the usual price. 'In addition, he usually makes a loan of
cash to his tenant, on which he gets a big return, namely, a hundred
baskets of paddy for the sum of fifty rupees for six months. If the
tenant borrows from a money-lender, he has to pay anywhere from
fifteen to fifty percent a year for it.

On the plains the cultivator is almost entirely dependent on his
single crop of paddy. If high water has washed out his first settings,
there is not time enough left to raise other produce after
the water has disappeared. Under these circumstances they sometimes
plant sesame, but it requires only a little less time to 
mature than paddy. The lack of water in the dry season renders
cultivation impossible without extensive irrigation.

Along the river-bottoms may be found a few plantain groves,
patches of tobacco, sugar-cane, or vegetables; but these are unusual
sights. They may add a little to the cultivator's income. But very
few persons derive their chief support from such gardens.

The Karen on the plains do not observe the old religious customs
of the hill people. Many times they resort the Burmese soothsayers
to prognosticate the proper times for planting, reaping, and
other tasks. Not a few, however, follow the old ceremonies in
greater or less apart. A ceremonial similar to "theh a hku" in the
hills[10-8] is observed on the plains where it is designated "mo a si."
It is performed when the paddy is set out. Offerings are seldom
seen along the paths in this region, but when the paddy has been
winnowed an offering is made to "Hpi Bi Yaw" by transferring the
rim of earth around a crab's burrow to the summit of the pile of
paddy. A few paddy heads or even a few leaves of the ginger plant
may be inserted in the burrow as a talisman to make the supply of
paddy last the year out. The oblation on the threshing-floor or a
similar one is then put on top of the paddy in the bin.

[ Illustration -- Sgaw Karen Women Carrying Grain in Large Baskets ]
{ Tharrawaddy Hills }

[ Illustration -- Karen Houses on the Plains ]

The Karen who is untouched by outside influence does not like
to take up any other occupation that that of raising paddy. He
regards his other pursuits as occasional and accessory, including the
gathering of forest products, such as stick-lac and wild honey and
the sale of fruit from the few mango trees he may posses. He has
not been found satisfactory as a day-laborer or coolie for any continued 
work; he avoids hiring out as a cartman and does not succeed
as a petty trader. In more extensive business he has achieved
success in only a few instances. With the advantages of education,
however, a few have prospered in commerical life and other caliings.
Many have entered Government service and risen to positions of
trust. A large percentage of those who have passed through the
schools are clerks and teachers. One of the largest department
stores in Rangoon employs Karen clerks with satisfaction, besides
Europeans. Educated Karen girls take employment nas teachers
and nurse-maids, and recently a few have been engaging in clerical

[ Illustration -- Turning the Buffaloes Out to Graze ]
{ These heavy animals are easily managed by Karen children, but are easily
frightened by the presence of strangers. }


There is nothing in which a Karen delights so much as to
hunt, unless it be the gastronomic pleasures that follow a successful
chase. Schoolboys spend their Saturdays in the jungle with their
slingshots and blowpipes. Teachers and clerks spend their holidays
in the same way. The villager may go by himself to stalk deer or
shoot birds and other game along the runways; but the sport that
he enjoys most is the drive for game, which is abundant in the
hills of Burma, participated in by all the men of the village armed
with their weapons and nets. A promising place is chosen, such as
the open end of a ravine, where some of the hunters stretch and
make fast their nets and retire into an ambsuh near at hand,.
The others of the party go to the far end of the area included in the
drive and begin to beat the bushes with their spears and knives,
while shouting and making a great nosie generally. The game is
thus driven from cover to the nets, where it usually gets entangled
and is soon dispatched by the spears and crossbows of the men
waiting there. Nearly all kinds of game are caught this manner,
from rabbits to tigers and elephants. Pigs and deer are, however,
most commonly hunted in this way. This is men's sport, and the
women never take part in it, so far as I know. The game is divided
among the hunters, each sharing more or less equally. If
any parts of a carcass are supposed to possess medicinal value,
they are appropriated by the one who killed the animal and 
distributed by him as he thinks best.

Besides the ordinary weapons used in warfare and described
in the chapter dealing with that subject, the Karen employ in the
chase the blow-gun, the crossbow, the bow, and the spear. The
blow-gun is similar to that used in Malaysia, Borneo, and the 
Philippine Islands, but is not decorated as are those of the Malay tribes.
The implement consists of a ten or twelve-foot length of a slim 
variety of bamboo, the tube or bore of which is the size of a small
pencil. The length is first straightened by being hung from a tree
with a weight of stones or logs to the bottom end. The transverse
membranes at the joints are then drilled out with a sharp stick of
hard wood, and small arrows are shaped and smoothed to fit
accurately the bore of the blow-gun, the rear end of each arrow being
tufted with a circle of feathers. A quick expulsion of the breath
against one of these missiles inserted in the long tube drives it with
sufficient force to kill small birds and game at a distance of a few
yards. To use the implement effectively one must be able to stalk
the game noiselessly and to bring the weapon to bear on it
unawares. This gun may have been copied from Burman guns, for I
do not find it in the hills.[11-1] The Karen hunters do not seem to be
as skilful in its use as are the tribesmen of the Philippines, Borneo,
and the Malay State.

The crossbow ("hkli") is one of the favorite implements for
hunting among the Karen, but never seems to have found favor
with them as a fighting weapon.[11-2]

The stock is made of some firm wood and has small handle,
like that of a cheek-gun.[11-3] Its entire length is not more than three
feet. The bow is shaped out of cutch wood ("nya"), which is very
tough and resilient. It varies in length, but is usually about four
feet. The string is twisted fibre, generally that of the roselle plant
(_Hibiscus sabdariffa_). The bow is so strong that sometimes it
takes two men to bend it, the string being held back by a rough
trigger. The arrows consist of straight pieces of bamboo sharpened
and slightly charred in the fire at one end to harden them, while
they are tufted with feathers or fitted with a slip of dry palm or
plantain leaft at the other end, which is bound around with string.
Sometimes the arrow tips are barbed or supplied with flat iron
points, and sometimes they are smeared with a thick gum taken from
the Upas tree (_Antiaris ovalfloria_), which is indigenous to Burma.
This species of tree is similar to that from which the Malay and
Bornoe tribes obtain poison for their arrows. The milky juice 
exudes from incisions made in the bark of the tree and drys into a
dark viscous gum, which is very bitter. This poison is supposed
to be more virulent if gathered at certain times of the year. After
being smeared with the poisonous substance, the arrow-tip is allowed
to dry for a short time; but if kept too long it loses its
noxious quality.

The crossbow will send an arrow thirty or forty yards with
considerable accuracy. Those skilled in the use of the weapon can
shoot to a greater range. The arrow will pierce the body of a man
or a tiger and sometimes protrude on the other side. When
wounded by a poisoned dart the Bwe may bind up the wound with
the juice from young bamboo shoots, but he immediately tries to
obtain what he considers a good antidote, namely, the hog-plum
(_Spondius mangifera_), which he eats either dry or green. Failing
to find this remedy, he resorts to alum. The Paku tribesmen eat a
little of the poisonous gum itself, thus producing vomiting, which
seems to counteract the effect of the poison in the wound. They
sometimes apply alum to the injured part and bind it up. The
Burmese, who greatly fear the consequences of being infected with the
poison, poultice the wound with white sweet potato, which they
chew into a paste for the purpose.[11-4]

The Karen have a kind of bow that resembles in general the
long bow used in the English Army back in the fourteenth century.
It is called "hki p'ti" and is fashioned of bamboo with elastic
ends, being fitted with two parallel strings held an inch apart
by little shruts of bamboo. A tiny mat is plaited between the
strings at the center to hold the pebbles or mud balls that are used
instead of arrows. A block of hard wood, some four inches long and
an inch and a half wide, is lashed to the middle of the bow. This
serves as a handle by which a twisting motion is imparted to the
bow when it is sprung, thus enabling the ball or pebble to pass to
one side of the bow-shaft. This weapon is much used by children
in shooting birds and small animals.

The trap is one of several automatic contrivances which the
Karen fashion and leave in places frequented by birds or animals
for their capture. Besides the spring trap, there are the box trap
and the pitfall. As the name of the last contrivance suggests, the
pitfall is a large hole that has been dug deep enough to prevent an
animal from jumping out, once it has fallen in. All traces of the
digging are obliterated, and the top is covered with branches and
twigs and then disguised with leaves. The unsuspecting animal,
going in search of water, steps on the insecure footing and falls
through. As its efforts to escape are unavailing, it is soon found
and dispatched by the spears and arrows of the hunters.

The box trap is a rude box-like structure varying in size from
those built to catch rats to one, which I saw, designed to put an end
to the prowlings of a tiger. They are laid up like a miniature log
cabin, with an opening either at one end or on top. A dog or some
other live bait is tied inside of the larger traps, and when the wild
animal jumps in to seize the decoy, he must needs touch the string
attached to the trigger that support a trap-door weighted with
stones or logs. The door is thus released, falls, and closes the opening.
Oftener the door of such a trap is made from a tree with thorny
bark, and the game only wounds itsef by struggling to get out.
There is usually little chance to escape for an animal caught in
one of these traps.[11-5]

The spring trap, commonly called in Karen "wa hkaw," [11-6] is
built across in opening in a game-run or in a fence around a paddy-field.
It is fitted with a single spear. The name "meu" is applied
to a larger tap of this kind, which has a row of bamboo spears.
A description of the former will suffice to show the plan and 
operation of the trap, which, we will assume is built across a game-run.
At some spot in the jungle, where the runway can be narrowed
to a mere opening by driving a few bamboos into the ground on
either side, the spring trap is set up. It consist of a bamboo spear
some five feet long projecting horizontally through a hole in a
bamboo post, its point but afew inches from the opening through
which the animal must pass. The shaft of the spear reaches back
several feet to the end of a stiff bamboo pole, also in horizontal 
position and nearly at right angles to the spear. The function of this
pole, which is rigidly fastened to a tree or heavy post at its butt
end is to thrust the spear forward at the right moment. The free
end of the pole moves along a horizontal rack or bar and, when
pulled back, is held by a catch. A stout string fastened to this
catch is stretched across the opening in such a way that the animal
emerging will run into the string, lift the catch, and thereby
receive the thrust of the spear in its body.

[ Illustration -- Setting a Spring trap ("Wa Hkaw"), Pegu Hills ]
{ This trap was set to catch a barking-deer. }

[ Illustration -- A Box Trap for Catching Birds ]
{ The watcher hides in the piles of straw seen at the right and pulls the
string to drop the lid. One hundred and seventy-six parroquets were
caught at one drop in this trap. A trough used for beating out grain
stands nearby. }

Small animals, such as squirrels and rats, are killed by means
of a heavy pole, one end of which is propped up from the ground
just inside a tight fence enclosing or partly enclosing a field.
Lengths of large bamboo lead the rodents through holes in the
fence, and as they emerge on the inside they have to push by a
string which releases the little prop under the log. Such traps are
called "tu."

A small trap for catching rats consists of a joint of large
bamboo fitted with a trigger like that on English steel traps, the
trigger being connected with a bow of bamboo that fits over the
open end of the section. The bow is opened, bait is placed inside,
and the trigger is set. The rat enters, touches the food, the bow
springs down over the open end, and he is imprisoned inside.

Birds are caught in a box trap, but of lighter construction and
larger dimensions. In the specimen shown in the illustration {of traps}
one hundred and twenty-seven pigeons were taken at one fall, I was told.
It was set near the paddy threshing-mat, and a line of grain led the birds
into it. The man who was watching the trap lay concealed in a
pile of straw a few yards away and, when he saw the box well
filled, pulled the string attached to the support upon which the end
of the cover rested. The captured pigeons were killed by spear-thrusts
through the cracks of their cage.

Pigeons are also taken by means of bamboo cages individed into
two compartments. A young bird, caught before it can fly, is
placed in one of the compartments as a decoy; and the cage, covered
with green leaves, is hung near a tree in fruit to which the birds
resort for food, or it is set near a field that is known to be a favorite
feeding-ground of the pigeons. The calls of the decoy attract
usually an aggressive male into the open compartment, the trigger
snaps, and the door flies shut. Birdlime, made from the sap
of certain varieties of the banyan, is smeared on twigs to catch
small birds.

Besides birdlimes, cages, and box traps, various kinds of snares
are utilized in capturing birds. A noose, made of tough fibre or
hair, is hung over a path in the thick grass just high enough to
catch the head of a pheasant or jungle-fowl as it walks along.
Sometimes a series of standing snares or loops are used. A chain
of twenty or thirty bamboo splints, each fitted with its own slip-noose,
is staked on the ground by means of a spike of horn or bamboo
attached to one end of the chain. The nooses form a succession
of wickets encircling perhaps a clump of grass or an open space in
the jungle. Two or three such chains may be connected to describe
a larger circle. In either case the circle is left open in the direction
from which the birds are expected to approach. Grain may
be scattered along the path and into the circle or a decoy cock may
be tethered there. If a decoy is not used, a boy hides near at hand
running by coming into the open. Otherwise, they wander and pick
about until startled by the decoy or something else. In trying to
scurry away at least some of the flock thrust their heads through
the open loops and pull them tighter and tighter by their struggles
to escape. It only remains for the hunter to come and carry off
his catches.

In the Toungoo Hills the Karen hunt with doegs, which they
know under the name of "htwi maw seh" and train for use in the
chase. These dogs are small, smooth-haired, and allied to the terrier,
and follow game with great tenacity. They are highly valued
by the Karen, the price of a good one equaling that of an ordinary
pony or buffalo. Deer are said to be so afraid of them that they
lose strength when pursued by one of these curs and thus become
an easy prey for the hunter. While in pursuit the dogs yelp
continually. The hunter has only to follow them to be sure of
his game in the end. They do not hesitate to trail a species of large
snake, which is considered palatable eating by the Karen, but will
not attack it. They will pull down a deer and set upon a bear or
boar, but stand in fear of tigers and leopards. Indeed, they turn
back from the track of a tiger, if they come upon it.

Elephant hunting, to which the Karen were much given in the
old days, has been revived to a considerable extent in recent years
among the Karen of Tavoy and the Tenasserim division. Their
practice is to build a large V-shaped stockade and drive the animals
into it. At the apex of the stockade they erect a high-fenced enclosure
into which tame elephants are sent to mingle with the wild
ones. Hunting elephants merely as game is no longer allowed by
the Government; but when that practice was tolerated, beaters
drove the animals along an elephant-run, while hunters, who were
adepts at spear-throwing, stood in wait behind trees and speared
the great creatures as they rushed past. The effort of the spearmen
was either to thrust the elephants through the heart or to hamstring
and disable them with their long knives, in order that they
might be put to death later.

[ Illustration -- Climbing the Toddy-palm ]
{ The trees that are tapped have a bamboo ladder attached, so that
the climber can more easily obtain the sap for making liquor. }

[ Illustration -- A Large Fish-trap ]
{ This trap is used by Burmese and Karen in large streams. The
bait is fastened to a string which, when pulled, drops the door. A
smaller "beu" or Karen trap is seen at the right. }

The Karen hunts primarily in order to obtain food, although
he certainly enjoys the excitement of the chase as well. But he is
not a sportsman, in the proper sense of that term. He does not
discriminate in his slaughter of wild creatures. He does not look
far enough ahead to appreciate the necessity of sparing the
females among the game animals, even those that are with young.
He is apt in imitating the calls of many animals and birds. Almost
every Karen can entice the barking-deer within short range by imitating
the cry of its fawn. He does ths by putting a green leaf
between his lips and blowing through it. The sound thus emitted
often brings the doe bounding through the jungle, only to be shot


The rivers and smaller streams of Burma are full of fish of
many kinds and sizes. The Karen is fond of fish for his daily fare,
and on the plains the fermented fish-paste of wide repute is a part
of his regular diet. Fishing is not confined to the men. Indeed, I
have sometimes thought that the women do more of it than the
men; but this, if true, is explicable by the fact that many times,
while their men folk are at work, the women go to catch a supply
for the next meal.

The Karen on the plains use much the same methods in fishing
as the Burmese, which they have probably copied from the latter.
In this chapter, however, I shall confine myself to an account of the
practices that have come under my observation along the hill
streams. Nets, large and small, baskets, traps, jars, weirs, the hook
and line, and spears are the more common kinds of implements employed
by the highland folk in obtaining their aquatic food.

In shallow water many fish are taken by means of the "thwe,"
which is an oval hoop a foot or more in its longest diameter, on
which a net of cotton strands is woven. The fisherman wades
through the water with his net in hand, plunges it down over the
fish within his reach, and scoops it up and out toward him. In the
shallow water of submerged fields what may be called a push-net
of closely woven material ("hti hsaw") is used in catching minnows.
It has two handles that cross and form the sides of the
spreading scoop, and is pushed ahead by the one handling it. A
longer scoop of similar construction is called a "paw," a name
probably derived from the Burmese designation, "pauk."

[ Illustration -- Cylindrical Fish-Traps ]

[ Illustration -- Bottle-shaped Fish-trap ]

The "Pu" is a basket shaped like an Egyptian vase and has a
hole near the bottom fitted with a trap-door. It is baited and set
in the water. The fish entering this contrivance are
prevented from getting out not only by the trap-door, but also by
a circle of sharp points converging inwards around the door. There
are many forms of basket and cage traps, all built on the principle
of the lobster - pot or "pu" just described, either with trap-doors or
inward converging bamboo splints through which the fish enter to
nibble at the tempting bait. Considerable ingenuity is shown in the
construction of some of the basket traps. One type has the shape
of a long-necked wine bottle, but considerably larger. A trap of this
shape is made from a joint of bamboo, which is about two inches in
diameter. At one end the joint is split into six or eight segments
about two-thirds of its length. These are spread far enough open
to form the body of the "bottle," being kept in that shape by the
interlacing of transverse strips in circles that get smaller toward
the neck of the trap. The bottom or open end of this bottle-shaped
basket consists of bamboo strips that converge inwards, and as the
basket is staked down on its side in a narrow and shallow place in
the stream, the fish gain their entrance through the elastic funnel
provided for them. The fisherman extracted his catch by spreading
open the segments forming the neck of the basket. Another type
of the basket trap is cylindrical in shape, three and a half or four
feet long, and some four inches in diameter. It, too, has the inward-
converging strips of bamboo at one end. Once inside the long and
narrow tube, the fish is unable to turn around or, indeed, to do
anything except move forward to the front end of the cage in which
it finds itself. Sometimes a jar is set low in the shallow narrows
of a stream through which the fish are running and, in jumpng for
the deeper water above or because the watching fisherman purposely
frightens them, they fall into the jar ("t' leu"), from the
narrow mouth of which they are unable to leap to freedom.

Jars, basket and cage traps, scoops, and small hand-nets are
familiar to the Karen fishermen, as we have seen. The hook and
line are also in common use, for fish-hooks are a commodity readily 
obtainable in the bazaars, and earthworms are to be had for the
digging. Men and women, to say nothing of children, are, therefore,
much given to angling and always seem able to draw fish
from any little pool that may be near. Eels are much prized, and
double-pointed iron spears afford the readiest means of their capture.
On occasion nowadays the rods of an old umbrella are turned
into these implements. Seins have been used extensively among the
Burmese and by the Karen on the plains, but not much in the hills.

The large catches resulting from seining are obtained by more
primitive methods among the Karen. For example, a number of
men, provided with baskets ("hsaw") wide and open at the bottom,
form a line across a shallow stream and work the bottom foot by
foot up the course. The fish either move ahead of the line of
advance, or are caught in the baskets. In the latter case the fishermen
remove their catches by hand through the round opening in the
top of each basket. Sometimes nearly the whole population of a
village, old and young, male and female, take part in a fishing 
expedition in the dry season. As the stream is low, it is barely more
than a succession of pools connected by tiny rivulets. Accordingly,
they build a dam and throw into the water above it sheaves of a
poisonous plant, which they call "xaw hter." This benumbs the
fish, without rendering them inedible or impregnating the water
to the detriment of the waders. Various members of the crowd,
especially the boys and little girls who strip for the purpose, busy
themselves in stirring up the water and mud to bring the fish to
the surface, where some are already floating apparently lifeliess.
The older people occupy themselves with hand-nets, scoops, etc., in
dipping out their helpless victims. As the water in these mountain
streams is often cold and the villagers soon become dripping wet,
a fire is built on shore by which they may dry and warm themselves.
Many of the persons in the water wear at the waist a small-
necked basket in which to drop the fish picked up or, lacking this
convenience, toss them to their neighbors, who collect them into
ordinary baskets on the bank. When the place has been thoroughly
"combed,' the supply is distributed among the villagers, every family
getting its share.

I have been informed that there are several kinds of plants
that may be used to poison fish; but as certain ones are dangerous
to man and beast, the people in the Pegu Hills prefer the "xaw
hter." Surely, this method of taking quantities of fish by means
of poison would not commend itself to the sportsman and is 
comparable to the dynamiting of fish, a thing that has been done in
rare instances in parts of the United States, although it is not
countenanced by public opinion or the law.

When the fish are beginning to spawn in the creeks, bunches
of straw are sunk in the creek pools for their spawning beds. Later
the young fish are taken from their hiding-places in the straw, or
the bunches are carefully removed from the water and shaken over
a cloth spread on the bank.

On the plains when the streams are overflowing the fields and
the fish are running up to spawn, the people build weirs of rushes
across the shallows of the water courses and insert long trumpet-
shaped tubes ("hk'ya") of basket-work in them at intervals. These
tubes are perhaps three feet long and only a few inches in diameter,
the broad end being pointed down-stream and left open, while the
small end is plugged with grass or twigs. The fish seek to pass
beyond the obstructing weirs through these tubes, only to find themselves
unable either to back out or turn around. The plains people
make their fishing expeditions to shallow lakes or, better, to pools
left standing after the subsidence of the rains, or to the creeks that
traverse the alluvial soil of Lower Burma. In part they use nets
like those in vogue among their brethren of the hills, but they also
have a cast-net of circular form and a square dig-net. The former
is about five yards in diameter, with weighted edges that sink on
all sides, thus covering and enclosing the fish nearer the center,
where the rope is attached by which it is slowly drawn out.



In the chapter on agriculture (Chapter VIII) I have already
referred to the fact that the cotton plants are tended by the women,
who also pick the bolls, pack them in their deep baskets, and carry
them home on their backs. The seeds are rmoved by a machine
like a small mangle or clothes-wringer, with two closely fitting
rollers of hard wood. The fibers pass through between the rollers,
leaving the seeds behind divested of every filament. This Karen
cotton-gin is like that of the Burmese, the people of Borneo, and the
Filipinos.[12-1] (See illustration of "Ginning Cotton")

After ginning the next process is whipping the fibers into a
workable mass, much like cotton batting. This is done with a bow
whose handle is straight and heavy, while the thin tip is bent in a
sharp curve when the bow-string is drawn tight. The women and
girls engaged in whipping the cotton, which corresponds to carding
in a cotton-mill, move the bow with the left hand in small circles
thumb, which is protected by a cloth wrapping, until a layer of
fibers encircles the string in a more or less parallel and compact
order. When the space between the string and the belly of the bow
has become filled, the aggregation of fibers is removed and flattened
out on a mat. The twanging of a room full of oscillating bows
sounds like a battery of unmuffled motors, at the same time filling
the air with flying bits of cotton as though one were in a snow
storm. (See illustration of "Batting Cotton")

[ Illustration -- Ginning Cotton in the Pegu Hills ]

[ Illustration -- Batting Cotton into Smooth Layers with a Bow ]
{ This Burman woman, who lives in the village of Ngape Eh, was more ready to
pose for this phto than her Karen sisters. }

The layers of cotton fibers are next divided into narrow strips,
and rolled on the mat or the thigh into small rolls of about a cubit's
length and of the thickness of one's thumb. From these rolls the
yarn is spun by means of the spinning-wheel, which is like those
found all over Burma. This contrivance is of the simplest form,
consisting of a driving-wheel about two feet in diamater with
spokes and rim of bamboo, the axle of which is fitted in an ornamental
flat post rising from one corner of a thick bottom board,
which is three and a half feet long and a foot or more wide. Near
the middle of the other end of this board a shorter post rises, to
the base of which is affixed a little wheel, with a grooved rim, in
line with the driving-wheel, the two wheels being connected by a
slender belt. There is a handle on the large wheel and a horizontal
iron spindle fastened in the center of the little one. The spinner sits
on the floor, with her machine drawn up to her knees in front of her,
the driving-wheel at her left hand and the point of the spindle at
her right. She attaches some fibers of a roll to a spun thread tied
to the spindle, and sets this to rotating rapidly by turning the large
wheel with her left hand, meantime continuing to pay out the fibers
from the roll with her right hand. After the spindle has twisted the
loose filaments into a tight yarn, the spinner feeds the newly spun
yarn on to the spindle and repeats the process with another roll of
fibers, until the spindle is full.


The next stage in the work is that of dyeing. The colors 
imparted to the skeins of cotton yarn are shades of blue to black, red,
and yellow. In producing the blue shades the skeins are soaked in
a solution of the bark or leaves of the wild indigo plant, called "naw
xaw" in Karen, the depth of the color depending on the duration
and repetition of the soaking, until a blue black has been obtained.
The red dyes are derived from the stick-lac so commonly found in
the Toungoo Hills. During the years just preceding the World War
a good deal of foreign dyestuff was introduced among the Karen
people, and yellow came to be used in addition to the other colors.[12-2]

The weaving of the yarn into cloth comes next in order. The
threads that are to form the warp of the cloth must first be got
ready for the hand-loom ("hta"). This is done by unwinding the
skeins and stringing the thread around a few pegs driven into a
leveled and cleaned space of ground, until enough has been laid
down to fill the loom. If there is no convenient place out-of-doors
for this purpose, the long threads are strung on pegs around the
family living-room or along one side of the corridor of the village-house.
The Karen loom is a primitive affair much like those to be
seen among the hill tribes in Burma, the Kachin, for example, or to
be found in Malaysia and the adjacent regions. The Karen loom
has no frame, differing in this respect from the Burmese loom. It
consists of little more than a bamboo pole five and a half or six
feet long, over which the warp-threads are passed, this pole being
held in place four feet or so above the floor against the back partition
of a living-room, two of whose large bamboo uprights have
holes in them for inserting the pole. From this support the warp
extends at an incline some ten or twelve feet to the lap of the
weaver, who holds it taut by means of a strap around her waist,
while she sists flat on the floor with her feet braced against a section
of large bamboo. The threads of the two layers are kept in place
by being passed through heddles consisting of small loops attached
to bamboo bars, alternate threads being thus strung on one or
the other of one or more pairs of bars. On a shuttle of bamboo
the filling or woof-thread is wound. It is passed by hand from side
to side between the separated layers of the warp, is pulled taut,
and then forced tight against the last of the interwoven threads by
a piece of Burmese ebony wood, shaped like the enlarged blade of
a pocket-knife. As the work progresses, the finished cloth is rolled
away on the rod in the weaver 's lap, only a yard or two being the
product of an ordinary day's work. On the plains the younger generation
of Karen women use the Burmese loom and can accomplish
more with it. (See illustrations of loom and weaving)

Variations in color are obtained by introducing different colors
of thread. When a colored pattern is woven for a skirt or the border
of a blanket, this process is called "u," meaning primarily 
"inserting the fingers" in reference to picking up certain threads under
which the filling threads must be passed in order to produce the
desired pattern.

After its removal from the loom the cloth is plunged into water
and spread out to dry. Knots are tucked in and straggling ends removed,
but no other finishing is thought necessary. Such cloth is
very firm and almost indestructible. The width of a strip as it
comes from the loom is from eighteen to twenty inches. Between
three and four yards are required for a skirt. This length is cut
in half. By sewing the two resulting pieces together side by side
the proper dimensions for a skirt are secured. The ends of this
larger strip, which is nearly two yards long and about forty inches
wide, are sewed together, and the skirt is finished. The cloth for a
man's garment is cut and sewed in much the same way.

[ Illustration -- A Karen Girl at a Burmese Loom ]
{ This loom, which has a frame and is more easily operated than the Karen
loom, is in common use among the Karen women on the plains. }

[ Illustration -- The Karen Loom ]
{ This loom is simplicity itself. The airy construction of the
Karen family-room is shown in this picture. }


The making of mats and baskets is almost wholly confined to
men, who prepare the materials out of rattan and bamboo and
spend their leisure hours weaving them. Common mats ("klau"),
such as are used as floor coverings in their houses and to sleep on,
and the large ones that serve as winnowing and threshing-floors in
the hills,[12-3] are woven of bamboo strips about half an inch wide in
checker-board pattern. The strips do not run parallel with the
edges of the mat, but diagonally at an angle of forty-five degrees.
The better and stronger mats are made of strips with the silicious
outer surface intact, giving them a smooth and glossy appearance.
The softer rush mats of Burmese manufacture are often found in
Karen houses, but are not made by any of the occupants, except
such as have learned the art from their neighbors.

The people distinguish between several different kinds of baskets,
for which they have particular names and special uses. The
large baskets ("ku") for carrying paddy and other produce from
the fields to their houses are shaped like an elongated egg with a
truncated smaller end and are slung on the back with a bark-fiber
strap which passes over the forehead and attaches to loop on either
side a little above the middle of the basket. When thus carried,
the receptacle reaches below the waist and a third of its own length
above the shoulders. If the bearer is heavily laden, he or she partly
relieves the weight on the strap by hooks of horn or bamboo root,
hung from the shoulders and supporting the bottom of the basket.
These large receptacles are woven in diagonal pattern with small
strands of rattan, those of the upper half being less than a quarter
of an inch in width while those of the lower half are a little wider.
The bottom of such baskets are square and flat, and its edges are
bound with round rattans. From the corners rattan stays are run
vertically to the large oval mouth of the basket, which is finished
off with a large rattan around the edge. A midrib down each side
from top to bottom adds strength and durablity.

Cotton and vegetables are carried in loosey woven and large
meshed baskets, called "seh," meaning rough or flimsy. A man will
cut a green bamboo, divide it into strips, and weave one of these in
a few minutes, and then discard it after he has reached home.

Inasmuch as the people of the Toungoo country have higher
hills to climb and longer distances to travel than those dwelling
lower down in the Pegu ranges, they carry their produce in smaller
baskets than do the latter. These Toungoo baskets have the shape
of an inverted pyramid with the apex blunted. Sometimes they are
woven of rattan and nicely finished, sometimes loosely made of 
bamboo splints. In the houses of the Toungoo Hills I have seen enormous
spreading baskets for the storage of grain and other things.

The hill people make small, closely woven receptacles for carrying
ordinary articles and also for keeping things dry during the
rainy season. They render these baskets water-tight by coating
them with gum and afterwards with "thitse" (Burmese lacquer).
Probably the Karen have copied this type of basket from the Burmese
or the Shan, who make extensive use of them. On the plains
the small round basket, holding about three pecks, is in constant
service. It is Burmese in origin, as is one of its names, "taw"
(from the Burmese word, "taung"). Its other name is "na."

[ Illustration -- A Karen Matron Weaving under Her House ]


Early travelers noticed the presence of large bronze drums in
the Karen houses in Karenni and in the Toungoo Hills; but it is only
recently that these drums have been made the subject of careful
study. In the latter part of the nineteenth century Europeans first
began to examine similar objects that were brought from China.
It has been discovered that these objects are scattered through a
vast area extending from Mongolia on the north to the Celebes
Islands on the south but that their place of origin was probably in
the old Cambodian kingdom of the Indo-Chinese peninsula. Four
or five classes of such drums are distinguished, of which the Karen
drums form one group.[13-1]

The Karen drums are characterized by a nearly straight cylinder
or body, which has a slightly narrowed waist. The cylinder is
encircled by bands of conventionalized designs between sets of 
straight lines forming the borders of the bands. In some cases
there is a line of molded figures of elephants and snails down one
side of the cylinder. The flat circular metal head extends a little
beyond the body, forming a rim. In the center of the head is a
large star enclosed by a concentric circles between which are 
narrower or wider zones filled with figures of different patterns. Distributed
at equal intervals around the outer edge of the head are
four or six frogs in relief. Sometimes these frogs are in sets of
two, one on top of the other; sometimes in sets of three,
superimposed one upon another. The two pairs of small handles are
situated on opposite sides of the body of the drum well toward the top,
and present the appearance of neatly braided straps. These bronze
drums vary in size from about eighteen inches across the head to
about thirty inches.

Concerning their origin much that is legendary has been written.
In the _Karen Thesaurus_ we are told in substance that these
drums ("klo oh tra oh") are very expensive and are owned in
Lower Burma by a few very wealthy persons, who make offerings
of food and liquor to them annually, fearing an early death if they
fail to do this. The drums are said by some to have been brough
from the "K' wa" country and by others from the "Swa" tribe.[13-2]
Those who went to buy these objects paid according to the number
of frogs on them, the price of one with two frogs being twenty
rupees. The buyer put down the price and took away the drum,
after which the owner came and got his money. If the buyer did
not leave the money, he risked losing his way and being overtaken
and eaten by the owner. The drums are used in making a noise like
that of a gong.[13-3]

Dr. Francis Mason, writing at Toungoo in1868, speaks of
these drums under the name of "kyee-zees," and is better informed
than the writer in the _Thesaurus_ in saying that they are 
obtained from the Shan. He also states that the Karen distinguish
ten different kinds of drums according to sound and have a different
name for each kind. Dr. Mason tells us that the best-sounding
drums are worth a thousand rupees apiece, while the poorest
bring only one hundred each. Dr. Mason continues: "The possession
of Kyee-zees is what constitutes a rich Karen. No one is 
considered rich without one, whatever may be his other possessions.
Everyone who has money endeavors to turn it into Kyee-zees, and
a village that has many of them is the envy of the other villages
and it is often the cause of wars to obtain possession of them."[13-4]

Some of the Karens have told me that in the beginning these
drums were obtained from the "Yu" people, who seem to have been
the Jung or Yung who occupied Yunnan in ancient times.[13-5] Indeed,
various indications point to the probability that the drums existed
or were in use in Yunnan when the ancestors of the Karen passed
through there from their hone in western China into Burma,
where they settled.[13-6] This is the view of the origin of the drums held 
by Heger and others.

Certain Karen traditions associate the drums with "Pu Maw
Taw," one of the mythical characters of ancient times. This man
was at work in his field and, seeing a flock of monkeys emerge from
the forest, feigned death. Thereupon, the monkeys sent several
of their number back to bring their drums for the proper performance
of the funeral rites. Of the three brought, one was silver, one,
gold, and the third, white in appearance. The last one fell into a
pool of water and was lost. "Pu Maw Taw" suddenly interrupted
the funeral ceremonies and the monkeys ran away, leaving the
other two drums in the field. The old man took them home and they
at once became the most sacred possession of the people, being 
consecrated every year with very great ceremony, until at last the Pwo
Karen grew tired of making their annual journey for this purpose
and carried them off. They were named "Gaw Kwa Htu" and "Gaw
Kwa Se"[13-7] and are still believed to have been deposited in a cave
near Donyan in Thaton district. Each drum had two sticks and a 
striker, all made of bronze. The smaller stick, which produced a
rolling sound was in the form of a centipede. The striker had a 
quilted surface, in appearance like the scales of a cobra. Unfortunately
these drum implements had been left behind with the
Sgaw, of Loo Thaw Ko village in the Papun district. Almost every
year the Sgaw came down and demanded that the drums be given
back to them, but without success. Gaw Le Bay and Gaw
Ser Paw were the two Pwo Karens who committed the sacrilege of
stealing away the drums, being punished for it with sore eyes, from
which thier descendants in Donyin suffer even unto this day.

All the elders believe that the bronze drums connect the Karen
people with a remote past. But few of these objects that are still
in existence can be traced back more than a century or two. Nevertheless,
I have heard of some that are reputed to be much older,
especially one in a Mopgha village, near Toungoo, which is said to
date back "nearly a thousand years." This drum has a name, and
innumerable offerings have been made to it year after year.

It was formerly thought that the Red Karen were the only
tribe who possessed drums, but it now appears that these instruments
were known among all the tribes. In many poaces, however,
they are no longer used. It is in the remoter hill regions, where
the Karen are less affected by outside influences, that the use of the
drums has been the most prolonged.

There is considerable difference of opinion among the people of
the various sections of the country about the classification of the
drums. A writer in the _Rangoon Gazette_ divides them into two
general groups, the older and the later. He regards the older, more
melodious, and more highly prized group as comprising those which
have four single frogs, snails, or elephants on their heads. He 
subdivides this group into three divisions, namely, (1) "Klo ka paw,"
(2) "Klo ma ti," and (3) "Klo gaw ple." The drums in the first of
these subdivisions are the oldest and best-sounding. The second
general group, comprising the later and poorer drums, may be 
subdivided, according to this writer, into five classes, which he names
as follows; (1) "Raw tear," (2) "Raw la," (3) "Raw ser," (4) "Raw
saw," and (5) "Raw boo." These have four sets of double or triple
frogs or elephants on their heads. Each class has its characteristic
design, for example, ears of paddy supplying the decorative figure
on the "Raw boo" and Karen hand-bags that on the "Raw tear."[13-8]

In the Pegu Hills the drums with the single frogs on the head
and no figures down the side are known as the "hot" drums, that is,
those which are beaten on occasions of death or disaster. The others,
with the superimposed frogs and with elephants and snails down
the side, are called "cool" drums these being used on festive occasions.
In Toungoo, however, the people do not appear to make the
distinction just mentioned, but use both kinds of drums indiscriminately
for festive and sad occasions, such as weddings and
funerals, respectively.

That the drums are regarded as sacred objects can not be
doubted. In the back districts, where the old customs are still 
perpetuated, offerings are everywhere maded to them. I was informed
that during the month of March, 1918, a feast was to be held in
honor of certain drums in the village of Pyindaing, Tharrawaddy
district, and that offerings were to be made to them, the customary
period of seven years having elapsed since the last feast and offerings.
I held myself in readiness to attend the celebration, but was
finally told that the ceremony had been postponed indefinitely. The
account in the _Karen Thesaurus_ speaks of the offerings as having
been presented annually. Other sources of information indicate
that they might be made at any time, especially on occasion of calamity
or epidemic. As far as I am able to ascertain, these offerings
usually consist of food and liquor. In the early times, at least,
to withhold such oblations from a drum was to invite the descent
of illness and misfortune upon the owner.

[ Illustration -- Karen Bronze Drum, Nabaain Village, Tharrawaddy District ]
{ A drum of almost black metal, used for weddings and other festal occasions. }

[ Illustration -- A "Rubbing" Showing the Pattern of the Head of the Nabaain Drum ]

Of the various drums which I have had an opportunity to 
inspect, I wish to describe two with some fullness, one of these being
a "hot" drum and the other a "cool" one. The latter is shown on
{Drum illustration}, and was obtained in 1918 from the Nabaain village
tract by Thra Shwe Thee. It is a fine specimen of its class
and was used on festive occasions. Its head is twenty-one inches
in diameter; its bottom or mouth, sixteen and one-half inches in
diameter; its cylinder, fifteen and one-half inches long. The surface 
of the metal, which is black, is much worn. It has four sets of frogs
on the head, each group being composed of three of the creatures,
one above another. The frogs are flat and conventional in form.
In the center of the head is a large twelve-pointed star, the angles
close in between the rays being connected by several arcs, from the
outermost of which radiating lines diverge. The points of the star
are encircled by nineteen zones, which fill the space to the edge of
spaces, but fall into five groups. Counting from the center outward,
the first three of these groups comprise four zones each, each group
being separated from the next one by four concentric circles, withil
each individual zone is separated from its fellow by three circles in
close proximity to one another. The fourth and fifth groups consist
of three zones each, four circles separating the two groups and
three circles, each zone from its neighbor. The rim zone, on which
the sets of frogs stand, is broader than the others, and the edge of
the rim is finished with a braided beading.

The ornamental designs contained in the several zones, group
by group, are indicated in the following table:


Group I            Group II            Group III           Group IV       Group V
Hatching           Hatching            Hatching            Hatching       Hatching
Circles            Circles             Circles             Plaiting       Plaiting
Plaiting           Plaiting            Hatching            Bird's heads   Diamonds
Bird's heads       {Six diamonds,      {Six diamonds,
                   circles,             circles,
                   three birds}         three birds}

Little comment is necessary in regard to these zone decorations.
In the fourth zone of Group I and the third of Group IV the
birds' heads follow in close succession. In the fourth zone of both
Group II and Group III three birds are followed by six diamonds
or lozenges, each lozenge being separated from its fellow by two
circles, while the series is terminated by three circles. The combination
of decorative figures is repeated over and over around the
zone. The birds are represented side view, standing with their
heads extended horizontally as if looking for food. The outer zone,
on which the frogs stand, has less ornamentation than the other
zones. At intervals groups of six circles, arranged like the sides of
a pyramid, appear in this zone, the rest of the space being left

The cylinder of the Nabaain drum is encircled by numerous
engraved bands, arranged in three groups. The smallest group,
consisting of four bands with indistinct patterns, is at the bottom
or open end of the cylinder, the individual bands being separated
by close parallel lines which number three in two instances and four
in the other. Around the waist of the cylinder run two sets of five
bands, a space wider than any of the bands separating the two sets.
Parallel lines separate the individual bands from one another.
Three bands of the lower set are ornamented with lozenge-shaped
figures. The two outer bands of the upper set are filled with hatching
and the other three, with the lozenge patterns. Three or four
parallel lines separate these bands from each other.

The "hot" or "sad" drum which I shall next describe, was 
obtained from the village of Kondagyi at the head of Thonze Creek
in the Tharrawaddy district. It has a bronze color and is reputed
to contain gold and silver in the alloy. As drums of the class to
which this one belongs were used only on occasions of calamity or
death in the owner's family, they were kept hidden away in the
jungle and were brought out only when necessary. The patterns
on the Kondagyi drum are much worn, and part of one side of it is
broken off. It was also once somewhat injured at a funeral feast,
where a dispute arose about the tonal qualities of this and other
drums whose owners were present. Many of the guests regarded
the tones of the Kondagyi drum as more melodious than those of
the other drums. The partisans of the latter resented this adverse
opinion of their favorite instrument with such vigor that they
left three knife-cuts on the edge of the sweet-sounding drum before
it was rescued by its owner and his friends. The Kondagyi drum
is said to have come into possession of the family from whom I
purchased it in 1917, back in 1757, at the time when the Burmese
overthrew the Talain kingdom of Pegu. It was supposed to have
come originally from "the Eastern country," that is, probably Papun
or some locality near the Shan States. A few years ago, when
the funeral customs were beginning to fall into disuse, the owner
refused three hundred rupees for this drum. Later, realizing that
the old usages were gone, he hobbled over the hills to the house of
his son, who knew the place of concealment of the drum in the
jungle, ordered him to bring it forth from its hiding-place, and sold
it for fifty rupees, although still fearing that he might be dishonoring
his ancestors. (See illustrations of Kondagyi Drum)

[ Illustration -- Bronze Drum from Kondagyi, at head of Thonze Creek,
Tharrawaddy District ]
{ Used At Funerals }

[ Illustration -- Head of the Kondagyi Drum ]

The ornamentation of this drum is not so well marked as that
on the Nabaain instrument. On the head (Head of Bronze Drum) the
star in the center has six slightly rounded points, which do not 
extend more than about three-fourths of the distance from the center
to the inner circle of the first zone. The total number of zones is
fourteen, arranged in four groups of four, three, two, and four zones,
respectively. The two inner groups are separated by a single 
circle and the others, by two closely drawn circles. The patterns in
the zones are given in the following table:


Group I       Group II            Group III           Group IV
Hatching      {Indistinct         {Alternating        {Two rows of
              pattern}            groups of two       oval dots}
                                  fishes and
                                  three birds}
Hatching      {Indistinct         {Same as above}     Hatching

Hatching      (Both zones         (Each of these      Indistinct
              are wider than      zones are twice
              those in Group I)   the width of 
                                  those in Group II) 
Two rows of    -----              -----               Two rows of
oval dots                                             oval dots

Two concentric circles enclose the last zone, and beyond thse
to the edge of the rim is an open space. The four well-molded single
frogs are in the last zone and face to the left, as do the flat patterns

The cylinder of this drum is worn and weather-beaten, and
the bands in low relief are some of them indistinct. Near the 
bottom or mouth, which is rounded off with a molding a little thicker
than the rest of the metal, there are two indistinct bands, the upper
one having been apparently ornamented with hactching. A second
group of seven bands encircles the waist of the cylinder. Four of
these are below the seam that runs around the drum at its smallest
diameter. The lowest of the four seems to have been filled with
hatching and the other three, with the lozenge pattern. Of the three
bands above the seam two are indistinct, and the third is filled with
hatching. Between the bulging shoulder and the rim are four bands
with patterns hardly discernible. There is no line of elephants and
snails running down the side. Double flat handles of bronze project
from opposite sides. These are narrow in the middle and wider at
the ends, where they are joined to the cylinder.

Besides the two drums above described, I have seen several
others that conform in general to one or the other of the two types
to which these belong. I have no data at hand, however, from which
to give accurate descriptions of them. On none of them have I seen
the figures of men, houses, or boats with which the ancient drums
of Cambodia are decorated, but all of them display the 
characteristic usually attributed to Karen drums, namely, narrow
circular zones on the head, containing geometric designs and conventionalized
figures of fishes and birds and the straight cylinder with a
slightly narrowed waist.

[ Illustration -- A Bronze Drum Owned by Rev. A. V. B. Crumb ]

[ Illustration -- Head of Mr. Crumb's Drum ]

Drums are still being made for the Karen by the Shan people
at the village of Nwedaung, near Loikaw in Karenni. I have never
witnessed the process, but Mr. Franz Heger quotes the following
account of it from a letter written in 1884 by Dr. Anderson, of
the Calcutta Museum, who acknowledges his indebtedness for
his information to a Mr. Lillly, of Rangoon. This information agrees
with descriptions given by others who have visited the place: "A 
clay core is first made of the size of the inside of the gong and on
this wax is placed and correctly modeled to the exact shape and
covered with appropriate ornamentation. When the wax model is 
finished, fire-clay and water are dashed on the face of the wax with a
brush. The clay and water, being thrown with great force, penetrate
into the small hollows and angles of the wax. When a sufficient
thickness of clay has been added in this way, a coarse clay is
laid on outside to give strength. The wax is then melted out and
the mould made nearly red-hot. The metal is then poured in."[13-9]

Whether the Karen ever cast their own drums is a question
not yet settled, and one that will be very difficult to determine.
Certain it is that their other possessions are generallly rude and
lacking in decoration. If they were once able to produce articles of
such artistic merit as these drums, they must have been more
advanced than we now find them and have lost accomplishments
which their ancestors possessed in a more vigorous northern clime,
before they migrated to their present abode and became dependent
upon their more thrifty neighbors for their present supply.

If a more careful study of these drums and their uses, both
among the Karen and the other tribes of Indo-China, can be made,
it may yet be possible to throw new light on the relation of these
peoples and to supply historical data that has been long sought.



The Karen race does not possess what may be termed social
solidarity. It is broken up into many tribes, some of which differ
considerably from others, as, for instance, the Brecs of Karenni
and the Sgaw Karen of Lower Burma. There is, however, enough
similarity of dialects and traditions, as well as of religion and
customs, to make it certain that they really belong together and are
descended from a common ancestry. Even the individual tribes do
not consist of compact groups of clans. To be sure, there is more
cohesion among the members of one tribe than among those of
different tribes; but the village rather than the tribe has the greater
claim upon their adherence. In the days before the British 
conquest and annexation of Burma [14-1] -- when the country received
a stable government that put an end of feuds and petty warefare -- the
village was the political unit. In the village the houses were ranged
side by side, or else, as in the Pegu Hills, all the families of the little
community lived within what may be called the village-house, each 
family having its living-room opening off of the common corridor.
Everybody was thrown into intimate contact with everybody else
in the village. Politically and socially the village was the center
of their common life. The family group, the natural unit of kinship,
although not always confined to the village, was economically
and politically subordinate to it.

In the village the elders ("phga tha phga," literally, the old
men) were looked up to as connecting the village life with the past,
in which all wisdom and culture were supposed to have been revealed.
The older the man, provided he had not begun to show too
evident signs of decay, the wiser and more worthy or reverence he was
thought to be. These old men repeated to the younger generation
the "sayings of the elders" that has descended to them from former
generations. They were consulted on all occasions, and their advice
was usually followed.

[ Illustration -- Bringing Water for the Visitor, Nabaain Village, Tharrawaddy District ]

Above the elders was the village chief ("th' kaw" or "s'kaw").
He was actually the chief man in the village. His position was
usually hereditary, but he might have no son or nephew to succeed
him. In that case the elders chose one of their own numbers as his
successor. In so far as the villagers obeyed any authority at all,
they obeyed him. They generally observed his commands, although
he possessed no well-defined jurisdiction. Ordinary quarrels, 
disputes relating to land, questions concering the ownership of
animals, etc., were referred to him for settlement. In most instances
his court was a free and informal meeting of villagers and elders;
and his decision, incorporating the opinion of the latter, would have
the sanction of the group and be accepted by the parties concerned.
He was the patriarch of the village, and often its high priest as
well. A foray would not be undertaken without his consent. He
was accorded the place of honor in the family living-room, which
was usually the mat on the side facing eastward. If his rule
became extremely displeasing to the villagers, they quietly went to a
different site from that chosen by him at the time of the annual
migration of the village. Thus, he would be left with only those
who remained loyal to him, usually his relatives. The other
families were now free to select a new chief or headman.

The chief levied no taxes. He tilled his field like his fellow
villagers. He often received gifts of choice game, fruit, or grain;
but these were largely a tribute to his personal popularity. If the
village was about to engage in a raid, he might assess the people
for the purpose of fitting out the expedition; but this would bring
him no direct personal benfit, unless he was the organizer of it
himself. The Karen had no caste of chiefs, no royal family, or even
a privileged social class. Every member of the community shared
alike in the ordinary tasks and the privations or prosperity of the 


Wealth formed the only basis of social distinctions in the village
life. But this made little difference in outward conditions.
The land was free and belonged to the community. Every man was
at liberty to take for his own use as many acres of hillside as he
could fell. On this score there was little chance for inequality.
However, the accumulation of money, which in the early days was
represented by silver ingots, later by rupees, enabled one to 
purchase buffaloes or cattle or even an elephant, although the last was
more often caught than bought. The ownership of a bronze drum
brought more distinction to a family than that of seven elephants.
But these forms of wealth brought with them only more or les
sprestige within the single stratum comprising the entire 

There was little occasion for individual initiative among the
Karen, on account of the important part played by the communal
activity amongst them. One could claim no particular credit for his
ddeds of blood on a raid. That belonged rather to the organizer
and leader of the foray. One never set out on a journey or 
attempted any special work alone. In some sections it was the
custom for the chief to beat a gong or blow a horn as the signal to go
to the fields. Every one went at the signal. None would go without
it. If a supply of fish was wanted, instead of an individual taking
his or her rod and going alone to catch them, the whole village, or
as many of its members as were free to do so, would join in a fishing
expedition, first gathering the herbs to poison the water if the
fish were to be taken in that way, or carrying along their funnel
shaped baskets with which to work the bottom of a shallow stream,
or going prepared to resort to whatever other method they thought
suitable to the time and place. Likewise hunting was commonly
conducted as a drive for game in which all might particpate, at
least all the men; and a motley variety of implements was brought
out for the purpose, including nets, crossbows, spears, knives, and
perhaps an old rusty gun. Thus they hunted and fished together
as they often do still. Even those who failed to go were not left
out in the divisions of the spoils if they managed to be present at
the proper time, and they usually did.

This communal sharing was so much the order of the day that
personal rights were more or less disregarded. If a man got a few
seeds and planted a garden near his house, he as fortunate
as is sometimes still the case in the hills, if he gathered half the
crop he had planted. His neighbors, asking no leave, helped
themselves generously without hesitation and perhaps without
intending to steal.

While one's personal right were thus disregarded, they were
not entirely ignored. A man's field or "hku" and his betel gardens
were his own; and his paddy-bins, which may have been built in the
jungle a mile from the village, were respected. If he marked with
a bunch of grass a tree in which he had discovered a hive of wild
bees, no one would attempt to rob it of its honey. Many of the
Karen people are like children in their regard for the rights of
other persons: they understand and abide by the law of established
usage, but they are somewhat puzzled by new situations and in
such cases are apt to give themselves the benefit of the doubt.
Stealing, such as appropriating paddy from a bin or leading off
another's ox or taking somebody's money, is severely dealt with
among the Karen. But carrying away a small trinket that takes
the eye, either with or without the owner's permission, is not
considered important enough to be noticed.


Among races less advanced than the Karen the attention of
the men is almost entirely taken up with warfare and hunting,
while the work about the house and village is left to the women.
The Karen have not progressed far enough beyond primitive 
conditions for the men to assume all the burdens of the home life that
properly fall to the stronger sex. The men still feel their superiority
and remain idle, while the women do work too heavy for them.
Even apart from the care of the children, the women bear the
heavy end of the burden. They are, to be sure, accepted as
necessary and useful members of the family, but, none the less,
the men consider themselves dishonored if brought into close 
contact with a women's garment or compelled to appear in any way
subordinate to a female. They will not, or would not in the olden
days, go under a house, lest they should have to pass under a
woman. In this respect they entertain feelings similar to those of
Burmese men.

As housekeeper the Karen women' work is by no means 
confined within the irregular partitions of her living-room or house.
She draws the water, which means in the hills that she must 
descend to the stream and carry up the family supply in bamboo
joints hung by strings across her head. She has been trained to
do this from the time she was so small that she could only
struggle up the hillside with one undersized bamboo at her side.
Usually she has her little girls' help in this daily task.
She must pound and winnow the paddy polish it in a mortar, wash
it, and prepare the meals. Either she brings in fagots of wood and
splits it, or the young women fetch bundles of dry bamboo upon
their heads and stack them near the ladder of the house.
She is as skilled in the use of the "dah" (long knife) as her
husband. When the meal is cooked she sets it out, if she follows the
old custom, on a wide wooden tray or, if she has adopted new ways,
on a low table. The pile of rice on the tray looks like a heap of snow.
The curries or condiments are placed beside the tray in small cups.
The members of the family usually eat together. If there are guests
the women often wait, either to serve in case the supply needs
replenishing, or because they are shy about eating with strangers.

[ Illustration -- Young Women Bringing in Bamboo Fuel, Tharrawaddy Hills ]

[ Illustration -- Plains Women Bathing in the Irrawaddy, in the Lee of the High-sterned Burmese Boat ]

In addition to attending to their domestic cares, the women take
their place beside the men in the fields. It should not be forgotten,
however, that the latter can cook and perform the work usually
assigned to women more readily than men in the West can. In the
field the women and girls assist in the sowing, planting, and transplanting
of rice on the plains, as well as in the reaping, threshing,
etc., doing their full share along with the men. They tend the cotton
and vegetables and carry the greater part of the paddy to the
storage-bins and from these to their homes. The only work I have
seen men doing that I have never observed being done by women
is plowing.

The women mingle in the village gatherings and take part in
the wedding and funeral festivities, their share in the latter
being specially prominent.[14-2] Their position in their own families
depends largely on their personal character. If they possess strong
personalities, they gain considerable prestige and exercise influence
accordingly. The older they grow the more conservative they 
become, and not infrequently the opinions of a grandmother will keep
a whole family from bettering its condition by engaging in some
new occupation. The Karen grandmother holds the first place in
the family at the "Bgha" feast, when all of the members are gathered
together. She is then the "Bgha a' hko." This peculiar 
position of hers has been discussed in the chapter on Feasts to the
"Bgha."[14-3] Its religious sigficance is remarkable and may be as
relic of matriarchal government, which is still found in Tibet. But
it does not appear to have any effect on the social postion of the
sex, except in so far as it prevents the younger members of the
family, both men and women, from breaking with the religious and
social traditions of their forefathers.

In the olden days three classes of people were condemned "to
live without the camp." These were cohabiting couples who had
not complied with the marriage rites, widows, and orphans. A
couple whose union had been formed without the performance and
sanction of the recognized marriage ceremonies were ostracized to
the extent of having to live outside of the village stockade or, if
they belonged to a community livng a single village-house, they
were required to occupy a room detached from the main building.
The two other classes of ostracized persons, namely, widows and
orphans, were supposed to have incurred the displeasure of their
"Bgha," and it was feared that their misfortune would become 
contagious if they were allowed to remain in the village. That is, the
"Bgha" of other families would imitate the "Bgha" of the widows'
and orphans' families in eating the "k'las" of other husbands and
parents, thus depriving the village of more of its members. It was
believed that this danger could be avoided by driving the bereft
ones into the jungle to shift for themselves. The added risk of the
future marriage of these baneful persons was taken into account.
This was perhaps negligible in the case of the widows, but the
orphans should not be allowed to grow up with other children to
become in time eligible for marriage with them. Left to range
through the jungle, such orphans, if they survived, generally
developed a daring and resourcefulness that inspired the ordinary
folk of the village with wonder. Their deeds came to be thought of
as due to a supernatural power. In short, they were believed to be
magicians. [14-4]


In the chapter on Marriage Customs mention is made of the
general chastity of the Karen and of their monogamous marriages
within the tribe. The rule is for a man to have one wife; but now
and then a secondary wife or concubine, known as a "ma po tha," is
supported. It may be that on account of the childlessness of the
first wife the new connection has been entered into for the sake
of offspring, or that the man has simply followed his own inclinations
in the matter. Such unions are effected without the formality
of marriage ceremonies and are not recognized by Karen society,
being entirely irregular.

Westerners, accustomed as they are to doing their own
courting, sometimes wonder how happy marriages can be effected in the
case of young men and women who are strangers and have never
met perhaps till they come together in the marriage chamber. We
must remember, however, that with a people like the Karen the
physical relationship is more significant than the spiritual. Sentiment
cuts little or no figure in the arrangement. The parties to a
marriage expect to live together and take the affair as a matter of
course. At the beginning they have no affection for each other,
but through parenthood they become united in mutual love, and, as
the years pass while their family grows up about them, they are
bound together as securely as if they had married in the Occidental
and more romantic way.

In a Karen family children are desired and expected. To grow
old and remain childless is regarded as a great misfortune. Boys
are much preferred, but girls are not disliked as much as in China
and some other parts of the world where they are abandoned. The
child early accompanies its mother to the field or wherever she may
go. In infancy it is slung in a blanket on her back, but later rides 
on her hip until long after it is able to walk.

Family relationships are not neglected among the Karen 
people, although they do not seem to keep genealogical records or
to remember ancestor back of their grandparents. However, they
are particualr in taking account of, and displaying regard for, their
contemporary relatives. The grandfather and grandmother, both
paternal and maternal, are called "hpu" and "hpi," respectively.
Great uncles and great aunts receive the same designations. The
father and mother are, respectively, "pa" and "mo." Children are
called "hpo," the root of this word meaning "little". Sons are "hpo
hkwa" and daughters, "hpo mu." Contrary to the Occiental custom
of grouping brothers and sisters according to sex, a Karen
ordinarily groups them according to whether they are younger or
older than himself. Older brothers and sisters are "weh" and
younger "hpu." If he desires to specify whether they are male or
female, he empoys the usual masculine and feminine designations,
commonly adding one or the other of the words given above for son
and daughter. Thus, for elder sister he says "weh hpo mu" and
for younger brother "hpu hpo hkwa." While there are definite
words for cousin, uncle, and aunt, namely, "t' khwa," 'hpa hti," and
"mugha," respectively, these are often loosely used. Any man or
woman older than one's self may be called uncle or aunt as, for
example, among the negroes in the United States. The word "weh,"
signifying older brothers and sisters, as also the correlative word
"hpu," designating younger brothers and sisters, are often used of
cousins and more distant relatives. For instance, a cousin, called
"weh," is usually one whose father or mother was an older brother
or sister to one of the speaker's parents. "Hpu" would similarly
apply to the son or daughter of a younger brother or sister of one of
the speaker's parents. Grandchildren are "li," a word that is also
used of grandnephews and nieces. In conversations with individual
Karens I have almost never heard them speak of relatives back of
their immediate grandparents, although they use an equivalent
compound for our designation, great grandfather. They likewise
have more or less frequent need of, and a term for, great 
grandchild, namely, "lo."

Relationship by marriage is much esteemed among the Karen.
It is designated by the general term "do," which is sometimes 
combined with the word "daw." Thus, a "dwa do" is a person related
to one by marriage. This relationship is often talked of and is
remembered to the second and third generation. It is not an 
uncommon thing for the usual terms for brothers, sisters, and cousins
to be adopted for those standing in the "daw do" relationship
to a family.


In the early days the Karen cultivatrd three or perhaps only
two relationships in blood-brotherhood, that is, brotherhood by the
mingling of blood. These three relationships were called "do,"
"tho," and "mwi," respectively. I should say at once that personally
I have found only the two latter, and I note that in Dr. J.
Wade's _Karen Dictionary_[14-5] no mention is made of the "do" relation.
Hence, the query has arisen in my mind as to whether or not there
has not been a confusion of "tho" used in a different tribe with
"do," in somewhat the same way as "th" and "d" are interchangeable
consonants in the Burmese language. I offer this explanation
merely for what it is worth and proceed on the assumption, until
conclusive evidence is adduced, that three is the correct number
of relationships in blood-brotherhood.

Writing back in 1868, Dr. Mason describes the "do" relation
substantially as follows;[14-6] "The first and st rongest and most sacred
of these relationships is that of 'do,' which is entered into in the
following way. Of the two persons desiring to enter into relationship
the one at home takes a hog or a chickne, cuts off the snout or
bill, rubs the flowing blood on the legs of the other and, in case a
fowl was used, attaches some of its feathers or down to the drying
blood. They then consult the chicken's thigh-bones to see whether
or not the auspices are favorable. If they are favorable, they say:

"'We will grow old together;
We will visit each other's houses;
We will go up each other's steps.'

"The visitor then kills a hog or a fowl and performs the same
rites on the other. On consuting the chicken bones, if the fowl's
bones are unfavorable, he says;

" 'We will die separately;
We will go separately;
We will work separately;
We will not visit each other's houses;
We will not go up each other's steps;
We will not see each other but for a short time.' "

If the auspices are favorable, the two agree that they have
entered into this relation of "do." They regard themselves pledged
to each other as friends and bound to help each other in any manner
necessary as long as they shall live. They call each other only by
the name "do." In seasons of famine one aids the other to the extent
of his ability. In case evil is spoken of one, the other defends
him, saying: "That man is my 'do.' Do not speak evil of him. To
do so is to speak evil of me. I do not wish to hear it."

Formerly it was the custom for many to multiply their "dos"
in numerous villages, so that they might receive hospitality wherever
they went and, in case of the planning of forays against some
village, the "dos" might learn of it from their adopted brethren in
other such communities. It is said that "dos" rarely quarreled, but
remained faithful to each other. The institution seemed to exert a
favorable influence on wild Karen society. Finally, Dr. Mason adds;
"It may be compared to Masonry with its secrets."

The relationship named "tho" is formed by two men wishing
to become brothers, by each drawing a little blood from his 
forearm, mingling it in the same cup, and drinking therefrom. 
Formerly the chicken bones were inspected in connection with this
ceremonial, although nowadays they are not always used. This
is a lifelong relationship and binds each to defend the other. From
the time of the mutual adoption each calls the other "tho," and
each speaks of the other by the same name.

The third relationship, "mwi," is one that may be mutually
assumed by two young men, two young women, or a young man
and a young woman. If the relationship is formed by the latter,
they probably have met at a funeral celebration and become interested
in each other. The ceremonial requires each of the pair to
twist seven strands of cotton into a cord to serve as a necklace.
The youth first puts his cord over the young woman's head, taking
grat care not to touch her head-dress or person. In similar fashion
the young woman slips her cord over the young man's head. Probably
a formula was originally repeated in confirmation of this dual
action. If so, it has vanished together with any consultation of the
chicken bones that may have taken place. The cords must be worn
seven days without being broken or removed, lest the agreement
be made void. Thereafter they address each other only as "mwi."
The relation thus established does not allow one to take any liberties
with the other, but rather tends to the safeguarding of each as
if they were brother and sister. The relationship is supposed to be
for life, but doe not, of course, prevent the separation of the two
by a greater or less disatnce. In such an event, when one goes into
the neighborhood of the other, a present is taken along for one's 
"mwi." Often mementoes or gifts are exchanged when the
compact is first made. It is current usage for school friends to call one
another "mwi" without any ceremony, but simply in token of kindly


In the earlier days among the Karen of the hills the "blaw"
was an important feature of village life.[14-7] It is still retained, 
although it seems to have lost some of its former significance. It
is the guest and club-room reserved in the central part of the
village-house. Strangers coming in for a visit or passing by on
their journey are entertained here. Such a convenience was
quite necessary in the days when the tabu of the "Bgha" feast
was strictly observed, and no outsider was allowed to enter the
family -rooms. My party and I have been entertained in the "blaw"
of villages in the Pegu Hills on the Tharrawaddy side, while on
tour. In one village, which had adopted some Buddhist practices,
along one side of the guest-room extended a high shelf upon which
stood a small image of Gautama Buddha, with the usual offerings
of paper flage and wilted leaves and flowers. At the back of the
room was the raised dais on which I spread my bed, but I was
prevented from enjoying a good night's rest by the number of other
occupants. My cook prepared my meals at the little fireplace in the
middle of the room. The villagers sat about and visited with us.
When meal-time came the women and girls brought in their
generous supplies of food, consisting of two large trays piled high
with snow-white steaming rice, besides smaller trays and bowls
filled with several kinds of curry, "ngape" water, and vegetables.
The visitors were expected to eat something from every dish. While
the meal was in progress the hosts withdrew, except one or two
elders, the women returing afterwards to clear away the dishes
and uneaten food with the polite remark that their guests had eaten
very little. Many shared in receiving us; and we were spared the
embarassment, not to say the danger according to our belief, of
violating the tabu that prevented our being entertained at the time
by family in their own quarters.

Besides serving as a guest-chamber, the "blaw" has another
important use, namely, as the gathering-place for the young men
of the village. When a boy becomes a youth ("hpo tha hkwa taw"),
he is expected to spend his leisure time in his parents' room, working
and eating with them, as seems to be the custom. When evening
comes, he repairs to the "blaw" to be with his fellows and to sleep
there. This is a custom that is common among the Kachins of
Burma and many other tribes of the Orient. Among the Kachins
the "blaw" is a place of license. The Brecs also allow a great deal
of liberty to their young people, and evidently advange of it is
taken by them. But among the Sgaw Karens, at any rate, the girls
remain with their mothers. There is no common room for the girls,
or any place where both youths and maidens may meet for
restrained intercourse. No doubt among the Karen the use of the
"blaw" as a club-room is for the purpose of keeping the young men
together and separating them from the young women, thus
preventing offence of the "by na," which would bring a curse upon the
soil and damage to the crops.

It has never been possible for parents to prevent all social
intercourse between young people of the opposite sexes. In fact,
it has hardly ever been attempted. As is shown elsewhere in this
volume, there are occasions among the Karen when the sexes
mingle, for example on fishing expeditions and at marriages, funerals,
etc. If, however, a youth desires to visit a maiden, etiquette
prescribes the way: he must take his harp ("t' na"), appear before
her house, and serenade her. Sitting down, he sings to the
accompaniment of his instrument. If she replies to his request to be
permitted to visit with her, she does so on the jew's-harp ("t' xe"),
answering him in verse. He than mounts the ladder and they visit
together, either singing over "htas" already familiar to them or,
if skilled in improvising, putting their own thoughts into rhyme.
If too long an interval should elapse without the sound of either
instrument, the elders would very likely put in an appearance to
find out the reason.

[ Illustration -- Carrying Water in Bamboo Joints,
Pegu Hills, Tharrawaddy District ]
{ When the village is on the high bank of a creek, it is no easy work
to labor up with six or eight of these bamboos full of water. The
strings holding the joints are of bark fibre. Both these girls are
wearing Burmese jackets under their Karen "hses." }


Slavery no longer exists among the Karen; but when it did, it
was incidental to war. The British acquisition of Lower Burma
during the thirty years before 1886 brought with it the cessation of
village raids and tribal conflicts in which the captives taken might,
and frequently did, become slaves. Such captives were treated 
according to the changing whims of their masters. When first
brought in they might be harangued by the leader of the v ictorious
war-band, in case he chose to denounce them for starting the war
and to recount all the alleged or real wrongs they and their
people had inflicted upon him and his village. The proof of their guilt
lay in their capture. While being kept in captivity they were subject
to rough treatment, such as beating and wounds, which might
be preliminary to their being killed. If they were spared and not
redeemed within a short time, they were either kept as slaves or sold
to traders, who might be other Karens or Shans. Old people were
not marketable, and it was difficult to find buyers for them at any
price. Men and women in the prime of life, that is, between the
ages of thirty and forty years, brought about one hundred rupees
each; young men and maidens, approximately three hundred rupees
each, and boys and girls from twelve to fifteen years, who were considered
the most valuable, sold for four hundred rupees each. Such
prices did not always prevail, for Mr. Mason in 1868 reported that
once, when he was in Karenni, he saw two Shan women brought in
and sold for fourteen rupees apiece.

While slavery was a recognized institution among the Karen, it
does not seem to have become a rigid system.[14-8] When the 
captives were redeemed, they returned to their previous status of
tribesmen. When they were not redeemed, they appear to have
lived on under the control of their masters, but, as time went on,
became more and more accepted as members of their master's families,
while the children of the slaves became ordinary villagers. In
other words, the form of slavery that existed among the Karen did
not lead to the permanent establishment of a slave class in the
tribal organization.


The Burmese were accustomed to telling early travelers in their
country that the Karen had no laws or government. But this
statement was wrong. The investigations of Dr. Mason some sixty
years ago brought to light a considerable body of unwritten regulations
that were preserved in memory and handed down by word
of mouth. The Karen have no knowledge of an early lawgiver
among their people, unless their traditions of "Y'wa" might be
regarded as pointing to him as having exercised such a function. These
regulations, which are cherished as the sayings of the elders, consist
of definite precepts that deal with various social relations and
obligations, the cultivation of certain traits of character and the
suppression of their opposites, the prevention of crime, the
punishment of evil-doers, etc. I have already remarked in the chapter on
Social Conditions that the unit of political and social life among the
Karen is the village.[15-1] In consequence, the village chief is the highest
civil authority in his little community. In the early days a chief
of strong personality, such as Saw Lapaw of Bawlake or East Karenni,
would extend his control over several villages and perhaps
weld them into a kind of state; but, unless this son and heir possessed
an equally dominating nature, the fabric would fall apart as
soon as the controlling hand was removed. The organization of the
village was patriarchcal, but the government was really democratic.
The elders of the village comprised an informal council, which heard
all communal business and talked matters over with the chief, who
usually expressed their opinion in rendering his decision. As a
rule there was at least one man in every village who was especially
versed in the ancient lore, laws, and customs, civil and religious,
and who repeated them, together with illustraive stories, to some
one of the younger generation who was interested in learning them.
A village without such a legal authority was more than likely to be
a concrete exampe of the proverb: "Where there is no smith, the
axes are soft. Where there is no cock, the rooms are still." The
inhabitants of such a community were without proper guidance in
the conduct of their affairs. They were left unaided by the
experience of the past. The elders in the properly instructed villagers
were the custodians of the ancient laws, which they were not 
supposed to change but were expected to transmit exactly as they had
received them.

The form in which these laws had been handed down is illustrated
by the following saying on love:

"Children and grandchidlren, love one another. Do not
quarrel; do not find fault with each other. When we are in the
village we are separate persons, but when we got to clear the fields
we are brethren; and if one is taken sick on the road or in the
jungle, we must take care of him. We must look after each other.
When we cut the fields we are brethren. If one is sick, all are
sick. If one dies, all die; and we must carry his body back to his
house and lay it in the hall, that his brethren may see and his wife
and his children may see that he is dead."

Other sayings of the elders are expressed in language similar
to that just quoted and deal with such subjects as industry, indolence,
helping the poor, widows and orphans, evil-doers, duty to
parents, humility, swearing, covetousness, partiality, backbiting,
hatred, quarreling, falsehood, oppression, theft, exacting fines, 
killing, famines, etc. Each saying or precept is in the verbose style
of the one given above, telling the younger generations what they
should or should not do. Dr. Mason has recounted these various
sayings at length, as they were reported to him by a member of the
Bwe group of Karen tribes. The sayings thus recorded are found
to be similar to those handed down among the Sgaw and other
tribes. It is worthy of remark that few of the elders on the plains
can repeat them at the present time. Dr. Mason's record covers
some twenty pages in the _Journal of the Asiactic Society of Bengal_,
but I shall content myself with calling attention to a few salient
point in the precepts.

The one on famines has but little of direct import to say about
that specific subject. It reminds the "children" that the elder
has seen much of life and its vicissitudes, including fires, floods,
plagues of rats, and massacres by Burmans and Talaigns. He has
seen one man invite another to a meal, in order to accuse him of
stealing his food and thus have an excuse for selling him into
slavery. He has seen a bronze drum exchanged for a sheaf of paddy
and a basket of grain sold for a basket of money. He has seen the
people dig unhealthy yams and suffer from eating them. In the last
three statements the elder is clearly showing the effects of a great
scarcity of grain, both on the price on had to pay for food and on
the people who were reduced to the necessity of eating bad food.
His reference to fires, floods, plagues, and massacres seem intended
to suggest the causes of some of the famines that have come under
his observation. Notwithstanding the importance of the subject he
is dealing with, the elder addresses no exhortation to his hearers,
except by implication.

The precetp on indolence is full of moralizing. It condemns
laziness and enjoins hard work in order to obtain paddy. It teaches
the people to do their work with cheerfulness and gladness, as also
thoroughly and well. "We love happiness," says the precept," and
our greatest happiness is to clear our fields and build our houses.
Everything is in the earth. Work hard with the hoe to dig it out,
and one can buy drums and silver and other things. It is better
to work for wealth than to obtain it by raids and forays." This
saying overlooks neither the spiritual nor material reward of labor.

The precept on helping the poor, as well as those on fornication
and adultery, contain references to famine, indicating that
periods of extreme dearth of food must have been of frequent
occurrence among the Karen. Fornication and adultery are dreadful
sins because, among other reasons, they produce bad crops and 
scarcity of game. In times of famine the rich should help the poor,
but the obligation of the former to the latter seems to stop there,
so far as the sayings of the elders go. The admonition to help the
poor is as follows:

"Children and grandchildren, work, every one of you, and be
prepared for a time of famine. Then, when a time of scarcity or
famine comes, let not the rich and those who have all the rice and
paddy reject the poor who have nothing that you may not lose
your honor and be abused, but may be honored and respected.
When hard times come and there is famine amongst you, let the
wealthy help those who have nothing with which to buy and who
can not borrow."

In a similar vein the people are urged to care for widows
and orphans lest other countries, hearing of their mistreatment
of their helpless ones, shall abuse them and call them poverty-
stricken. Even if there are rich men among them, others will not
believe it. This precept does not appear to have been well observed
in practice.[15-2]

Love of peace is enjoined, because it conduces to happiness,
long life, and prosperity. The daughters of one who loves peace,
the people are assured, will conduct themselves with propriety, and
his sons will live happily. Evil-doers are doomed to ruin and 
disaster. Their "drums will become the property of others, their
daughters will become slaves, and their sons, servants. Their lands
will be destroyed, and their country will come to destruction.
Evil-doers do not live to grow old."

[ Illustration -- Dipping Water from a Shallow Stream ]
{ These little girls are all wearing the single white "hse," but the men have
their loins girded up after the Burmese fashion.}

The section relating to duties to parents recounts the many
cares of parents and enlarges on the expenditure of strength and
sympathy by the mother in behalf of her children. The deduction
set forth is that children should care for their parents when they
grow old and provide them with food and drink. Those who fail in
the performance of such filial duties will suffer for their sin, and
their work will not bring success. They will become sickly, weak,
and helpless.

The virtue of humility is extolled at length, as one who knows
the Karen people might expect. The people are told that he who
does not humble himself but exalts himself, who regards his relatives
with disdain, makes forays, is extortionate, beats others for
nothing, and, in general, does as he pleases, will die young. Such a
man will be punished by the Lord of heaven, losing his drums and
money, being left wretched and childless, unable to work, without
means to purchase anything, and to die without apparent cause.

Cursing is condemned, and its retributive consequences are
shown in the sotry of a man who was the father of ten children
and cursed one of his brethren without a reason. The curse did
not harm the one on whom it was pronounced, but reacted upon the
other, causing the death of every one of his children. Among the
other evils denounced and forbidden are covetousness, partiality,
backbiting, hatred, quarreling, falsehood, and exacting fines for the
infringement of arbitrary rules or for trepass on one's property.
The condemnation of such vices as well as the encouragement of
mutual heplfulness, filial piety, generosity to the needy and helpless, 
and fear of punishment by the Lord of heaven, show that the Karen
had no mean standards of personal conduct. Whether these ideals
were lived up to or not is another question. In fact, cursing a
person by whom one had been injured was a recognized form of
retaliation and punishment. It was necessary to go to his house,
stand in front of his door, and recite certain verses imprecating
him. The person venting his wrath must do this three evenings
in succession, taking with him on the third evening an expiring
fagot, an addled egg, and the scrapings from the dish out of which
the pigs are fed. On this occasion he closes his imprecation with
the words: "May his life go out like this dying fagot. May he be
without posterity like this egg. May his end be like the refuse of
the dishes."

Theoretically, the principle of the old Mosaic law of a tooth for
a tooth and an eye for an eye was valid among the Karen, but it
was tempered in the sayings of the elders as follows: "In order not
to subject ourselves to fines and punishment, we must allow others
to treat us as they choose. If we are struck, we must not strike
again. If one strikes your head, strike the floor. If some one
blinds you, do not blind him in return. The long is before; the short
is behind. [that is, the future is long; the past is short.] Love of
peace gives a wide space; love of evil gives a narrow space. If we
want evil, it is present even before all the water has run out of a 
vessel that has been upset."

The people were warned not to commit fornication or adultery.
When they married they were to do so openly. They were told that
if they were guilty of fornication, their sons and their daughters
would die and the country would be defiled and destroyed on their
account. The begetting of illegitimate children was declared to
be displeasing to "Thi Hko Mu Xa," the Lord of heaven and earth,
and to be the cause of irregularity of the rains, bad crops, failure
of seeds and vegetables to germinate, disappointment in the hunt,
poverty, and slavery. On the discovery of illicit relations between
two of the villagers they were brought before the elders, who 
required the guilty persons to buy and kill a hog and each of them
to dig a furrow in the ground with a leg of the animal. They were
then to fill the furrows with the blood of the hog, after which they
were to scratch the soil into little holes and mounds while repeating
the following prayer: "Lord of heaven and earth, God of the
mountains and hills. I have destroyed the productiveness of the
country. Do not be angry with me, do not hate me; but have mercy
on me and pity me. I now repair the mountains. I heal the hills and
the streams with my hands. May there be no failure of crops, no
unsuccessful labor, or unfortunate efforts in my country. Let them
be dissipated on the distant horizon. Make the paddy fruitful and
the rice abundant. Cause the vegetables to flourish. If we cultivate
but little, may we obtain but little." When each of the guilty
pair had completed this ceremonial, they said that they had made
reparation and returned to their houses. In Shwegyin, however,
such culprits were driven from the village and required to live

Among the Bwes it was customary to fine adulterers, unless
they were single or widowed; but if a wife was involved, her paramour
was compelled to pay a fine to the injured husband and take
the woman as his wife, the former husband being considered 
divorced and free to marry again with the money he had received.
In case a husband was found guilty of adultery, the woman
concerned must pay a fine to the injured wife, who became free to
contract another marriage.

If the crops were poor, the villagers suspected that it was due
to secret sins of this sort and felt the need of making offerings to
appease the Lord of heaven and earth and to find out the guilty

On the subject of stealing the exhortation of the elders was
not to setal, destroy, defraud, or act dishonestly. Such deeds are by
no means secret. Even though unconfessed, they become manifest
in the ordeal by water and in that of ascending a tree. The God
heaven sees. The Lord of the mountains and hills, "Thi Hko Mu
Xa," sees. If one is hungry, one should work, should bend the back.
If one wants fish, one should use the hand-net. If one desires game,
let one repair to the jungle for it. Families are to be fed in this
way, not by stealing or by running into debt.

A person who had been caught stealing might be let off, if it
was his first offense and he restored the stolen property and 
promised to reform. If, however, he became a confirmed thief, he was
sold into salvery. In some parts of the Toungoo district it was not
uncommon for one guilty of stealing to pay the penalty with his life.
If positive proof was lacking and there was doubt as to his guilt,
the ordeal by water was resorted to.

Murder was, of course, utterly condemned in the sayings of
the elders, for "man is not like the beasts. He has a Lord and
Master. We are the children of Thi Hko, of Y'wa who created us.
Therefore, do not kill one another." The murderer will be 
surrendered to the Lord of the lands and will be put to death. He can
not escape. His body will be left naked in the fields, and the vultures
will devour it. "These things," the elders declare, "have we
seen with our own eyes, and we know them, and they have often
happened among us." However, the circumstances under which a
murder was committed were taken into account. A homicide at a
drunken feat was considered an accident, for it was thought that
the one guilty of the crime would not have committed it had he
been sober. No cause for an action existed in such a case. 

Men killed while taking part in a foray were to be redeemed,
that is, a fine was to be paid for them, unless the leader had been
excused from such payment in advance.[15-4] Likewise, the accidental
death of a man during a trading, hunting, or other trip undertaken
at the request of another, was chargeable to the latter, because
otherwise it would not have occurred.

The recognized way of bringing to justice an offender who was
accused of causing the death of another, was for the near relatives
of the latter to take active measures to avenge themselves. A
dying father, whose condition was due to the assault of an enemy
or who had suffered other injury, would charge his sons to avenge
his wrong. The chief and the elders, recognizing the justice of the
cause, would further it and join in to punish the guilty inhabitant
of another village. As a precaution against a fatal accident or a
secret murder, person were not allowed to have in their possession
dangerous poisons gathered from the jungle. Any one guilty of
doing so was acting unlawfully and was condemned by the elders to
be bound out in the hot sun for three days. He had also to destory
his store of poisonous herbs and to promise never to commit the
offense again. After this he might be received again into the
village, or he might be sold into slavery. If he was believed guilty
of murder, his life was taken.

There appears to have been no law against suicide, and perhaps
for this reason, as well as others, the practice was once 
common among the people. Nevertheless, voluntary self-destruction is
regarded as an act of cowardice and, though not spoken of as
displeasing to the spiritual powers, it prevented an honorable burial
from being given to the one guilty of it. Hanging has been the
usual method of committing the act among the Karens, while taking
poison has been the common means of suicide among the Burmese.
Incurable diseases, great disappointment, jealousy, and forcing
a young woman to marry some one she dislikes, have been the usual
causes of self-murder. Dr. Mason mentions a young man who was
able to recall the occurence of twenty-five suicides in a group of
villages within a period of fifteen years. At the present time, 
probably on account of outside influences, such instances are rare indeed.

Inheritance regulations and customs are not definite or uniform
among the Karen; but usually property is divided among the
children, the eldest being given a little more than the others and the
youngest receiving a slightly smaller share. The widow has no legal
right to anything, although she generally succeeds in retaining the
use of more or less of the property during her lifetime. Should she
marry again, even his quasi-right terminates. The second husband
can not appropriate the property of the first, nor can his children
share it.

It seems hardly necessary to comment on the worthy ideals
and fundamental principles of human conduct embodied in the
precepts of the elders, which we have been discussing in this chapter.
They constituted a code which, if it had been observed, would
have produced a highly developed society, in so far as the virtues
are concerned. But, as in the case of many primitive peoples, the
Karen have fallen far short of their traditional ideals, a fact
manifest, I think, from the record presented in the pages of this volume.
It may be said with little fear of contradiction, however, that the
Karen have more nearly lived up to the commonly accepted standards
of human conduct than some of the other peoples dwelling in
their vicinity.

[ Illustration -- Buffaloes at Their Daily Bath ]
{ Nothing seems to delight them more than to wallow
in the mud or swim in a stream. }



Two or three generations have elapsed since the Karen in
Lower Burma indulged in their old-time warfare, which consisted
of forays secretly organized and carefully executed against their
enemies. In the Toungoo Hills and in Karenni these raids have been
suppressed only in recent years, as the regions named have been
brought more fully under British rule. The people used to call such
expeditions "ta hseh hsu ma beu," which means a strong and 
concealed thrust. A foray was undertaken by an individual to avenge
a personal wrong committed by an inhabitant of another village.
It was a recognized method of settling a grievance, like the sheriff's 
execution of the judgment obtained in a suit at law in a more civilized
community. The conflict was not one between the village and 
village, but between personal enemies. The man who inaugurated the
foray set up his spear in the open space of his village and marked
a white line half-way up on the spear shaft. Those who were ready
to go on the expedition and renounce the right of their families 
to an indemnity in case they were killed, placed their marks above
the half-way line, while those willing to join without making this
renunciation added their marks below it. Of course, the chicken
bones had to be consulted both as to the feasibility of the raid and a
favorable time for it.

When this time had arrived, the organizer of the foray killed a
hog or a fowl; took a bit of the heart, liver, and entrails; minced
them together; added a little salt, and wrapped the mixture in a
leaf. This talisman was then entrusted to two spies, who were
to carry it to the village where the foe dwelt. They were admonished
to note whether or not any spikes were planted along the paths
leading to the place, the best means of access thereto, and the
precise location and general arrangement of the village. Finally, they
were to visit with the inhabitants there and find an opportunity
of dropping the contents of their leaf into the food of their hosts.
If they succeeded in this last stratagem, they were supposed to
have swathed the heads of their foes. That is, their hosts by partaking
of the talisman would become so confused as to fail to seize
their weapons when needed for defense and would be overwhelmed
by the enemy. Unlike the spies of Israel these Karen spies, on their
return, usually gave a favorable report and displayed great eagerness
for the combat.

The instigator of the foray now sent out for his men, who came 
not only from his own village, but also from neighboring ones where
he had friends and blood-brothers. He might gather in as many as
two hundred warriors. These he feasted, but before passing around
the liquor he poured some on the ground as a kind of libation, while

"Lord of the seven heavens and the seven earths. Lord of the
rivers and streams, the mountains and hills. We give thee liquor to
drink and rice to eat. Help us, we entreat thee. We will go forth
now and attack yon village. We have swathed the heads of the
inhabitants. Assist us. Render their minds oblivious and cause
them to forget themselves, that they may sleep heavily and their
slumber may be unbroken. Let not a dog bark at us, nor a hog grunt
at us. Grant that the villagers may not seize a bow, sword, or spear.
May the Lord help my children and grandchildren who go to attack
yon village, and may he deliver them from all harm. May they subdue 
their enemies and not be lost. May they be delivered from the
bow, the sword, and the spear."

After this prayer the elders drank in turn of the liquor, and it
was then circulated freely among the assembled warriors. The
instigator of the foray now killed a fowl, preparatory to inspecting its
bones for a favorable omen as to the success of the undertaking,
but before the inspection he offered up the following petition:

"Fowl, possessor of superhuman powers, fore-endowed with
divine intelligence, thou scratchest with thy feet and peckest with
thy bill. Thou goest to Hku Te (the king of death). Thou goest
to The Na (monarch of death). Thou goest to Shi U, the brother
of God. Thou goest into the presence of God. Thou seest unto the
verge of heaven and unto the edge of the horizon. I now purpose
to go and attack yon village. Shall we be hit? Shall we be
obstructed? If we go, shall we suffer? Shall we die by the bow?
Shall we be pierced by the spear? Shall we grow weary or exhaust
ourselves? If so, reveal thyself unfavorably."[16-1]

If the reading of the chicken bones proved unfavorable, another
fowl was slain, and a third, if necessary. On obtaining a
favorable omen, the organizer of the raid harangued his men, teling
them that they would surely prove victorious, that he would
indemnify the families of any who might be killed, and that he
would replace all weapons that might be lost or broken. He 
assured them that he expected all to return, and declared that no
disaster could befall them. Thereupon he called for two volunteers
to lead in ascending the ladder to the village-house and making the
attack on the arrival of the war-band at its destination. Addressing
the volunteer leaders, he promised them drums and buffaloes
as rewards for the deeds of valor they were soon to perform. They
were to be the hunting dogs, the wild boars, full of cunning and
courage. If they should be slain, their families would receive the
rewards. If, however, they failed, the disaster of the expedition
would be their fault.

At length, the war-band set forth, chanting verses, as follows.

"I go to war. I am sent.
I go to fight. I am sent.
Clothe me with an iron breastplate.
Give to me th iron shield.
I am not strong. May I take on strength.
I am weak. May I attain vigor."

"I go with a host of men.
We will reach the steps of the house
And fire muskets and shout aloud.
The men will come with wives and children.
Raise the spear and draw the sword.
Smite the neck and pierce the side.
The blood is gushing purple."

"The great hawk flies above the house.
It pounces on the chief's red cock.
It grasps its prey near the lowest step.
It seizes then the chief's white cock,
And the great hawk flies away,
Leaving the chief behind in tears."

Whatever one may think of the poetic quality of these three
stanzas, they depict vividly the successive stages in their
adventure, as the chanting braves conceived it. In the first stanza they
don their armor and muster up their wavering courage. In the
second they go into action with their lust for blood fully aroused.
In the third they compare themselves to the great hawk carrying
off its prey before the eyes of the chief, whose village they have
invaded. The mission of the war-band was to accomplish some
such program as this.

[ Illustration -- Karens of three Generations on the Plains ]
{ Only the old grandmother retains any part of the Karen dress, and
that is the skirt. }

[ Illustration -- Karen Girls of the Plains Carrying Water in Earthen Pots ]
{ of Burmese manufacture }

The warriors so timed their march as to reach the vicinity
of the foe's village after dark, distributed their force around the
unsuspecting inhabitants before dawn, and sallied forth with a
great shout as soon as it was light. The charge against the village-
house was led by the two volunteers, and all the inmates who
jumped to the ground were cut down or pierced with spears by the
armed men in waiting. No quarter was shown, even the women
and children being either slain or taken captive, according to the
orders of the instigator of the raid. Their main object was
evidently plunder, for they lopped off the heads, hands, and feet of
their victims, in order to obtain the necklaces, bracelets, and anklets
more easily. They also slew the small children, perhaps because
they would otherwise be doomed to a lingering death.

From an old man I learned of one of these forays, in which
his father had participated while still a young man. The father
professed to have had but little interest in the expedition, being
forced to join it by circumstances. Lagging behind the other members 
of the attacking party, he saw two girls who had escaped from
the house and hidden in the forest. When they saw him they
started to run, thus disclosing themselves to others who gave chase,
struck them down with their swords, cut off their hands to get their
bracelets, and left them to die. A man and his wife and baby were
also in a fair way to escape, but were hard pressed by pursuers,
whereupon the husband compelled his wife to throw away the
infant, who impeded her progress; and as they rounded the crest
of a hill they looked back only to see their child being cut to pieces.

If the villagers made too stout a resistance to the first onset,
the raiders set fire to the inflammable bamboo structure, thereby
bringing the conflict to a quick conclusion, though at the same time
reducing the amount of available loot. They frequently mutilated
the bodies of their victims, carrying off their jaw-bones as trophies
of their ghastly work. It is not clear from any extant records
that the Karen were once head-hunters, but this may have been the
case. In token of the utter destruction of a village, vegetable seeds
were sometimes planted on its desolate site.

The organizer of the foray did not go in person with his men,
less he be killed and thus rendered unable to dispense the spoils,
but remained at home to receive and reward the valiant fighters on
their return with the botty. As they approached, they announced
their victory by the notes of their horns. After being welcomed
with a feast, they were sent to their homes. Any claims for indemnity
on the part of the families of slain warriors were now
settled, some of the botty being evidently used for this purpose,
the rest of the plunder and such captives as were brought back 
becoming the property of the duly avenged thnd victorious one. The 
captives remained slaves, unless they were redeemed by their
relatives. If they were not redeemed, they were often sold in exchange
for oxen or buffaloes, one of which might be presented to each of
the villages represented in the war-band. No indignities of any
sort were visited upon women captives, prisoners of both sexes
being kept for awhile either in rude stocks or within the house.


It sometimes happened that a number of captured villages
would escape from their captors. In such a case they would immediately
try to effect the redemption of any of their relatives still
remaining in captivity. For this purpose they would engage an
elder of a neighboring village and send in him to negotiate the terms.
If the victor was inclined to listen to the proposal of this agent,
he gave evidence of accepting his good offices by killing a pig,
cutting off its snout, and smearing some of the flowing blood on
the legs of the messenger. This betokened the early return of
peace and brotherhood between the belligerents, together with the
redemption of the captives. In further proof of his successful
mission the negotiator brought back the head and legs of the slain
pigs. There was still danger of a quarrel over the redemption price
that might be demanded by the victor.

With the conclusion of the negotiations and the establishment
of peace, the peace-making water must be drunk. This was 
concocted by putting chippings or filings from a spear, sword, musket-
barrel, and stone into a cup with a little blood from a dog, a pig,
and a fowl, and filling the remainder of the cup with water. The
dog's skull was then split open, and the participants in this solenn
ceremony, namely, the victor and the leader of the peace delegation,
each hung a part of the skull around his neck and took
hold of the cup, while they mutually promised to terminate their
feud, to intermarry their children, not to destroy each other's
property, and to live amicably together unto the third generation.
In pledge of these promises each of the twain drank of the cup.
Imprecations were then called down upon the head of any one who
should renew the feud, and the visiting delegation was dismissed.
A shower of arrows was sent after the departing guest, and a salute
of muskets was fired in token of the power of the raiders. Sometimes
the peace-making water was drunk and the pledges were
made under a hardy and well-known tree, on which a notch was
cut in testimony of the compact. Dr. Mason in his account of these
forays and peace pacts states that the Karen had no monuments
other than these notched trees.[16-2]

As already remarked above, the treaty of peace was ratified
between the organizer of the victorious raid and the vanquished
villagers. The former and his descendants were bound by the 
compact not to renew the attack; but that did not prevent another
foray if a new occasion arose for seeking redress, just as a man in
a more advanced community might win a suit against another and
be compelled to go to law with him again to settle a fresh dispute.
Moreover, the pact did not remove the possibility of another foray
being organized by some other inhabitant of the village where the
first one originated, for the purpose of revenge on his own account.
Thus, it would appear that these treaties were not mere "scraps of
paper," and yet they did not suffice to prevent frequent raids. It
was not until numbers of the Karen removed to the plains and
thus came more closely into contact with a common enemy, the
Burmese people, against whom they had to defend themselves, that
they seem to have largely given up the killing of one another. I
have not been able to find any evidence to show that the Burmese
Government exercised its power in suppressing the forays among
the Karen, and I think that such private wars decreased in number 
for the reason just given.

The weapons used by the Karen in thier fighting were
spears, javelins, swords, and flint-lock and match-lock guns.
The crossbow seems not to have been well adapted for warfare
and has been kept for hunting. The commonest forms of fighting
implements were spears and javelins. These were usually made
with iron head either of small bayonet-shape or elongated elipse-shape
sharpened to a point. In the case of the larger spears the
head measures about two feet in length and two or three inches
across at the widest part of the blade. The shaft of some hard wood
is five or six feet long.

The _Karen Thesaurus_ distinguishes among three kinds of
swords or "na," as they are collectively called by the people themselves.
One kind is the two-edged sword with a sharp point ("na
thweh hko"); the second is a blunt sword shaped like the tail of
an eel ("na nya hti meh"), and the third is square at the end and
can be used for cutting only ("na xu hko").[16-3] These swords were
carried in sheathes of a type similar to those seen among the
Shan, formed of two pieces of bamboo held together by rattan bands
woven around them. No one knows whether or not these weapons
are native with the Karen. They may have been copied from the
Shan. Besides the three kinds of swords, the Karen used a long
knife ("dah") for both defensive and offensive purposes, which is
devoted nowadays to domestic employment.[16-4]

During the sixteenth century the Portuguese carried on an
extensive trade in firearms in the East, especially in Burma. In
this way the Karen tribes became familiar with flint-lock and
match-lock guns, owning numbers of them. In numerous instances
the stock of the gun had no butt to be held against the shoulder, as
in the case of European and American guns, but a handle that was
held against the cheek. Powder was "pounded out" in a mortar
containing sulphur, saltpeter, and charcoal, all native products. The
sulphur was often obtained from the depostis of bat dung found in
the limestone caves that are numerous in the Moulmein district. Indeed,
one of the common names for gun-powder was "bla-e," meaning
bat dung. Inasmuch as lead mines have long been known in
Burma and on the Chinese border, I presume that the Karen got the
material for their bullets from these. When lead was not to be had,
they substituted small round stones.

The approaches to the villages were guarded by burying sharpened
bamboo spikes, hardened with fire, in the paths, leaving only
the point protruding at a sufficient angle to catch the foot of the
passer-by. These almost hidden spikes inflicted terrible wounds in
the bare feet of the enemy who was careless enough to run in

In the early times the participants in a foray equipped themselves
with armor and shields, although such protective contrivances
are almost unknown at the present time. The armor was a
sort of jacket of thick hides thought to be serviceable in warding off
the strokes and thrusts of sword and spear. The name by which it
was known was "t' xo." Shields, called "k' taw," were constructed
of wood and covered with a tough skin. I have not been able to 
learn from any one what was their shape or just how they were
made. However, Mr. F. H. Gates, the political officer of Karenni,
gives us this bit of information on the subject: "A generation
or two back these people carried a shield made of plank covered
with buffalo hide and studded with brass nails." He adds that no
specimens of these shields are to be obtained now."[16-5]

[ Illustration -- A Sgaw Karen Orchestra, Tharrawaddy Hills ]
{ The harp and the guitar are being played together.}


The Karen use the pentatonic or five-toned scale, which has belonged
to the Eastern nations since early times. This scale consists
of the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth intervals of the modern
octave. They appear to know nothing of different musical keys, but
in starting a tune try one pitch or another until they have found
the range suitable to their voices. They do not keep accurate time
in their singing, but hold one or another tone as suits their fancy,
introducing quavers on the long notes and sliding down or slurring
from one tone to the next. Some words and phrase they repeat
over and over again, thereby suggesting the repetitions in an 
anthem. As they sing in minor strain, their music has a quality of

On their instruments they play tunes that are not rendered
vocally. This is especially true of the melodies they play on the
pipes ("hpi ba"), rather than of set compositions. These pipes are
capable of producing really beautiful music, consisting largely of
improvised runs and variations, demanding no small skill.[17-1]

It is to be regretted that, with the acceptance of Christianity,
the Karen have almost entirely dropped their own music for that
of the West. Hymns particularly appeal to them. Perhaps this is
due to their desire to leave their pre-Christian life altogether behind
them, as well as to the more animated quality of our Western
music. However, a few Karen melodies have been adapted to hymns
and have been recently incorporated in their hymnbook through the
efforts of the Rev. E. N. Harris, of Toungoo.

The Karen have seven or eight primitive musical instruments,
besides drums, cymbals, and gongs. Those in common use are the
harp, the jew's-harp, the bamboo guitar or fiddle, the xylophone, the
flute, the graduated pipes, the gourd bag-pipe, and the wedding
horn. In the olden days every Karen youth possessed a harp
("t' na"), which he carried with him on all occasion. Even at the
present time in the villages along the Pegu range one can generally
hear these soft-toned instruments. Indeed, in the middle of the
night one's sleep may be disturbed by the monotonous strumming
on one of them by some wakeful old man, who is trying to beguile
the slowly moving hours.

The body of the harp is hollowed out of a block of wood and
looks not unlike a miniature dug-out canoe less than two feet long
and about five inches in width. A strip of deerskin (of the barking deer)
is stretched across the open top, and lengthwise along the
middle of this a piece of wood is fastened to which the strings are
attached. The other ends of the strings are fastened to pegs that
fit into holes in the arm of the instrument. This arm is curved
somewhat like the prow of a boat and inserted into the sharper
end of the body of the instrument. Formerly the strings consisted
of cotton fibre, but fine brass wire, bought at the bazaars, is now
substituted for the cotton strings.(See frontispiece)

I have seen a few harps that were made of bamboo, a large
section between the nodes being utilized for the body, of which the
open side was covered with deerskin extending well down along
either edge and fastened with thong-lacing underneath. From
one end of this body, and firmly lashed to it, was an arm of wood,
the strings being strung from this across to a cleat fastened
to the deerskin. This instrument is a very resonant one. In the
Pegu Hills the harps have seven strings, the upper one serving only
as a stay; but farther north five strings seem to be the rule, all 
being tuned and played. [17-2]

The jew's-harp ("t' xe") is usually considered the women's 
instrument, though there is a short one played by the men. When
wooed by the youth with his harp, the maiden replies with her jew's-
harp. This instrument consists of a narrow strip of a bamboo a
foot long and an inch wide at one end, from which it tapers
gradually to a point at the other. The tongue is cut in the wider
end. The specimens I have seen were hardened and blackened
over a fire and looked like ebony. Old men have told me that in the
days when raids by Burman dacoits were common, the scattered
Karen who were hiding in the jungle, fearing lest some of their
foes were still in ambush, would signal to one another by playing
certain notes on these jew's-harps. Familiar with the sounds thus
produced, which were unintelligible to their enemies, they were
able to find one another and come together again.

[ Illustration -- Karen Jew's harps ]
{ (a) Men's jew's-harp. (b) Women's jew's-harp. }

[ Illustration -- A KAREN GUITAR ]

A very primitive kind of guitar or fiddle ("thaw tu") consists
of three strings stretched along one side of a hollow bamboo, which
has long longitudinal slits on either side of the strings to emit the
sound. This instrument may be placed with the finger like a guitar
or with a bow, which is nothing more than a smooth strip of
bamboo. Nowadays the string are brass wires fixed in slits at one
end and held in place at the other by a cord around the barrel of
the instrument. I am told that formerly the strings were made by
cutting away the silicious surface of the bamboo and leaving a few
fibres, which were then raised above the rest of the stock by running
a knife under them and inserting little blocks as bridges at
either end to hold the strings taut.

The "paw ku" resembles somewhat the African xylophone and
is often made by individuals from green bamboos while stopping to
rest by the roadside. After they have played a few strains on it
they pass on, leaving it to dry up. It consists of eleven tubes ranging
from seven and one-half inches to twenty inches in length and
from an inch and a half to six inches in circumference. One end
of each tube is cut off square at a node of the bamboo, while the
other is sharpened like a quill pen. The distance from the closed
end to the shank, where the opening begins, varies from two and
one-quarter inches for the tube producing the highest tone to eleven
and one-half for that producing the lowest. In addition to this
series, there is a base pipe thirteen and three-quarters inches from
the node to the shank and thirty-two inches to the point. This one
is an octave below the third largest tube of the series and, when
played, is struck with another pipe, which is as long as the fifth
tube of the instrument. These two are called "klo" (drum) and
"klo a deu" (drum enclosure), respectively. The player strikes the
tubes of the xylophone with small mallets whittled out of bamboo,
while the bass accompaniment is played, usually by a second performer,
on the "klo." The tones are not unlike those produced by
playing on different sized bottles. (See illustrations of xylophone.)

The "po dwa" is an open bamboo pipe about a cubit in length
with three or seven holes down the side, as the case may be. It is
not played with the instrument held in the position of the
transverse flute or the military fyfe, but in a more or less vertical position
like the flageolet, with the notched end of the instrument resting
against the chin just below the lips. The player blows over the
notch and secures the different tones by opening and closing the
holes like a flute-player.

[ Illustration -- Playing the "Paw Ku" or Karen Xylophone ]
{ The man at the right is playing the bass accompaniment on the long tube,
while the other strikes the other tubes, which are all laid out in order. }

[ Illustration -- An Exhibition Performance on the Xylophone ]
{ With the tubes spread out in groups of twos and threes, the performer
has to exert himself to produce his tones. }

An instrument of graduated pipes, similar to the "Pan's pipes"
known among the ancient Greeks, is familiar in the Tenasserim division.
It comprises a number of slender bamboo tubes ranging from
a foot or more to three or four feet in length, bound together in a
bundle by rattans. "Hpi ba" is the name applied to the instrument
by the Karen, who play it, with considerable skill and use it
frequently. It is said to be of Talain or of Siamese origin.[17-4]

[ Illustration -- Musical Score of a Karen "Hta" or Poem ]

The Toungoo Karen, either the Ker-ko or the Padaung, make an
instrument, which suggests a bag-pipe, by inserting five bamboo
tubes in a gourd. The player blows into the stem of the gourd and
fingers the holes in the tubes to produce the different sounds.

The wedding-horn or "kweh" has but three notes, but should
be included in the list of musical instruments. It consists of a foot
or more of the smaller end of a buffalo horn, or an elephant's tusk
hollowed out and the tip cut off, so that a hole the size of a pencil
is left through the truncated tip, and a reed (made nowadays of a
piece of tin or bas) is inserted as a mouthpiece, on the concave
side of the curve midway between the two ends. The player 
produces different tones by blowing or inhaling through the reed and by
closing or opening the hole in the tip with his thumb. Sometimes
these horns are ornamented by encircling the two ends with silver
bands. The ivory instrument is thought to be a choicer one than
that made of buffalo horn.

Drums, cymbals, and gongs of Burmese manufacture are often
found nowadays in Karen villages.

Dancing of any sort appears to be very little cultivated among
the Karen. The practice of walking or parading around the corpse
at a funeral can hardly be called dancing, for the participants do
not perform any special steps, or move in figures, or oberve time
and rythm apart from the chanting of their verses. No one has
been able to tell me anything about dancing among the Sgaw Karen.
Colonel MacMahon has, however, given an account of a ball held in
his honor by the Tsaw-ku Karens in the Toungoo Hills. At this
dancing party the whole company moved forward, backward, and
sideways, swaying their arms up and down, except that they
extended them backward when they courtesied. The women wore a
special headdress of basket-work, like a brimless hat, which was
adorned with beads and the wings of green beetles. This headgear
proved to be a novelty, even to the member of other Karen tribes
who constituted Colonel MacMahon's retinue.[17-5]


Among the Sgaw Karen in the Pegu Hills and on the plains
there appear to be but few special customs connected with the
births of children. Offsprings are desired, and a large family gives
joy to the parents. A pregnant woman experiences but little lightening
of her usual tasks and works up to the time of her delivery.
The prospective mother is expected to omit bitter herbs and fruits
from her diet, as these are thought to be harmful to her; while her
husband avoid having his hair cut during her pregnancy, lest it
should bring ill-luck and shorten the life of the child.

Old women usually serve as midwives and are sometimes 
believed to possess considerable skill in aiding delivery, although they
are without special training for the function they perform. Custom
is too deeply ingrained for them to profit much from their own
experience. They resort to massage to hasten the birth, and in
stubborn cases they tread upon the abdomen to expel the foetus.
They believe in aiding nature rather than in letting nature take its
own course, even in normal cases. For her services the midwife
receives a rupee and a bundle of dried bark for the preparation of a
head-washing solution ("t' yaw"). She uses the solution to prevent
the eruption of some sort of itching skin-disease, after which she
anoints herself with sandal wood. In case the delivery should be
abnormal, the midwife would receive double wages. If the labors
are unduly prolonged and she can not bring things to pass, she sends
for a soothsayer or a medicine-man, who usually give the suffering
woman little else than a cup of charmed water ("hti th' mu").

When a woman dies before the child is delivered, it must be
extracted before the funeral ceremonies are performed. In case this
can not be conveniently done at the time, the operation is postponed
until the body is carried to the place of burning or burial the foetus
being then removed through an incision in the abdomen. This
operation is thought necessary, in order to prevent the reincarnation
of the spirit of the woman from having a deformity in the

If the child survives its birth, the umbilical cord and the placenta
are wrapped in a cloth or placed in a bamboo joint, and
buried in the ground or hung up in a tree. If the latter disposition
is made of them, a large tree of one of the hardiest varieties is
selected for the purpose, in order that the babe may gain strength

Soon after the child is born offerings are presented to the spirit,
and a string is tied around the child's wrist to keep its "k' la" from
being enticed away. In some cases the cord is tied around the
neck and loins as well as the wrist. These threads may be of scarlet
to dazzle the eyes of the demons and prevent their seeing the "k'la"
of the infant.[18-1] In Toungoo it is also customary to provide new
cooking pots, water buckets, mats, knives, and a new ladder to the
house, to render it more difficult for the spirits to find the child.
Among the Brecs the husband goes into seclusion for seven
days, during which he must speak to no one. He alone cares
for the mother and child. Nobody is permitted to enter the
house. Among the Padaungs the period of the husband's retirement
is a month, and during a month and a half the whole family
must live on rice roasted in bamboo joints, boiled rice being tabu.
Although the villagers may not speak to the couple, the women are
expected to brew a special liquor for their use during this period.[18-2]
It is usual in these tribes for father and child to perform in pantomine
the work that the child will be expected to do when it grows
up. For example, the child's hand is put to a miniature hoe, with
which the father strikes the ground. Dr. Mason speaks of this as
taking place when the father returns from disposing of the placenta,
but Dr. Bunker refers to it as coming later, when the father
holds a feast for the child.[18-3] On the third day after the birth the
father goes on a hunting expedition, the outcome of which is
thought to indicate the relative success of the child's life. On the
father's return from the hunt the child is bathed to remove all
spiritual defilement from it, whereupon the father waves a splint
of bamboo downwards over the infant's arm, as if fanning him and
says: "Fan away all illness, failure, stupidity, and wretchedness."
Then faning upwards, he says: "Fan on all prosperity, health, and
power." After this he ties a thread on the child's arm and gives
it the name that he and the mother have chosen for it.

Among the Sgaw Karen I find that no special naming customs
exist. However, according to our Western ideas, a curious selection
of names prevails. One little girl was called Miss Thunder because,
as was explained to me by her father, she was born at the time of
a thundred storm. The name of a personal peculiarity, a color, an
ancestor (especially of one who was prosperous or powerful), a
flower, an animal, or a month may serve as a personal name. I
know of men who bear such names as Tiger, Eel, Pole Star, Gladness,
Yellow, Teacher-come (the person with this last name was
born on the day a missionary first visited his village), besides many
other equally odd.

Nicknames are in vogue among Karen children, as they are
among their fellows in the Western hemisphere. Nicknames
of a special class are those given by parents to disguise their love
of, and their satisfaction in, their offspring, in order to keep the
demons away from the latter. Such names suggest the parental contempt,
and lack of affection in the hope of deceiving the evil spirits
into thinking that the parents can not be injured through the injury
or loss of their children. This practice is illustrated by names like
Stink-pot, Rotten-fish, Lame-dog, etc., which often stick to men
through life.[18-4]

Although boys are much more desired than girls, the latter
are not mistreated or abandoned, as they are in China and other
Oriental countries. The Karen possess a considerable degree of
parental affection. Only in extreme danger, as formerly in the case
of raids, would parents desert a female child. My observation is
that Karen parents are too indulgent to their children and do not
exercise as much control over them as would be good for them.
Twins are not uncommon among these people, and triplets are not
unknown. Twins are considered as having only one "k'la" between
them. If one of the pair dies, the early death of the other is feared.
Its wrist is, therefore, carefuly tied with a cord, and every precaution
is taken to prevent the escape of the "k'la." I presume that
triplets are also thought to share the "k'la" among them, but I am
not sure as I have not made inquiry concerning such cases.

It is common for Karen women in Lower Burma who are recovering
from child-birth, to observe the custom that prevails
among the Burmese, namely, to have a fire on an improvised hearth
or in a brasier set near the mat on which they lie. The first is kept
burning constantly for several days or a week after their confinement,
to assist them in regaining their strength. The hotter their
rooms are kept, the more quickly they are supposed to recover their

The period of childhood is a short one among the Karen.[18-5] The
baby early accompanies its mother on her journeys from place to
place or to work, slung on her back by means of an old blanket or
skirt. When she puts the infant down, she improvises a hammock
out of this cloth by tying ropes to its corners and swinging it from
the rafters of the house or the little hut in the field or from the
branches of a tree. When the child grows a little older he plays
about, while his mother is at work; and when he goes with her he
rides on her hip. She does not always give up carrying 
her first child on the arrival of the second. More than once I
have seen a mother struggling along with a smaller child on her
back and a larger one astride of her hip.

The play of Karen children, more than that of the little folk of
more advanced races, is imitative of the work of their elders.
With little in the way of toys they gather a few bits of broken jars,
which the girls utilize to cook rice in. The boys induce their father
or some other male relative to make for them miniature bows and
arrows, slings, and spears with which they assail dogs and
crows, as well as small game along the edge of the jungle clearing.
Streams afford places for them to play in the water or try for fish.
With the sap of the banyan (bird-lime) smeared on a bamboo othey
may catch a crow for a pet. They tie together two bamboos, plantain
stocks, or black bottles and lead them about as a yoke of oxen,
and in various ways manage to get a good deal of fun out of the
few years elapsing before they have to assume their share of the
labor in the field and the village.

[ Illustration - A Child Riding on Its Mother's Hip ]
{ The youngester does not like to face the camera so well as his
mother. He is riding on her hip, which is the common method
of carrying child all through the Orient. A silver earring
can be seen in the mother's right ear. }

Girls and young maidens are early trained to assist their
mothers, especially in carrying up the water needed for domestic
uses. Their imitative play is, therefore, largely devoted to doing
some of the things they see their mothers do. Besides this play at
house-keeping they have other pastimes. Thus, when they hear the
repeated calls, "tauk-te, tauk-te, tauk-te," of the ubiquitous "gecko"
or spotted lizard, which lives in hollow trees and sometimes in the
houses, they count off "richman, poorman, beggarman, thief," etc.,
in the playful attempt to discover to which of these groups their
future husbands will belong, just as maidens in English-speaking
countries count the petals of a daisy for the same purpose. They
participate in running games, such as "tag," repeating rhymes in
counting out the players and choosing the one who is to be "it."
When the players are about to be counted out, they all squat on the
ground near the one who is to say over the ditty, with their right
fists extended in a circle. She strikes each fist as she utters a syllable, 
and the one whose hand is struck at the final word becomes 
the new leader or victim in the game.

There are many of these ditties in use by the children, some of
which are composed of words which originally may have had meanings
that are now lost, while some may be simply a string of resonant
syllables like our own "eeny, meeny, miny, mo." One of these
rhymes, which was written down for me in the Pegu Hills, runs as

"T' ku, hki ku, paw ta lu, saw maw ku ku li, lu t' re, maw ku ta
aw yu."

Others, however, take the form of a narrative, for example, the
following which speaks of a Burmese Buddhist monk ("pongyi"),
an object of terror to the Karen children. Hence, they say;

"Hop kyi klo hko neu weh lo
Leh aw hsa leu ta lu hko.
Pla wa law teh, hseh ba a hko."

Translated, this reads:

"The 'pongyi' with close shaven head, miserably hungry,
Went to eat his food on the ridge.
The unpoisoned arrow falls and pierces his head."

The children have other little songs which they use in play as,
for instance, when in the villages on the plains they run on the logs
laid from house to house to serve as walks during the heavy rains.
One of their verses is:

"Paw paw to me law ten to di do."

Another version of this is:

"Paw paw pgha me law teh pgha di do."

The translation of the former is:

"Walk, walk the bridge. If it falls the bigger it is," meaning
the bigger the bridge, the greater the fall. The rendering of the
latter is:

"Walk, walk, the bigger the man, the greater the fall."

When playing with the chickens, children sometimes catch one
of them and pretend to rock it to sleep, droning the while:

"Hsaw hpo, mi, mi.
N' mo n' pa leh hsu Yo.
Heh ke so ne na p' theh tha wa ko lo.
Aw gha lo gha lo.
Me aw, hsaw hpo."

The translation of this runs,
"Sleep, sleep, little chick,
Your mother and father have gone to Shanland.
They will come back, bring you a supply of white betel-nuts.
You can eat them one by one.
Sleep, little chick."

Both boys and girls play with the seeds of the giant creeper
("maw keh"). These seeds, which are often two inches in diameter,
look much like flattened horse-chestnuts or buckeyes. They come
from the enormous pods, a yard or more in length, of the vine,
_Estada pusoetha_, which grows a hundred yards or over along the
tops of the forest trees.[18-6] The games in which these seeds are used
are played in the dry season. An even number of players is required,
divided into two equal groups or "sides." Each side must
have the same number of seeds, which are made to stand on their
edges by being set in grooves in the hard earth. The rows thus
formed are from eight to ten feet apart, according to the age of
the children playing. One player begins by spinning a "shooter'
at the opposite row, aiming to knock down one or more of the nuts
in it. Whether he succeeds or not, his opponent takes his turn, and
the players thus shoot alternately back and forth, until one row or
the other is entirely knocked over. The winning side is, of course,
the one that first demolishes the other's row.

In another game played with these seeds the two sides are again
equal in the number of players. However, only those on one side
set up their seeds, while each of those on the other has one shooter,
which he spins in turn at the row. If he hits one or more of the nuts,
he wins them. When he knocks down all the seed of his immediate
opponent, he changes places with him. If he does not succeed in
knocking all of them over, using as shooters all of the seeds he may
have own, he changes places and sets up the seeds that he had at
the beginning of the game. Sometimes these games are played by
the children while squatting on the ground, but often the boy who
is shooting will snap his seeds while sitting astride the back of 
another boy, after the manner of playing "ride the pony," which is
sometimes indulged in by European boys.

Karen youths are accustomed to try their strength in boxing,
though it is more properly wrestling. Especially in the Moulmein
district is this developed as an art and the Karens there are reputed
to be the best wrestlers in the country, so much so that even the
Burmans concede their superiority. The contest is a sort of catch-
as-catch-can affair, in which the object is not to throw the opponent
but to scratch him so as to draw blood. The first drop of blood
showing on a contestant means that he has lost the match. There
seems to be few rules, for hands and feet are used indiscriminately.
This art appears to have been practiced for a long time, for John
Crawfurd in his _Journal_, in 1827 says that "a Karyen peasant was
granted a village in perpetuity by the King [of Burma] on account
of his peculiar skill in boxing. He was to teach the youth of this
village his noble art."[18-7] This peasant seems to have come from


In the early days it appears that a young man did not marry until
he was twenty-five or thirty years of age. His parents, deciding
that it was about time for him to have a wife, either arranged with
the parents of some maiden or, as was more often the case, confided
in some friendly elder and entrusted the matter to him. If
they has a preference, they made it known; but no infrequently
the mediator was permitted to select whomsoever he might think
best. It made no difference whether the young persons had ever
met or not. When the subject was broached to them, they usually
consented; but if they refused, as they seem to have done
sometimes, the proposed arrangement was dropped. The mediator in
such an affair was known as the "t' lo pa."

Up to a generation or two ago marriage between a Karen
and a member of another race was altogether tabu. This explains
why the Karen have maintained their traditions and their social
solidarity to so remarkable a degree. Moreover, it was an almost
invariable rule among the Karen that the young woman should
belong to the same tribe as the youth. Even to this day one who
marries into another tribe is looked at a little askance and is spoken
of as having married outside. ("pgha htaw leu hko"). It was not
uncommon for relatives, usually second or third cousins, to wed.
First cousins very rarely married. In Shewegyin if a girl was a
relative of the man, she must belong to his generation, that is, they
must be first, second, or third cousins, as the case might be. She
might be an inhabitant of the same village as her spouse or of
another. While it was more common for the parents of the young
man to begin the negotiations for a wedding, it was not a rare
occurence for the parents of a girl of marriageable age to begin

Child betrothals are not uncommon in the early days. Two
families, who were on very intimate terms and desirous of prolonging
their intimay indefinitely, would arrange to have their children
marry. Even young couples, who as yet had no children, would
agree that, if favored by fortune, a marriage should take place between
their hoped-for offspring, although such an agreement might
be made at any time during the growth of the children. Such a
patct was considered firmly binding on those concerned. The children
might or might not be told of the arrangement. Later on, at
any rate, the youth would learn of it; and it was expected, when the
proper time came, that he would seek out his betrothed, even if she
was then living in a distant village. Thra Than Bya tells of a
couple who were thus affianced while living on the banks of the 
Irrawaddy River. During hard times the girl's parents removed from
one place to another, until at length they settled near Moulmein.
When the youth had reached man's estate, his father told him of
his engagement and sent him to seek his betrothed. Knowing only
her name and that of her father, he traced them from village to
village until, arriving at the place where they then dwelt, the chief
confirmed the fact and consented to the young man's entering into
a rhyming contest with the maiden, when she should arrive at the
feast that was being held there. Retiring into the jungle, the youth
got himself up in disheveled array, returned, and addressed the
damsel in poetic language, explaining briefly his mission. She 
repelled his attentions; but he persisted, saying that she belonged to
him by right of their childhood betrothal. Thereupon she besought
her parents to save her from such an undesirable husband. They
imposed the condition that she should surpass him in the rhyming
contest. Failing in the attempt, she humbled herself and invited
him to her house, where her parents proceeded to celebrate her
wedding with a great feast.[19-1]

Feasts, especially funeral-feasts, were the occasion at which
youths and maidens met. They used to go to such gatherings in
companies, each with its leader who was skilled in reciting or 
extemporizing simple verses. Being thus thrown together, couples
often became engaged, pledging themselves in verses like the

Youth: "I promise you, you promise me.
        We have promised each other."
Maiden: "After you have promised me and do not come,
         Cotton will grow on your grave.
         If you agree and do not come,
         Paddy will grow over your tomb."
Youth: "We are pledging each other before the dead.
        We shall not be worthy of offspring."

If later during the same festival either one of the pair wished
to break the betrothal, they addressed each other in verse, saying;
"We promise each other in rhyme.
Now let us speak verse again.
May evil not come upon us,
Or upon our descendants."

Such verses are called "hta thi kwaw" Unless an engagement
thus made was broken off the same night, the young man was 
under obligation to send a mediator to arrange for the wedding within
a short time. If he failed to keep his pledge, his strength to resist
an evil charm ("so"), would lapse, and he would go, it was thought,
into a decline.

Many of these practices still obtain among the Karen in the
outlying hill-country; and in choosing a bride no step would be
taken without divination by the customary method of inspecting
the chicken bones, except in the case of the betrothals effected by
the young people themselves at the funeral-feasts. It sometimes
happens that a young man, seeing a maiden who attracts him, mentions
the circumstance to his parents, who approve his choice and
send a mediator to her parents with an offer of marriage. As the
services of a confidant are required sooner or later in nearly all
cases, the omens are consulted and must prove favorable before he
proceeds on his mission.[19-2] If on his way he should chance on anything
that is inauspicious, such as the gliding of a snake across his
path, the barking of a deer, or the report of a death, he will return
home. Otherwise, he continues his journey to the house of the
young woman's parents. The conversation that takes place there
is carried on in verse characterized by figures of speech which suggest,
but do not state explicitly, the purpose for which the mediator
came. On entering the house, he sighs, perhaps, and remarks that
he is in a trying position. The parents inquire what the matter is,
and he answers with a couplet:

"Give me a white pullet,
And I shall feel better."

The parents apprehend that he is asking for their daughter.
If not ready to give her in mariage, they may answer:

"This white pullet we have but raised;
Never once has she cackled."

[ Illustration -- The Friends of the Bridegroom ]
{ Except for the youth with the wedding horn,
they are using Burmese instruments on which they are
practicing preparatory to the wedding ceremony
on the morrow. }

The hint is sufficient, and the mediator promptly makes his
adieu in plainer speech:

"You have not received me. Do not revile me.
The youth's parents will keep their son.
You did not consent, but you spoke kindly,
As for me, I am not discouraged."

In case, however, the parents are favorably inclined, but are
in doubt as to who the young man may be, knowing that their
caller has a son of his own, they ask him:

"Do you come on your own legs,
Or on those of another?"

He replies:

"On the legs of another."

Or they may be uncertain as to whether he intends his offer of
marriage for their maiden daughter or the older one, an eligible
young widow. So they ask him:

"Are you crossing a flat bridge or a round one?"

The expression "flat bridge" refers to the young widow, the
other to the maiden. A "round bridge" is a log, for in the jungle
a bridge is commonly nothing more than a log. A flat bridge is
one made of planks. The significance of the two expressions as
applied by the parentes is obscure to me, but is subject to several
interpretations. If there should be two unmarried daughters in the
family, both eligible, the parents would inquire:

"Have you come for a basket of rice
Or only for a mortarful?"

The basket, being the larger receptacle refers to the older and, 
presumably, larger maiden.[19-3]

During his first call the mediator does not expect to progress
far in his negotiations. If he has been favorably received, the 
family may kill a chicken and invite him to eat with them. He departs
without knowing what the outcome will be, and the parents find an
early opportunity to get the consent of their unmarried daughter
to become a married woman ("mu pgha").

On his second visit a few days later the intermediary may find
the father sitting at the front of the house and probably overhears
him call out to the mother at one of her tasks within: "Here comes
that male buffalo. Shall we tether him or let him go?" If she
shouts back: "We might as well tether him," he knows that his
proposal will be accepted. Even should she reply to the contrary,
the caller would enter the house and pay his visit but would make
no reference to the object of the call. This whole procedure illustrates 
not only a Karen, but also an Oriental, trait of character. The
Oriental deals in indirect methods, rather than run the risk of
saying something disagreeable.

Realizing that his mission is not in vain, the intermediary enters
the house of the prospective bride's parents in joyous mood,
fairly shouting the Karen version of "tra-la-la," which is is "traw-le,
wa-le, ho-o-o." They sit down and discuss the mater. Then the
parent kill a fowl or a pig, and the guest stays for dinner in token
that the bargain is sealed. After the date for the wedding-feast
has been set, the intermediary returns to the young man's family
and reports his success. As a rule the time of the feast is fixed by
the maiden's parents, but it is sometimes determined by the youth's

The only month that is tabu for wedding-feasts is "La plu"
(December). This is the month when the moon is most often
eclipsed (swallowed by the dogs). To many the month seems as
though it were killed and is, therefore, regarded as inauspicious for
new life. Others say that it is the mouth when neither birds nor
animals mate, and that it is unwise for men to undertake to start
a new household. The favorite months for marriages are March
and April in the dry season, because the harvest is past, the weather
is good, and there is plenty to eat and drink. The date of the 
wedding must fall during the waxing of the moon, which augurs an
increasing family. This important point being settled, the prospective
bride busies herself less with the preparation of her own
trousseau than with the weaving of a set of new garments for her
future husband, including a white turban, a white blanket with
a red stripe running through it lengthwise, and, in the olden days, a
"hse plo" or single smock. The maiden's family prepare the rice,
fish-paste, pork, and liquor for the feast. The prospective groom
has only to make for himself a horn to be blown at the festivities.
On the plains and in those places in the hills where each family has
its separate house, a booth or "k'la pyeh" is built close at hand for
the wedding-feasts.[19-4] This structure must be so placed as to have
its entrance towards the tail of the "p'yo" or great dragon of the
Karens. Not long ago I saw such a booth, which was enclosed
on three sides and had a small open entrance to the east. The
south side was entirely open. Access to the structure was had
through the east door and exit from the south side. The dragon
was supposed at the time to be lying with its head to the west and
its tail to the east.

With the near approach of the wedding-day the friends of the
groom gather at this village, blowing horns, beating on gongs and
drums, striking cymbals, and chanting "htas." Early on the wedding-morn
ever one is astir. The rice is cooked and eaten by sunrise 
and, to an accompaniment of all the noisy instruments and
with shouting and singing, the party sets forth. In the olden days,
when the precepts of the elders were strictly observed, there was
much drinking of liquor and boisterous sport on such occasion, but
withal a certain decorum was not altogether lacking by reason of
the halting of the procession from stage to stage and the reciting
of appropriate verses. As the party is ready to leave the village
they sing:

"To-day is a good day.
    We shall see a maiden as fair as cotton-wool.
This is indeed a good day.
    We shall behold one as fair as a cotton boll."

On setting forh, they do not overlook the unmarried girls of
the village:

"Here you have not loved me.
    Listen to my wedding-horns blowing yonder.
Remain here. You have not esteemed me.
    Watch us depart with our horns blowing"

On the journey they sing;
"The wedding is timed at the coming of the rats.
    Unless death intrudes, we shall prosper.
The marriage takes place when the rodent are here.
    Unless death comes, we shall work and be happy."[19-5]

As they approach the bride's village a party greets them:

"The 'the kaw' blossoms in the dark of the moon.
    The moon waxes and wanes.
The 'the kaw' blossoms in the full of the moon.
    The moon increases and declines."[19-6]

The above stanza refers to the maidens, still unmarried, who
are waiting from one moon to the next. The groom replies:

"The mountains are great and lofty.
    My desire brought me, panting.
Recking with sweat on the towering hills,
    My passion brought me, leaping and bounding.
I was wretched. I only trusted.
    Whether good or bad the omens, come I would."

The whole company now enters the village, and its members are
offered drink. Meanwhile, the young men shout:

"You have expected a company.
    Can you feast such a company as we?
You invited a crowd.
    Can you spread a feast for all of us?"

The hosts disclaim making any preparation for the company:

"There is nothing to eat.
    Let us resort together to the betel-box.
As yet we have nothing else.
    Let us partake from the bamboo betel-box."

But the guests will not be satisfied with betel chewing only:

"Boils for us. Brew our drink.
    Feed us the white progeny of the pot.[19-7]
The hand raises food and drink,
    And the heart is satisfied."

The women now insist that with little or no paddy they can do

"Have you not looked at the supply of paddy?
    We women can prepare neither rice nor liquor.
Have you not seen the paddy?
    We can neither cook rice nor brew liquor."

But the young men do not relax their demands:

"Bring out your distilling pipe.
    That you have none, we do not believe.
Come prod us with your distilling tube.
    That you lack one, we are not convinced."

At length, the women consent to supply what they have:

"We have nothing worth bringing to serve you,
But will fetch it, as ordered, though we suffer."

In some instances the intermediary acts as master of 
ceremonies for the young men, although they may choose another elder
to serve as their leader. In Shwegyin, when the wedding party is
about half-way to the village of the prospective bride, the elders
halt the young men and instruct them in the proprieties of the
approaching occasion, reminding them that they are going to a strange
village where they will be entertained as guests. The hosts will
serve them with rice and spirits. The elders remind them that the
rice liquor that will be provided has been twice boiled and would
intoxicate a horse or an elephant. They, therefore, advise moderation,
telling them also not to hear any evil that may be spoken of
them, to remain seated though others stand, to continue reclining
though others sit up, to answer mildly though others speak roughly,
and not to strike back should others slap them in the face. The
elders require the company to say definitely that they will remember
their advice, whereupon each one breaks a twig from a tree to
be placed in a pile on the ground in token of the promise of all to
conduct themselves properly and keep the peace.

A few years ago I visited a village in the Pegu Yomas at the
time of a wedding. In the room of the bride's family they were
preparing quantities of rice and curries. However, no liquor was in
evidence. The bride herself was busy carrying water almost to the
moment that the horns sounded at the village gate. The new 
clothing for the groom was resting upon the beam over the door. Now
and again the horns and gongs could be heard in the distance. A party
arriving from a village to the north waited outside the gate,
in order to avoid the impropriety of preceding the groom's party,
which was coming from across the valley, as the sounds reaching us
from time to time from that direction informed us. As the groom's
retinue ascended the hill, the waiting delegation hailed them with
the din of their instruments, the other crowd giving vent in
response with a volume of noise that showed them to be still
unexhausted by the ascending of the hill. Brief intervals of silence
followed by intermittent shouts and blasts of the horns indicated
that the groom and his party were being welcomed by the elders.

[ Illustration -- The Bridegroom's Company Entering the Bride's Village ]
{ Notice the young women leaving the house as they are entering it. }

[ Illustration -- The Wedding Party ]
{ They are keeping still for a few minutes to have their photograph taken. }

As the procession again moved forward, we could catch
glimpses of the red-bordered smocks or "hse plos" of th men. On
their nearer approach we could see the elders in the lead, followed
by the married women and after them the groom attended by his
party of young men. They now advancd along the narrow paths
by twos and threes with their arms around each other, jumping
and frolicing as they came. The bright colors of their costumes
were accentuated by the bright red bags slung over their shoulders
and the long tassels hanging from these. The large silver earrings
adorned the lobes of their ears, which were further decorated by
bits of red and yellow wool or by beads. The women wore heavily
beaded smocks above their richly colored skirts, numerous chains
of silver and glass beads, and red and white turbans. Meanwhile,
the horns were emitting alternate short and long tones of reedy
timbre. When the guests began to gather at the foot of the ladder,
a boy was there with a jar of water from which the sprinkled the
feet of each one as he ascended into the house. Shouts of "traw
le-o, traw le-o" mingled with the notes of the horns as the groom
advanced to the doorway of his bride's parents. Here he was met,
by two young men, neither of whom had lost a parent (such is the
requirement of the occasion), who poured the contents of two 
bamboo water joints over him, completely drenching him. They then
assisted him to don the new garments provided for him by his
betrothed.[19-8] The din produced by the merry-makers by no means
ceased when they had entered the house. Indeed, it only seemed
to increase, being punctuated now and then with a shout which
served as a signal for the crowd to jump up and down on the plain
bamboo floor, shaking the whole building until it seemed ready to

Meanwhile, the bride had long since retired into obscurity in a
rear room. Any glimpse of her called forth all the noise the crowd
was capable of. In Karen weddings, as in most Oriental nuptials,
the bride keeps herself in the background as much as possible. I
once asked to see the bride at a wedding on the plains and was
told that she was back in the darkest part of the room. I remember
that I gazed intently but was not able to discern her.

The groom in his wedding-array occupied himself in cutting
in two-yard lengths a long piece of white muslin and distributing
these for tubans to the male relatives of the bride. On request
the chief of the village permitted the young men to visit the
different rooms of the village-house, for the purpose of meery-making
under such restrictions as he saw fit to impose. After that they
quieted down for the remainder of the day, spending most of their
time in chewing betel, telling stories, and amusing themselves in
other ways. Many of them went apart into a room to sleep, having
had little rest the night before.

When a wedding is about to take place in a village nearly all
the young women of the place disappear, leaving the day before the
event for a visit to another village or retiring into the jungle. The
bolder ones may remain, but spend their time under the houses or
in the deeper shadows.

After darkness has come on and the party has finished the
evening meal, the young men make the round of the village, hunting
for any of the girls who have had the temerity to remain. Those
who are caught are subjected to good-natured badgering and perhaps
to pretended abduction. Shouting, the noise of the instruments,
and the slaps on the floor and sides of the house with bamboos
split at open end into six or eight strips, accompany this hunt
for the maidens. Such sport does not degenerate into ill-treatment
of the girls, if they are caught, even though the men have indulged
in liquor; but the fun is certain to be kept up all night, and
sometimes the scant partitions between the living-rooms of the village
families are removed, with the permission of the chief, to enable the
visitors to circulate the more freely throughout the village-house.

Among the Shwegin Karen a vestige of wife-purchase appears
to have survived. I am told that as night comes on the intermediary
and the visiting elders place a jacket and skirt on a winnowing-tray
and carry them to the parents of the bride as "ta k'ner" or "things
that will win." The local elders, who are present with the parents,
decline to accept the garments as being of too little value. The
intermediary retires to return with some added articles -- a headdress,
bracelets, and beads. The parents and village elders are not
yet satisfied, and the intermediary has to add a silver head-band,
earrings, and a lump of silver to the things on his tray, before he is
regarded as offering a sufficient price. A bottle of liquor is now
brought out and drunk by way of sealing the bargain, and the village
elders announce that "the price is paid." Among these same
people, it is customary for the elders, on the morning of the second
day of the wedding-feasts, to send the bridegroom and his young
men out on a hunt. The game taken must be brought back by the
groom on his own shoulders and carried by him to the house of the
bride. This hunt is his last with his fellows and his first foraging
expedition for the household he is establishing.

On the last evening of the feasts a ceremony used to be 
performed that is rarely seen nowadays. I have been informed that it
was the main part of the marriage-feasts, signifying the uniting
of husband and wife. Its name was "Hpo nya mo, hpo nya pa," and
meant "Children tease mother; Children tease father." For this
ceremony the bride prepared a cock and a hen, which were boiled
whole, and she also cooked a pot of rice. These were placed in the
inner room of the house. Thither the groom was escorted to his
bride in the evening by his attendants, who chanted:

"Go, escort the husband to the maiden.
The mother looks on with smiles.
The wild buffalo shall enter."[19-9]
Tell the father to fasten the door
Lead the young man to her room.
Let no one molest him.
Take in the youth.
Leave him undisturbed."

Aftter the groom had seated himself near his bride, the rice and
fowls were set before them. Each in turn took sparingly of the
food, while the company looked on until the bride raised a morsel to
her lips, when they shouted "Hpo nya mo! Hpo nya pa!" and began
to scramble for the chickens, which they pulled to pieces and therew
at the women. The latter returned the volley with shouts of "Hpo
nya mo! Hyo nya ma!" This "teasing" of the future parents and
throwing scraps of chicken at one another is said to have betokened
the mutual expression of good wishes for increasing families for
all those participating in the ceremony. The groom was then
escorted back to the booth or the guest-room, where he spent the
night with his friends.

Returning from our digressions in the preceding three paragraphs,
the villagers early on the second morning of the wedding
ceremonies prepare a feast of rice and chicken curry for their
guests. Not less than two young roosters or two pullets are used
in the preparation of this final feast, every part of the fowls 
being cooked, even the intestines, which have been carefully cleaned.
Bits of stewed plantain stalks are included in the dish, inasmuch
as the prolific nature of this plant is supposed to be communicated
to those partaking of its, thus assuring the large families
desired. A joint of bamboo full of liquor is also brought out.
The bride and groom must then dip their fingers into the liquor
and the food, while calling out "Pru-r-r k'la, heh ke" ("Pru-r-r k'la,
come back"), two or three times. The elders now shout: "This
day you twain, husband and wife, have become one spirit.
May God take care of you. May the Just One watch over you, May
the powerful Thi Hko Mu Xa (Lord of the demons) shield you.
May you have strength to work and gain your livelihood. May you
sleep in peace and eat the fruits of the land. May you have long life,
ten children, and one hundred grandchildren." The elders next
address the "k'la," as follow: "Pru-r-r k'la, return, retun. Do not
stay in the jungle. Behold your place here. Do not leave it. Go
not away. Look at your own room. See your own place." A morsel
of the rice, together with the heart and lungs of the fowls, is
then placed upon the heads of the bridal pair, and the guests 
proceed to eat the remainder of the feast, finishing it before sunrise.

Thus far the intermediary has passed through the marriage
celebration with the consideration on all hands belonging to one
who has conducted successfully the negotiations between the parents
of the groom and those of the bride. He has been the groom's personal
attendant, has carried his principal's few worldly goods to the
bride's house for, as among the ancient Hebrews, the young man
leaves his father and mother to become a member of his wife's
family. But now the intermediary finds himself suddenly deprived
of his position of respect and becomes the butt of the night's fun.
The foot of a pig killed for the feast is tied about his neck with a
rattan, and its head is set upon a post of the house for him to bark
at for the sport of the guests.[19-10] If he could lift the head down from
the post, it became his possession. His success in accomplishing
this was said to symbolize his skill in finding a suitable wife for his
friend, which was likened to the scent of the old Karen hunting
dogs ("htwi maw seh") in the chase. The guests now take their
departure for their several villages, having spent two days, if not
more as sometimes happens, at the celebration. No one whose feet
were sprinkled on his arrival, is allowed to leave until the 
celebration is over.

After the departure of the guests, the intermediary remarks to
the bride's parents: "I have brought you a son. Cherish him. If
you have aught to say against him, speak it out now." On receiving
a negative reply he continues: "I have given him into your hands.
I have done my duty, and my task is finished." One of the village
elders tells the intermediary that after seven days he will be free
from blame in case anything evil transpires concerning the groom.
The bride's parents present him with a pair of fowls for his 
services, which he carries home and keeps, unless by reason of illness
he must sacrifice them to recall his wandering "k'la."

The groom lingers about the village during the day after the
guests have gone and in the evening is escorted by some of the
elders to the bride's room. Formerly in some localities it was
customary to sprinkle the bridal floor with rice to give the pair a fruitful
married life. Possibly the showering of rice on newly married
couples in the West had originally a similar significance. However,
I have been told that in the olden times couples often refrained
from living together for months or even a year or two after their

Many tabus were formerly observed by parties going to a wedding.
If they heard of a death, passed a funeral, or came into
contact with anything connected with a burial, the intermediary at
once halted his companions and directed them to recall their "k'las,"
if a snake corsed their path, he stoped them and addressed the
reptile: "You follow your path, and we will follow ours. Our way is
short and pleasant. Yours is long and evil." If they happened to
hear the call of the red-headed woodpecker, which is considered a
bird of ill-omen, he would cry out: "You may be sick and die. It is
nothing to us. Let the white ginger burn you." If they came upon
a dead wild animal, the intermediary reminded the company that
death, having taken its victim, would not touch them. Chancing to
meet another wedding party, the two groups exchanged the greeting:
"May you be free from all evil, and may you have peace." If
either company had liquor with them, they all drank together.

Certain tabus made it necessary for the whole party to sit
down where they were and wait until they believed the danger was
past. They did this when they heard the call of the plover, the cry
of the barking-deer, the "tauke te" of the lizard, or the scream of
the woodpecker. When about to renew their journey after an
interruption of this kind, they pretended to spit something out of their
mouths, saying: "Let all evil remain on you." A sneeze would
halt the entire retinue until the leader was assured that no more
sneezes were to follow.

According to the modern usage the groom is supposed to remain in
his wife's house three, seven or any other number of days required
by her parents. After the specified interval has elapsed, he is free
to go about as he pleases; but he seldom returns to his own village,
except for a brief visit. The general custom is for the husband to
settle down with his parents-in-law, a practice that looks much
like a survival from the matriarchal stage of the Karen's past.

[ Illustation -- Karen Girls of the Plains, Tharrawaddy District ]
{ They have put on their best and brought out their umbrellas and
handkerchiefs for display.}

[ Illustration -- Christian Converts, Ngape eh Village, Tharrawaddy District ]
{ A village near the plains, hence the combination of Karen and Burmese

Should the marriage prove unsatisfactory to the wife or her
parents and they wish to sever the connection, they must purchase
their relase by paying the husband an ox or one hundred rupees.
In case the young man is dissatisfied with the union he has formed,
the price to be paid by him is much larger, namely, three hundred
rupees, one change of clothing, bracelets, earrings, and other
jewelry. Becaue the man and his parents have the initiative and
exercise the right of choice in effecting a marriage, the justice of the
above arrangement is obvious.

I have been repeatedly assured that in the early days, when
the Karen people lived unto themselves, moral lapses were uncommon
among them, and that the lot of young persons found to be
holding improper relations with each other was a hard one. Their
sin was regarded not only as an offense against their household
gods, the "Bgha," but also a crime against the community, in asmuch
as it was supposed to cause sterility of the earth and, hence, loss of
crops. The sinful ones were brought before the elders, who, having
eaten two fowls that were cooked whole for them, required the
couple to sacrifice a large animal, that is, a buffalo, an ox, a pig, or
a goat. The blood of the slain creature was sprinkled on the ground
"to cool it off" or, in other words, to remove the curse that rested
upon it. The elders then resorted to extreme methods to shame
the offenders, who were driven from the village, sometimes after
having been stripped naked. As they were not allowed to
mingle with the rest of the inhabitants perhaps for several years,
they either went to some distant village to live, or built themselves
a hut in the jungle."[19-11]


When a Karen is ill, his sickness is thought to be due to some
action of the malevolent spirits of the unseen world or to the wandering
of his "k'la" (life principle or psyche). His malady may be
due to an accident, an attack of indigestion after eating too many
green mangoes, or an infection of some sort; but, according to his
belief, some invisible spirit has been offended by a slight and is the
real cause of his disorder.[20-1]

The seven-fold "k'la," which presides over the life of every
person from the time of his birth, will, the Karen believes, determine
the time and manner of that person's death. Notwithstanding
the fact that one or another of the many causes of death will
sometime effect the dissolution of every member of the race, the
Karen makes offerings to delay as long as possible the inevitable
end. Most propitiatory feasts require the presence of every immediate
member of the family, in order to render the feasts acceptable
to the spirits. If the sick person seems to be sinking, his relatives
will all remain and try to be at hand when he breathes his last.

Karen funerals are by no means solemn occasions. On the
contrary, they afford the greatest opportunity for the people to enjoy
themselves. I have heard it said that when a considerable time has
elapsed since a death in a particular region, the young people long
for someone to die, so that they may have a jolly time. The question
has often been raised why the Karen, who are not without family
affection, conduct themselves in what to Occidentals is a very
unseemly manner at the funerals of their dearly beloved ones.
Possibly some light is thrown on this question by the story of the
fabulous White Python. According to this story, after the python had
been compelled to release "Naw Mu E," it took vengeance by killing
men in great numbers by discharging its venom on their footprints.
It took pleasure in hearing of the suffering and sorrow it was causing
the human race and, therefore, redoubled its efforts. The people,
fearing lest they should become extinct, sought to overcome
the python by guile. They determined to try the plan of deceiving
the serpent and its menials by ostentatious feasting and festivity
when a person died through its malevolence, instead of mourning
over the victim. This subterfuge proved to be successful, for the
servants of the python reported to their master that the people were
no longer succumbing to its poison, but were rejoicing over their
newly won immunity. At this the enraged serpent discharged all
of its venom and thereby lost the power it had formerly possessed
of causing the death of human beings.

This tale reveals the Karen's profound fear of the mysterious
causes of death. He is unacquainted with the modern sciences of
physiology, pathology, hygiene, etc. Some unknown power removes
his parents or his children, and he strives to fortify himself against
it. The White Python of the tale typifies the evil spirits, who are
continually lying in wait for him and the members of his family.
His object seems to be to counteract their baneful influence, even
in the hour of its manifestation, by concealing his sorrow and indulging
in ceremonial feasting and forced hilarity. Such appears
to be the significance of the story of "Naw Mu E" and the fabulous
White Python.

The people have their own explanations of their mode of
conducting funerals. One is that certain of their sports assist the
spirit of the departed to avoid the pitfalls in his path by as he journeys
from this world to his proper place in the next. They are employing
the appropriate means "to make his way cool," as they express
it. Being inhabitants of a tropical region, the word "cool" is the
Karen's synonym for comfortable and pleasant. Another explanation
given by the Karen for his method of conducting funerals is
that he aims to cheer the hearts of those who are bereaved. Being
without a solace to overcome the sting of death, the mourners
are the more ready to fill their minds with such absorbing sights
and sounds as will expel the sad remembrance of their loss. The
reaction comes later, but the Karen's habit of living in the present
has enabled him to reduce that to a minimum.

When a person dies, the relatives, if not all present, are
immediately called by sounding the big bronze drum or "klo a' ko"
(the hot drum or drum of discomfort). The pounding of this drum
communicates to everyone within hearing the news that a death has
taken place, just as the tolling of a church bell in the early days of
New England carried the tiding of death to the villagers. For a
short time the relatives indulge in weeping, but soon begin to
prepare the corpse for burial or cremation.

On the plains the body is bathed, but no in the hills. East of
Moulmein on the Siamese border the face is brushed over with an
infusion of acacia pods and tumeric for the purpose, as the people
assert, of washing it and giving the soul a good start. They then
repeat the following words: "You have gone on before. We have
been left behind. May it also be well with us." As a receptacle for
the body the Bwe and some of the other hill-tribes about Toungoo
used to hollow out a log coffin, as do the Chinese. But by far the
greater number of the Karen wrap the body in a mat. While
preparing this mat they offer a brief prayer:

"Let the shade of the dead depart.
Let the corpse of death and hades sleep on this mat.
Approach not. Come not near."

The two thumbs and the two great toes are tied together, but the
string with which they are bound is immediately cut. After a
blanket has been spread over the mat the body is placed on it and
wrapped up in the two coverings, which are bound around at three
places with red and white rope. These bands are connected by another
rope running lengthwise of the body, which serves as the
means of lifting and carrying the corpse. A bamboo water-joint
and a betel-box[20-2] are placed upon the body, and the following words
are spoken: "Chew your betel. Smoke your cigar. May your body
eat, and may your 'k'la' eat as well." In Shwegyin those in attendance
about the corpse address it, saying: "Do not take the path
leading into the forest. Return to your resting-place and your
pleasant home." Then they put the body in the guest-room and, having
cooked rice and a duck curry, they place a portion of this food by
it and say: "If your spirit and your 'k'la' have not departed, may
they come and eat." Meantime, the beak, wings, and legs of the
duck are dried a little by the fire and laid by the corpse, the
following words expressing their purpose in so doing:

"Let the beak become a canoe for him.
Let the wings become his sail,
And the legs, his paddles."

Placing two bits of liver on the eyes of the corpse, they utter the
wish: "May these become bright eyes for you, to see clearly your
way as you go back."

[ Illustration -- SGAW KAREN YOUNG WOMEN ]

In some sections of the country the village elders try to keep
the children away from the dead, lest their "k'las" should be
induced to follow its "k'la." In order to divert the attention of the
latter from prevailing on the shade of some living person to follow
it, the elders pretend to pick up fruit about the room where the
body is lying and to put it into the skirts of their garments.

In the Pegu Hills it is customary to prepare a bier for the body.
This is a low bamboo frame ("thi hso law") with a bamboo framework
above, over which a blanket or several garments are spread
to form a canopy ("ta t' su"). By this means the spirit is
supposed to be assured a cool and shady journey to its next abode. The
body is usually kept only from one to three days, at the end of
which time bits of the finger and toe-nails are pared off and a lock
of the hair is cut to be placed in a tiny mat and substituted for the
corpse during the remaining days of the funeral rites, and the
"mourners" march around them as they would around the corpse

A ceremony, called "ta le me" or the lighting of the way, takes
place in the evening. The Karen people seem to think of the realm of
death as quite the reverse of this world. I have sometimes thought
that they locate it beneath the earth, but am not sure whether they
ascribe a location to it or not. Their conception of the conditions
prevailing in the other sphere as opposed to those existing in this
one, is shown by the following observance: Two young men take
their places on opposite sides of the corpse, one holding a candle
between his first and second fingers, as a cigar is held, the palm of
the hand being downward. He passes the candle to his fellow, who
passes it back, the recipient taking it between the third and fourth
digits. The candle is then thrown down beneath the house,
while the young men raise their hands and point to the sky, saying
to the corpse: "The roots of your trees are there," and then to the
ground with the words: "There are the tops of your trees. "Pointing
in the direction of the source of the neighboring stream, they
call it the mouth of the river and then pointing to its mouth, they
speak of it as the source.

After this the company file around the body, chanting a "hta"
(poem) to the sun. In Siam it is the custom to march around to
the left, making the circuit three times, after which the participants
begin to recite the following version of this "hta," entitled "The
Face of the Sun":

"The sun is dark; dark is the sun.
The moon is dark; dark is the moon.
The face of the sun is black. We point to the plantain.
The tops of your trees are the roots.
The oaths of your rivers have become their source."

"The face of the sun shines.
The sun rises and reveals himself.
The moon ascends and displays herself.
They sink into the great river,
Setting among the fragrant flowers,
Where the perfume are most satisfying."

No regular order of funeral ceremonies appears to be
observed throughout the Karen country. Not only do different tribes
have their particular customs, but also various groups within the
same tribe differ more or less from one another. This wide
variety of rites renders it almost impossible to ascertain what the
original customs were. On the plains, where the Karen have come
into contact with the Burmese, the old customs have largely
disappeared and are known only through the reports of old men. Even in
the hill-country some of the ancient customs have been discontinued,
so that one rarely sees a funeral nowadays at which all of the rites
mentioned in this chapter are observed.[20-3]

Nevertheless, it seems to have been a universal custom for the
elders to take a leading part in the ceremonies by chanting a poem
in which they declare that the spirit of the deceased has left this
sphere for another and a better life in the spirit-world. A poem
of this import is still recited in Siam and is probably not widely
different from that which was familiar to the various tribes in the
early days. It runs as follows:

"On the other side of the great river[20-4]
The apes call loudly to each other and cry
They cry, 'tis said, because death comes so readily:
Men vanish like water rolling from the caladium leaf;[20-5]
They enter life suddenly and die quickly.
One by one they tread in the steps of God's sons.
They return whence they came as attendants of God;
They spread his mat and roll his cigars."

"The Lord of death, does his work swiftly.
The servants of Death are prompt in their task.
By the light of dawn they sharpen their spears.
In the ev'ning glow they whet them again.
They ponder where they will go to fight.
They chose whom they will overcome.
They steal through the vales and over the hills.
They vanquish the sons and daughters of men.
Into the huts of the poor, among the fowls,
Into the great houses and into the guest -rooms,
Where the oblations of brass and silver are seen
And the fowl are killed and offered, they come."

"Go, kill a black chicken.
Prepare it and offer it.
Go forth, and offer it on the main road,
At the intersection of the main roads.
If the curious person should eat it,
We would say that our grief has gone to him;
That he has carried it a great distance.
Let not evil's combings fall on us.
Let them fall 'midst the trees of the woods
Or elsewhere: the country is spacious."

Other verses are chanted, among them the following taken
from what is known as a great poem ("hta mo pgha"):

"In the beginning when men first worked,
They toiled as their discernment led them.
From the beginning they worked for you;
They worked; they talked; they chanted."

A small poem ("hta hpo") supplies its lessons also:

"No more will you wear the beads,
But be draped in tendrils of the banyan.
Instead of the jacket and loin-cloth
You will wear the leaves of the banyan.
Go hence, eat the sour fruit of hades
And honey from the comb of the bees."

"Go, eat the salt fruit down in hades.
Go before and eat of the honey.
The dead, who face toward the ridge-pole,
Leave all of their children behind them.
They die and must look up the ladder,
But leave all their labor behind them.
Their death makes life not easy for us:
They send us on many an errand;
Our feet and our backs become weary."

Many are the poems that are chanted during the nights of the
funeral-feasts. The Karen divided them into various groups such
as the great poems ("hta do"), which are their nearest approach
to our classical epics; the small poems ("hta hpo"), which are
less dignified than the former; the poems of hades ("hta plu"),
in which the words and sentiments are often in keeping with the
character of the deceased, praising the respected and condemning
the dishonored; poems showing Death with the way back to his abode
("hta thwe plu"); poems for the king of hades, in which his name,
"Hku Hte," is mentioned in every line, while in one ("hta yeh
law plu") of this group the Karen name for hades is as often repeated;
extempore verse ("hta na do") sung in rhyming contests
on the last night of the funeral-feasts between the most skillful
improvisers of the companies from the different villages
represented, and, finally, the love poems, in which the story of the
romance between the lover and the maiden is chanted by the leaders
of the groups of the young people.

The funeral observances held during the daytime are as boisterous
as those held at night. Several of the former consist of
jumping the pestles ("ta se kle"). The pestles are the stout sticks
with which the hulls are pounded from the rice in wooden mortars,
but bamboos are frequently substituted for these in the jumping
games about to be described. Four of the pestles or bamboos are
placed on the ground in the manner indicated by the accompanying
illustration, and four young men take their stations on the sides of the
figure thus formed, grasping the ends of the sticks. Three times in
succession they knock the pestles on the ground and the fourth time they
knock them together. While this is going on a fifth young man jumps in
between the projecting ends of the parallel sticks, first on one side, then
on another, and the fourth time into the center of the square and out
again, if possible, before they are clashed together. The game requires
quickness of action and produces great merriment, especially when
the jumper's feet are caught. Should they be faught, his failure to
clear the sticks is regarded as a bad omen, showing that the spirit
of the dead man has encountered some obstacle on its journey to
its next abode. It is, therefore, incumbent on the jumper to try
the center leap over again until he gets through safely.[20-6]

The next game in order is that of "pounding the pestle'( ""ta to kli"). In this
game three young men, each provided with a pestle or bamboo stick, take their
places at equal intervals about a central spot on the ground, which forms the
target at which they strike in turn. A fourth youth must jump first from one side
and then another to the center and out again before each stroke falls, and the
fourth time also when the wielders of the sticks strike together. In this game
the jumper runs considerable risk of getting hit on the feet, unless he is very
spry in his movements.

A third game with the pestles is called "stretching the neck" ("ta leh
kah"). The four pestles required in this game are held in "criss-cross'
fashion as in the first jumping game, but as high as
one's shoulders. A young man stands beneath them, and another
stands at one corner waving a naked sword above them. The four
holding the ends of the pestles strike them together at brief
intervals, whyle the youth beneath them must thrust his head up
between the ends of the sticks and withdraw it again before they
close about his neck, or the swinging sword touches him. Having
done this on three sides in succession, the fourth time he must
attempt it through the square in the middle. If he is successful in
making the circuit three times without getting "his neck stretched,"
the assembled company are entitled to feel satisfied that it is well
with the soul of the departed.

"Climbing the fruit tree" ("htaw the tha") is a very different
kind of game from those described above, involving no physical
risk inasmuch as it is a performance in pretending. A
conventionalized picture of a tree with a knot part-way up the trunk, two
pairs of side branches and a central branch, each terminating in
two twigs bearing a fruit and leaves, is drawn on the sides of
a winnowing-tray. Betel-nuts or small coins are laid
on the sketch to represent the fruit. The man designed to "climb
the tree" must receive his instructions from a woman sitting opposite.
He begins by asking her: "In climbing the tree, how shall I go
up?" To which she replies: "Go up to the big knot." Question and
answer follow until he has passed his hand from point to point
to the tip of a twig, secured the fruit there, and brought it to earth.
This is repeated over and over again, in a way that would prove
insufferably tedious to a Westerner, until the last fruit has been
gathered. The assembled Karens seem never to tire of this game
and regard it as a kind of offering to the departed friend.

A ceremony ("ta w maw") participated in by both the young
men and maidens is that of blowing bamboo tubes, rattling bangles,
and parading or prancing, rather than dancing, around the corpse.
In Shwegyin this ceremony is performed at night. In other places
it used to be performed in the day time at the place of burial, but
has largely disappeared in recent times. The young men cut for
themselves pieces of small bamboo with the joint in the middle,
leaving the ends open, and, provided with these, take their places
around the corpse alternating with the maidens, who wear bangles
of little round bells or rattling seeds on their wrists. The participants,
now facing towards the body and now away from it,
parade around it, keeping step to the mingled but pulsating tones
of the whistles or open tubes blown by the men and the rattle of
the bangles on the swinging arms of the girls. At the end of this
noisy parade the men tear their bamboos open with their teeth and
throw them down with a loud shout, in which the girls join while
shaking their arms vigorously. The spirit of the dead, when it
hears this shout, knows that its welfare has not been forgotten by
the friends remaining behind and believes that it will be able to
avoid all demons along its path. The friends expect this ceremony
to speed the departed on his journey.

If the deceased is a very old person who has left all of his children
and grandchildren married and with homes of their own, a
special observance is celebrated in his behalf. This is called the
"taw kwe tah" or the "taw klaw taw." I am not able to interpret
these terms. Nowadays the ceremony is very rarely observed, and
in the earlier times it seems to have been observed on the plains, but
not at all in the Pegu Yomas. I have been told that on one occasion
when this ceremony is to be performed at Letpadan, those
concerned had to get permission from the township officer there and
that they spoke of it as "collecting taxes for the soul." A company
of young men disguise themselves, several of them in women's
costumes and carrying fish-nets, one as a blind man, and another as a
lame one. They circulate among the neighboring villages with much
shouting and laughter, calling on the inhabitants to contribute
sundry supplies. The members of the party who are impersonating
women, go under the houses and pretend to catch fish in their nets.
By such methods they manage to gather all they can carry of fruit,
vegetables, and other kinds of food, which they consume on their
return to the place where the funeral is being held. This ceremony
is performed more frequently when the bones of the deceased are
exhumed than at the time of his death.


After the ordinary daylight observances and the chanting of
the poems in the evenings have been completed, the body is
removed through an opening made for the purpose in the side of the
house and is carried to the place where it is to be burnt or buried.
In the olden days it was usual to burn the body, but latterly burial
is the common practice. The children used to be confined or tied
up at home during the removal of the corpse. This was to prevent
their being scared by the gruesome sight, thus causing their shades
or "k'las" to withdraw from their bodies and make them sick, or
to keep their "k'las" from being enticed to follow that of the dead
person with the same result.

In Siam three beds of leaves and twigs are made along the
path to the place of burning, the bearers stopping at these piles as
thought to put down their burden and rest, but allowing it barely to
touch the bed when they raise it again and go on.

In those cases in which burning is resorted to, the body is
placed upon a pile of fagots three or four feet high and more wood
is piled on top. Dry bamboo torches are applied at two or more
places and, after the fire is blazing, the body is pierced with long
sharpened bamboos to allow the juices to exude and so hasten the
process of incineration. Before the body has been wholly consumed,
charred pieces of the bones and particularly of the skull are raked
out, held near the fire, and addressed with the words: "If you are
hot, sit by the fire." After this water is poured over them and they
are told, if cold, to bathe and drink water. These injunction to
the bones again illustrate the curious conception on the part of the
karen that the conditions prevailing in the next world are just the
reverse of those existing in the present one.

If the full funeral rites have been performed, the bones are
ready to be deposited in the family burial-ground. If, however, the
cremation has taken place before the performance of the full
ceremonies, the bones are usually placed in basket or wrapped in a
cloth and taken home to be used again when the full rites are
celebrated. This carrying home of the relics and celebrating a funeral
later is called "ta hu taw pgha a' hki." It is done both on the plains
and in hills. If the person dies in the rainy or the harvest
season, the practice is to dispose of the body quickly and hold the
burial rites, namely, the games and recitation of the poems or
'htas" at a more convenient time.

On their way back from the burning-place the people stop at
intervals, look back, wave their hands, and call out: "Pru-r-r k'la,
come back, come back." They are summoning their own "k'las" to
keep them from remaining behind with that of the dead person. In
order to prevent the "k'la" of the deceased from following after
them, they set up branches of trees in the path, which is their
method of warning friends not to take a certain path. In Siam the
funeral party resort to the additional precaution of opening the
trunk of a big rotten tree in the jungle the next morning and
summoning the "k'la" of the deceased to abide in that. Having
provided an offering of rice and water for the nourishment of the
spirit here, they address the tree as follows;

"O Rotten tree, you know hades and the land of the dad.
Be kind enough to show the deceased the way thither."

But few localities are left where the Karen still keep up their
old burial-place. These localities are in the hills and on the eastern
border of Burma. In these regions an elder of the bereaved family,
who is familiar with the burial-place, takes the bones and valuables
of the deceased, such as beads, ornaments, etc., to the spot and
deposits them with the ashes of his ancestors. A man in the employ
of a timber contractor told me of a chance visit made by him to
one of these sacred burial-places. With a Karen driver he was in
search of a working elephant that had strayed away. After crossing
two or there mountain ridges and the intervening valleys, the
Karen remarked that they were approaching his ancestral burial
spot and consented to lead his companion to it. They climbed to the
top of the next ridge, where the ground was covered with huge
boulders. Threading their way among these, they emerged into a
grassy plot in the midst of which lay a boulder larger than the
others, and, after clambering to the top of this rock, they found
therein a deep hole in which the family relics of the elephant driver
were deposited. His companion thrust the shaft of his spear nearly
its whole length into the hole, the mouth of which was not more
than four of five inches in diameter, and, poking about, could hear
the jingling of silver, probably bracelets, beads, rings, and other
jewelry. It is said that hollow trees and the limestone caves that
are so common in the hills of Burma and Siam, contain many such
hidden treasures. In the Pegu Hills the people appear to bury
the relics of their dead wherever fancy dictates and to pay no
further attention to the spot. Indeed, as a whole the Karen raise
no monuments over their dead. When the remains of a woman are
buried, not only her trinkets and ornaments are buried with her,
but also her pigs and fowls which, as her peculiar property, are
killed and deposit with her relics.

Both in the hills and on the plains it is the custom to dig up
the bones of the dead who have been carried off by epidemics, as well
as of those who have died at inconvenient times, and hold
ceremonies over them. It is said that in Shwegyin December
("La plu"), which is the month of eclipses and of the dead, is the
time when these ceremonies are usually performed. On the plains
the months of the hot season are those chosen for these rites.

When the bones are brought back to serve as the center of the burial ceremonies,
they are placed in a little basket and set within a small enclosure. In the
Pegu Hills they are put under a small canopy, but on the plains the receptacle
for them is made in the form of a miniature pagoda ("hko so law") or a little
hut ("hko saw"). The hut is a model of a house with its ladder, water pots, etc.
The basket containing the bones is put into the hut, and one end of a string is
tied to the basket and the other let down into a water jar under the miniature
house. This arrangement makes it possible for the "k'la" of the deceased to go
down for a drink whenever it is thirsty. Early in the morning one of the elders
carries a firebrand out to the hut, which is usually situated outside of the
village. There he lifts out a piece of the bone and heats it with the glowing
brand, saying: "If you are hot, sit by the fire." Then he pours water over it
and tells it to drink and bathe, if it is cold. This he does in turn with each
fragment of the bone. Finally, he puts the firebrand under the hut, calls back
his own "k'la," and returns home. On top of the hut an image of a parrot is
left, in case the deceased is an unmarried person; but for married persons two such
images are set up. These birds are supposed to help carry the spirit of the
deceased to its next abiding-place. As long as the bones are in the hut the friends
take food to the "k'la" every day.

If the deceased is unmarried, the friends sometimes chant
poems deriding him for dying before he has left any offspring
to perpetuate his stock on earth. When they are ready to carry the
hut to the grave, they remove the image of the parrot ("t'le") and
bury it at the fork of the roads with its head towards the jungle,
probably so that it will fly in that direction and carry the "k'la" of
the deceased into the woods. On their return the love poems ("na
do") are chanted by the young men and maidens, and early next
morning the hut with the little basket of bones inside is taken to
the back of the usual burying-place and left there. The funeral
party stops long enough to say: "We have brought you here with
all your belongings. Remain here." On their way home they do
not forget to call their "k'las" frequently, lest there should be
tempted to stay behind. In the case of the burial of married persons
the mourners cook eggs, rice, and curry and spread a feast
near the hut. They request the spirit of the dead to come and eat
and then to depart to the king of spirits, "Mu Hka," and not to
return. The hut and its contents are then removed to the burial-place
and left there. The closing ceremony is one performed over the
bones at noon of the last day of the rites, its object being to
discover whether the "k'la" of the departed has yet reached the land
of delight whence it will not return, or whether it is still wandering
around, and, therefore, liable to entice away the "k'las" of its
relatives and friends. This final ceremony is called "t'yaw lo ke
a' k'la" A slender bamboo or stock of elephant grass is stuck in the
ground obliquely near the foot of the hut, and from its top is
suspended a newly spun cotton string on which is tied a piece of the
charred bone of the dead person and below it a bit of cotton wool.
Four or five more pieces of bone separated by bits of the wool are
strung on the cord, the end of which is attached to a gold or yellow
bracelet. Directly under the bracelet a cup containing a boiled duck
egg and a lump of cooked rice is set. The relatives now sit down
and chant a poem or "hta," in which their love for the deceased is
expressed. Then each member of the family strikes the cup and
bracelet a gentle blow and, calling the dead by name, asks his spirit
to return. If nothing unusual happens, they know that it has
arrived at its destination and will never come back again. If, however,
the string vibrates considerably or breaks, as may happen,
when somebody taps the bracelet there is great lamentation for
they are then convinced that the"k'la" is present and has descended
the string. Hence, offering of food must be continued to prevent
the "k'la" from exercising its enticing power on that of some living

The "k'las" of the children are thought to be especially susceptible
to such influence, and among the Bwes extraordinary precautions
are taken to protect the children. The Bwe grandmother, who
is head of the "Bgha" feast, wraps a pair of fowls in a number of
garments, each of her grandchildren supplying one. She then
calls back the spirits of the children to prevent them from being
attracted by the "Mu xa." After the necks of the fowls have
been wrung their flesh is eaten by the family, while the "Mu xa"
are supposed to feed upon the essence of the chickens.

The Karen bury their children soon after death, and seem to
take no further notice of their passing. When parents have had
the misfortune to lose several of their offspring shortly after
birth, they believe that the spirits from some vague region have
sought mortal birth through their instrumentality, simply to gain
the ornaments and trinkets that Karen are in the habit of
giving to their children. Having secured these coveted possessions, the
spirits return to their former abode with their undeserved rewards.
The Karen call this fleeting existence "ta plu aw ka," which means
"gaining something by entering life." Parents thus taken
advantage of, as they feel, have recourse to a revolting method of
terrifying a spirit of this greedy type. After a child has died and been
carried to the burial-place, the indignant father thrusts a spear
or sword through and through the little body or slashes it with a
"dah," that is, a long knife, in the hope that the spirit, seeing how
badly its temporary mortal tenement is being treated, may fear to
come back again.

Our study of funeral customs among the Karen shows that, in
the case of adults at least, funerals are festal and feasting
occasions. Much rice and pork curry are consumed and, in the olden
time, liquor flowed freely. In earlier times when people of different
villages met at a funeral, a spirit of rivalry was shown in the
improvising and chanting of the poems and sometimes in other
ways. I have in my possession an old bronze funeral drum, which
was reputed to be the sweetest sounding drum in the hills at the
head of Thonze Creek.[20-7] On its rim "dah" cuts appear which are the
lasting marks of a fight in which rival groups of villagers engaged
long ago, because some of those present expressed a decided preference
for the musical tones of this drum over those of other drums
belonging to members of neighboring villages.

Although many who took part in some of the old funeral celebrations
were undoubtedly under the influence of liquor and in a
corresponding state of hilarity, funerals do not seem to have
become the occasion of feuds or even of drunken brawls.
Young people came together on more intimate terms at funerals
than was permitted at other times, and some of their poems would
not bear reproduction in print. Probably at times their conduct
also went beyond the bounds of propriety, but such lapses seem to
have been rare and bitterly regretted. However, it is clear that
Karen mourners succeeded in drowning in their sorrow and believed
that by means of their festivities they had sent the spirit of their
dead rejoicing on its way to its future abode.



Among the Karen we find traces of three distinct religious conceptions,
which have left their impress upon the people. The
principle underlying the most primitive religious ideas is that of an
impersonal power or force residing both in men and things, but
which is all-pervasive, invisible except as it betrays itself by its
effect on certain things, and invincible in that it can only be
overcome in a particular person or thing by a more powerful manifestation
of itself in some other object.[21-1] The Karen designate this force,
"pgho." It is the equivalent of what the Melanesians know as
"mana' and is defined in the _Karen Thesaurus_ as a certain more or
less unknown force believed to be all about and which can not be
overcome.[21-2] It may reside in certain individuals who, by its aid, are
enabled to accomplish unusual tasks. It can be imparted to objects
which, by its power, become charms potent for good or ill. The
deities are said to possess "pgho" and on that account to be able to
do wonderful things. It is also spoken of by the people as revealing
itself in the infinite attributes of "Y'wa," the eternal God, but this
is, of course, an adaption to Christian teachings. However, it is
in the realm of the magic, rather than in that of religion, that this
power is particularly exploited. Those who are able to perform
magical deeds are called "pgha a pgho," that is, person of "pgho."[21-3]

The second religious conception attained by the Karen was the
animistic. They entered upon this stage of religious belief when
they began to assign personal attributes to the various powers
about them, conceiving of every unknown force as a more or less
distinct personality. Thus, they personified the vegetative force in
the crops as the goddess "Hpi Bi Yaw"; they conceived of the agency
that brought the dry and rainy seasons (the monsoon in reality, of
course), as two different demons, each ruling in the upper air during
a period of six months to the exclusion of the other; they
assigned a lord ("k' sa") to every mountain and river, and they
invested every utensil and object about the house and the animals
out-of-door with separate ghosts ("klas"). Some of these imaginary
beings are beneficent, such as the "Mu xa" or celestial spirits that
preside over births; but most of them are malevolent and have
to be appeased by continual offerings, sacrifices and tabus. To keep
on good terms with these innumerable spirits consumes a large
part of the time and thought of the Karen.[21-4]

The third conception in the religious traditions of the people
is embodied in the "Y'wa" legend, which tells of the placing of the
first parents in the garden by "Y'wa," the Creator; their temptation
to eat of the forbidden fruit by a serpent or dragon, etc. This story
so closely resembles that of the ancient Hebrews, as also certain
western Asiatic traditions, that one finds it difficult not to believe
that all these traditions somehow had a common origin. Were
the "Y'wa" legend marked by distinctive features, we might
regard it as one exhibiting only a general resemblance to other
traditions extant in other parts of the world, but its parallelism with
the account in Genesis precludes this view of the case.[21-5]

At any rate, the "Y'wa" legend has exercised a strong influence
upon the Karen people. To be sure, it did not supplant the
ancient animism of the tribes any more than Buddhism has
displaced spirit worship among the Burmese. Nevertheless, it was
accompanied by the prophesy of the return of the white brother
with the Lost Book, which inspired the Karen with the hope of a
better future and furnished an admirable foundation on which
Christian teachers could build in promoting the development of
the Karen nation which, during the last hundred years -- the period
not only of Christian missions but also of the British conquest and
administration of Burma -- has been truly remarkable.


The contrast between the animistic and the "Y'wa" conception
of the creation of the world is illustrated in the lines of the following
"hta" or poem:

"When first the earth was made,
Who worked and built it?
When it was first formed,
Who was the creator?"

"When first the world was created,
The edolius and the termite toiled together.[21-6]
When the earth was first formed,
These two heped each other and made it."

The "Y'wa" conception appears in the last stanza, given below:

"When first the earth was formed,
It was God ('Y'wa') who formed it.
When first the world was fashioned,
It was God who fashioned it."

In some of the omitted parts of the poem we find the thought
expressed that the edolius and the termite were co-workers with
God in creating the world. It should, perhaps, be explained that
the termite is the white ant, which builds high mounds all over the
country; while the _edolius paradiscus_ is a black bird, a little smaller
than a crow, with two long tail quills having tufts of feathers at the
ends. Why this bird should have given a part in the work of
creation does not appear.

Characterization of "Y'wa" as the Eternal One is herewith given
in two translations from an ancient poem, the first of these being
by an unknown person of an earlier time and the other by Dr.
Francis Mason.

"God is eternal, He alone [existed]
Before the world was made; His throne
Interminable ages stood,
And He, the everlasting God.
Two worlds may pass, and yet He lives.
Perfect in attributes divine,
Age after age His glories shine."[21-7]

The rendering by Dr. Mason is as follow:

"God is unchangeable, external;
He was in the beginning of the world.
God is endless and eternal;
He existed in the beginning of the world.
God is truly unchangeable and eternal;
He existed in ancient time, at the beginning of the world.
The life of God is endless;
A succession of worlds does not measure his existence.
God is perfect in every meritorious attribute,
And dies not in succession on succession of worlds."[21-8]

Besides being called eternal, God is described as "all powerful"
and as "having the knowledge of all things." He created man and
"woman from a rib of man," and he made the animals and placed
them on the earth.

The power mentioned in the old poems as opposed to "Y'wa"
and as having brought evil into the world is "Naw k' plaw." In
later poems the name given to him is "Mu kaw li," which is a term
of reproach used on account of his often being supposed to assume
the female form, in order to accomplish its deceptions on the
human race.[21-9]

He is said to have been a servant of "Y'wa" at first, but to have
been cast out of his lord's presence for offering him a gross insult.
The other servants of "Y'wa" have ever since cherished the desire
to destroy "Mu kw li," but have never accomplished their purpose.
Hence, he continues to roam about, deceiving mankind and spreading
death among them, until he shall finally be put out of the way
by "Y'wa" himself. He is the direct author of evil and of the curse
that has fallen upon the earth which, before his contemptible
conduct, had produced rice with kernels as large as pumpkins. It was
through his malicious instructions that the people learned to make
sacrifices to the "Bgha" and other demons.

The Karen legends and poems give note the story of the fall of man
in their own picturesque language, which has been translated into
English by Dr. D. C. Gilmore, who has brought together the
several versions extant in various parts of the country. For the most
part I shall paraphrases and condense Dr. Gilmore's translation; for
the original narratives, whether in prose or verse, are full of
repetitions, variations in insignificant details, and other peculiarities
incident to tales that have been handed down by word of mouth.

The Lord "Y'wa," father of the human race, spoke to the first
pair he had created: "My son and daughter both, your father will
make an orchard for you, and in that orchard there will be seven
kinds of trees bearing seven kinds of fruit. Of the seven kinds there
is one that is not good to eat. Do not partake of it. If you eat of
it, you will fall ill; you will grow old; you will die. Do not eat it.
Now, whatever else I have made, I will give it all to you. Behold it
and eat it. Once in seven days I will come and see you. Obey me
in whatever I have commanded you. Keep my words. Do not forget
me. Worship me every morning and evening."

{ Often they climb the palm without any aid whatever. But
in this case the boy has bound his feet together loosely
with a Burmese loin-cloth ("longyi") to enable him to
grip the trunk more easily.

By-and-by the Devil, in the form of a great serpent, came and
engaged them in conversation, asking them what they were doing
and what they had to eat. They replied that their father had
provided them with more than sufficient food and escorted him to the
orchard, where they pointed out the several varieties of the trees
and told him the flavor of the fruit of six of the varieties. Concerning
the taste of the seventh, they admitted their ignorance,
inasmuch as they had been warned by their father not to eat
of it. Thereupon, the Devil informed the pair that their father
did not wish them well, that the fruit of the forbidden tree was the
sweetest and richest of all, and, moreover, would transform them
into gods, enabling them to ascend to heaven, to fly, and to burrow
under the ground at will. He declared that the Lord God was
envious of them, while he, the Devil, loved them and was telling them
the whole truth as they might easily prove by partaking of the
forbidden fruit.

The man was not persuaded by the plausible words of Satan,
maintained that they would comply with the orders of their father,
and left the intruder. But his wife, "Naw I-u," listened to the
Devil's seductive voice, was half-persuaded and sought assurance
by inquiring whether she and her husband would really fly if they
ate of this wonderful fruit. The Devil again insisted that he loved
them dearly, and that he was trying to convince her of the truth.
When she ate the fruit, the Devil laughed and told her to give
some of it to her husband; otherwise, if she should die, he
alone would perish, or if she should become like a goddess, she would
be left without a companion. She did as directed and, after
considerable persuasion, her husband also partook of the fruit, to the
delight of Satan.

On the day following the eating of the forbidden fruit the
Lord "Y'wa" came to see the disobedient pair and laid his curse
upon them, declaring that they would grow old, sicken, and die;
that their offspring would pass away at all ages, and that some of
their descendants would have no more than half a family, that is,
six children. Not only was the curse of "Y'wa" visited upon them,
but also upon their first child, as was manifest by its falling sick.
As "Y'wa" had forsaken them they appealed to the Devil, who replied
that they must obey him to the end and promised to instruct
them in the customs of his father and mother. Accordingly, he
caught and killed a pig and examined its gall-bladder, explaining
that if this organ were well rounded, the omen would be favorable;
but if thih and flabby, there would be little hope for the recovery
of the child. In case the child regained his health, they were
to make a demon feast. Inasmuch as the little one did get well, they
celebrated the feast according to instructions. Not long after
another child was taken sick and, although they consulted the
prescribed omen, there was no improvement in its condition. They,
therefore, appealed again to the serpent, who told the father to
catch a fowl which was to be used in calling back the spirit of the
sick one. "Mu kaw li" placed the fowl, together with a bundle of
chaff, a bundle of rice, and a bundle of potsherds, in a net, which he
carried into the jungle, followed by the parents. There he plucked
the feathers from the fowl and laid them, together with the three
bundles, in the middle of the path. He then prayed: "Spirit,
Spirit. The spirit has gone to hades. The spirit has gone to hell.
Release the spirit." Next he cooked the fowl and tried its bones, to
see whether they were soft or not. But he would not commit
himself as to the favorableness or unfavorableness of the omen, telling
the parents that they must watch and wait, and that meantime he
would treat the case in every possible way. Nevetheless, the child
died, and the Devil could give the bereaved ones no other
consolation than that when the chicken bones were found in the future to
be like those he had tested, they would know the omen to be
unfavorable. He also taught them a charm to be used when there was
sickness in the family, and, in connection with the charm, they were
to wind seven threads.[21-10] Having wrought all this mischief and
failed to furnish any certain relief from it, the Devil departed;
while the man and his wife took up the task of teaching their
off-spiring the ceremonies and charms in which he had instructed

There can be no doubt but that the above legend of the fall of
man[21-12] has been largely responsible for the readiness with which the
Karen people have accepted Christianity. It led them to believe
that they began their existence as a race under the care and protection
of "Y'wa," which their ancestors soon forfeited by their
disobedience in following the deceptive advice of "Mu kaw li." They
believed that their present practices originated from an evil source
and should be abandoned; but their veneration for their ancestors
and the customs established by them, in addition to their fear of
worse consequences should they depart from time-honored usage,
makes it exceedingly difficult for them to give up the old ways. They
acknowledge the goodness of "Y'wa" and their obligation to
worship him; but they feel so hedged about by a multitude of demons
who will bring calamities upon them and devour their souls that
they placate these, while believing that "Y'wa" will not harm them
even though they should not render homage unto him.

They illustrate their predicament by the story of a family
occupying a hut near a field during the cultivating season. While the
father and mother were absent at work, the children were terrified
at home by a tiger that sprang from the bushes and made off with
the sow. At nightfall the children told their parents what had
happened. Before going to the field next morning the father built a
high platform of bamboos on which he placed the children and the
motherless pigs, telling thechildren not to climb down during the
day lest the tiger should again appear. The beast returned as
expected and filled the air with its angry roaring, until the children
threw down one of the pigs in the hope of quieting it. From time
to time during the day its roaring was recompensed in the same
manner, the children, meantime, watching the path with straining
eyes for the return of their father and mother and listening
intently for the sound of the bow-string which should tell them that
an arrow was speeding on its way to put an end to the tiger. Thus
"Y'wa" was apparently leaving the Karen people to their fate, while
they were keeping on good terms with "Mu kaw li" by means of
offerings and ceremonies and were hoping for the return of the
white brother with the lost book.


The Karen distingish between the "tha" or soul and the
"k'la" or life principle (shade) of every human being. They think
of the soul as the seat of their moral nature, endowed with
conscience, that is, the power of apprehending right and wrong, and
with a personality that persists after death. The soul is
responsible and is judged for the acts in the flesh. The "k'la" is more
intimately associated with one's physical existence. It is the
force that keeps one alive and well. As it is being constantly
solicited by demons and more or less by the "k'las" of dead
relatives to leave the body, it needs the protection of charms, offerings,
and medicines."[21-13] As the "k'la" comes from a previous existence to
inhabit the body at the time of birth and departs into a new
existence at death, so also it leaves the body for brief periods and at
frequent intervals, as during sleep. If it remains away longer
than usual, its absence causes the sickness and even the death of
the body. As the "k'la" may be away visiting friends or on other
errands during the sleeping hours, it is not safe to waken a sleepr
suddenly. His 'k'la" may not have yet returned, in which case he
could not long survive. One Karen told me that he had dreamed of
seeing various persons in heaven and hell and naively remarked
that his "k'la" must have journeyed to those abodes during his
sleep. Another Karen, whose wife underwent a surgicial operation
at a hospital in the city, asked me whether the ether cone was not
used to extract and hold her "k'la," in order to render her
unconscious, the "k'la" being restored to her to enable her ro regain her
faculties. The "k'las" of children are supposed to be peculiarly
susceptible to being enticed away by those of the dead. Hence, it
is customary to tie children up in the house while a corpse is being
carried out. I have experienced considerable difficulty in inducing
the inhabitants of outlying villages to let me take their pictures,
for fear their "k'las" would be carried off along with the photograph.[21-14]
In the early days when white men were still a strange
sight to the people, they would beat their breasts and call their
"k'las" to come back, evidently fearing that the latter would follow
in curiosity after the strangers. A friend of mine had a similar
experience among the Karen of Siam only a few years ago.

The people think that a wandering "k'la" may remain invisible
or assume the form of the person himself. Stories are told of
these wandering ghosts. A man who had been absent from his
village met the apparition of his wife on his way home. It informed
him that it was going to see its mother, but it consented
to spend the night with him in the jungle. As they had no
food, the ghost, which was supposed by the man to be his wife in
person, went back to their house and took what food it wanted from
the cooking pots, without revealing itself at all. Next morning the
man and his ghostly wife took their separate paths, the former
being greatly shocked on arriving in the village to find the burial rites
of his wife in progress. Realizing that it was his wife's "k'la"
which he had met in the jungle, he wished that he had called it
back. Another story relates that a husband was so incensed at
seeing his wife (the apparition being really her "k'la") wandering
abroad that he struck her in the face. This act had the desired
effect, for the "k' la" hastened back to its deserted body and thereby
put an abrupt end to the funeral ceremonies, which were already
complications than those already mentioned. The elders are authortiy
for the statement that even though a couple are living together
as man and wife, their "k'las" may form unions with those of
other persons, especially during the hours of sleep. Even the
efforts of a necromancer to summon the wandering "k'la" of a
sick person may result in attracting the "k'la" of some other
person to occupy the deserted body, in whose behalf the efforts
are being put forth. The new occupant may remain only while
generous offerings are made to it, and the sick person is sure to
experience a serious relapse when it leaves.

It seemed to be believed also that the"k'las" of human beings
may take on other forms, such as those of insects. Animals have
"k'las" which can do the same thing. Sometimes when moths are
flying about a light people say: "Let the "k'las" of beasts and other
creatures fall into the flame, but let the "k'las" of men fly carefully
and save themselves."

{ The family rooms have become separte buildings, each with its own ladder.}

[ Illustration -- A KAREN VILLAGE ON the PLAINS ]
{ The Karens do not set their house in an orderly arrangement, but each man
builds where he likes within the village plot. The taller trees are cocoanut-
palms, the others are "toddy-palms." Notice the pots put up to catch the sap
from which the toddy is made. }

Inanimate objects have their "k'las" as well as the lower
creatures. Ownership in such possessions is duly observed by
killing the pigs and fowls of a woman when she dies. The remains
are thrown away or given to foreigners, who do not share the
superstitions of the Karen. The paddy-cleaning implements and
clothing of the deceased are either burned or buried with the corpse,
unless they are laid on top of her grave. In like manner the oxen
belonging to a man who has died are killed and disposed of, while
his personsal effects are burdened or put in the grave with him.
Otherwise, the owner's "k'la" might return to the village for his
property and thereby bring calamity on the inhabitants.

The idea seems to prevail among the Karen that the "k'las"
enter and leave their bodies through the fontanel on the top of the
head. In case a child falls and cries the mother will blow on this
spot, in order to keep the life principle from escaping. However,
the customary method of preventing the escape of the "k'la" is to
tie a string around the wrists, either one or both of them, after
fanning up the arms to blow the "k'la" back. Anybody may
perform this act, but the services of elders or necromancers ("wi")
are preferred.

Another conception of the "k' la," quite distinct from that set
forth above, is that it is a seven-fold spirit inhabiting the body,
whose death it is constantly striving to accomplish through one or
another of seven methods, namely, insanity, licentiousness, epilepsy,
oppression, diseases, accidents, and injury by wild beasts. Even
from the birth of a person the seven-fold "k'la" accepts the
responsibility of causing his or her death and is engaged in constant
struggle with that person's '"so" (personality or character) for the
mastery. As long as the "so" is strong, it serves as the individual's
guardian angel; and he remains immune both from the attacks
of the seven-fold "k' la" and from the magic arts of witches
and necromancers. However powerful the charm that may be
employed against him, his dominating "so" will ward it off; but if his
"so" should become weak, he will soon lose his immunity.[21-15]


The Karen do not appear to have conceived the idea of an immortal
life. They speak of "k'las" in "plu" (hades) as dying,
when the "k'las" are believed to enter an intermediate stage of
existence, becoming "sgheu." These "sgheu" are represented
as something like eggs or bladders filled with a vaporous substance.
When, later, these vapor-filled objects burst, their contents spread over
the fields; and the developing flowers of the paddy and other plants
are thereby fertilized, for the vapor contains the fructifying principle.
When the grain is eaten as food, its life-giving power is
communicated to the blood. Thence, it is imparted to the seminal fluid,
by means of which men and animals are enabled to propagate life.
The transmission of life from shades or ghosts back to life again is
expressed in Karen speech by the root "lo," which signifies to expose
or open one thing to the influcence of another. Inasmuch as the
fecundating of the paddy takes place in the rainy season, the "Law
hpo," a company of demons who regulate the rainfall, are supposed
to act as agents in bringing it about. When the kernels are forming
in the heads of the paddy, the Karen are wont to say: "Bu deu
htaw li,' which means literally, "The paddy has conceived."[21-16]


In the Karen demonism the spirits are nearly all malevolent,
and it takes a large share of the time of the people to keep on good
terms with them. In the hills and remote regions these mythical
beings still hold sway; but the average Karen on the plains of
Lower Burma retains only a vague and dubious belief in these
powers, which have lost their control over him for the most part,
now that he has come into contact with many outside influences.
The fullest account of these spirits is given in the _Karen Thesaurus_
and the writings of Drs. Francis Mason and E. B. Cross. It is from
these records, written in the early days before the Karen were
disturbed by civilizing influences that I have chiefly drawn the
materials for this chapter.[22-1]

These numerous beings may be divided into three groups or
divisions: first, those spirits that are thought to dwell apart,
to possess human attributes, and to control the destiny of men and
events; second, the spirits of mortals that for some reason have
been condemned to wander about and that have relations, usually
evil, with living men; and, third, a number of heterogeneous spirits
that never were mortal, but still can influence men at various times
and places. The members of this class are not so generally
recognized as those of the first class.

In the first group are the "Mu xa" and the "Hti k' sa kaw
k' sa," both of which are conceived of as being companies of
divinities: "Naw k' plaw" or "Mu kaw li," who corresponds to Satan;
"Hpi Bi Yaw," the Karen corn maiden; "Hku Te," the ruler of
hades, and "Teu Kweh," the rainbow.

The "Mu xa" seem to be a race of celestial beings, of whom
"Mu xa do" (literally, the great "Mu xa") is the king. They appear
to have existed prior to men, but good men may after death become
members of their company and dwell with them in the upper
regions of the air. They are not malicious, although offerings are
made to them lest their anger should be aroused by some untoward
act on the part of men. Their special task is to preside over births.
Their king occupies himself with the creation of men, but, being
interrupted continually by various demands upon his attention, he
turns out many defectives, cripples, and badly colored ones. This
poor workmanship led men in the past to revile the "Mu xa,"
who, consequently, no longer show themselves to mortals. They
have the power to unite the souls of those whom they have
predestined to marry. Those thus paired are vouchsafed prosperous
and happy lives; but if they succeed in mating with others than
those intended for them, incompatibility and adversity surely follow.
The "Mu xa" are often addressed as though they were the
parents of mankind and appear to hold places comparable to that
of Zeus or Jupiter among the gods of the ancient Greeks and
Romans. They are often spoken of in Karen lore as dwelling on Mount
"Thaw Thi," as Zeus in Greek mythology had his abode on
Mount Olympus.[22-2] In the celebration of family rites and feasts the
"Mu xa" are recognized by having words addressed to them,
although the family spirits, commonly designed as "Bgha," are
often thought of as the powers to be propitiated at this ceremony.
In some sections of the country the "parents of mankind" are
supposed to receive offerings in their extended hands, which are
thereby cleansed. They are then expected to return to their
celestial abode, the hope being that they will not descend again to
the dwelling-place of mortals, lest, by some mischance they should
become offended and bring misfortune upon men. They are
believed to be able to assume any form they wish and to render
themselves visible or invisible at will.[22-3]

One member of this group, called "Mu xa hkleu" is thought to
preside over the much-venerated banyan (_Ficus religiost_). It was
under a banyan tree that Gautama Buddha received his enlightenment.
The banyan is, however, held sacred by most of the tribes of
Indo-China, even though they are not Buddhists. No doubt the
wonderful vitality of the seeds of this tree which germinate anywhere,
especially in the crotches of other trees and in the head of the palm,
later enveloping, killing, and thriving on its host, has helped to
evoke the veneration of the peoples familiar with the banyan.
According to the Karen legends, the rhinoceros ("ta do hkaw") is the
beast on which the guardian spirit of the banyan tree is accustomed
to ride when searching for the "k' las" of human beings. Any
person who kills one of these animals arouses the enmity of the spirit.

The "Hti k' sa kaw k' sa," or "lords of the water and land," or
"lords of the earth," are the deities who rule over the lands of the
earth. They are superior to the spirits that preside over rivers and
mountains and have tempers that are easily disturbed. Ill-spoken
words, as well as improper and immoral actions, easily offend them;
and they take vengance on persons guilty of such misdemeanors
by sending tigers, snakes and various illness upon them.
They are sometimes confused with the king of hades, who also
passes judgment on the sins of mortals. One way to avoid angering
the lords of the earth is to scrape a little rice from the top of
the pot while cooking and lay it aside as an offering to them. Concerning
their relation to these divinities, the people say that if they
trangress in their language while in a distant land, the lords of
the earth will kill them before dark; but if guilty of swearing or
using indecent words in their own country, they can assuage the
anger of these spirits by making an offering of rice and water at
the foot of a tree and uttering the following prayer: "O Lords of
the earth, we are ignorant people. Whatever transgressions we
have been guilty of in using harsh or obscene words, do not, O
Lords, hold them against us. We will make offerings annually.
If we do not die, you shall eat of our food every year and of our
children's offerings, generation after generation."

Every tree, river, lake, and, indeed, almost every natural object
is supposed by the Karen to be inhabited by its "k' sa" or divinity.
These local spirits, however, are regarded by many as constituting
lower orders of the divinities of the first group. When a man
selects the location for his field, he must perform certain
ceremonies to win their good will. The simplest of these is to place
offerings of ice and water at the foot of some large tree in the
plot chosen or to go through the ceremonies described in the chapter
on Agricultural Pursuits and Other Occupations.[22-4] There are
also the annual sacrifices to these spirits that have been described
fully in the chapter on Propitiatory Sacrifices and Healing Offerings.

The nefarious work and character of "Naw k' plaw" or "Mu
kaw li" have been sufficiently revealed in the narration of the story
of his temptation of the first parents of the Karen race in the
orchard that was planted for them by the great and eternal God,

The divinity that presides over the cultivation of the paddy is
known as "Hpi Bi Yaw." The legend relating to this goddess states
that she and her spouse, in the form of pythons, slept on the paddy
pile of a certain man and thereby caused the increase of his grain
until it filled three bins, but that the ungrateful wretch killed the
male serpent, bringing a curse upon himself as the result of which
his supply gave out at the end of three months. In the attempt to
buy enough grain to furnish food for his family he was reduced to
poverty. After this "Hpi Bi Yaw" taught an orphan how to raise
abundant crops in return for offerings which he made to her. As
the other people were ignorant of what was expected of them, she
first destroyed their crops and later caused their death, thereby
instituting the custom of sacrifices in her honor.

Another legend in regard to "Hpi Bi Yaw" relates that in the
guise of a dreadful old hag she begged men, who were seeking food
in the jungle during a famine, to share with her. They refused
but an orphan, following in her path, took pity on her and was
rewarded by being instructed in all the arts of raising paddy.
Beginning with three kernels, which he took from the stomach of a
dove, he grew both the early and the ordinary varieties of rice, as
well as the glutinous rice. With a small knife given him by the
goddess he was able to clear away the jungle-growth from his field
at a stroke. Returning home with him, she directed him to boil a
pot of water, and into it she shook an ample quantity of rice for the
meal from her finger-tips. Through her favor his field surpassed all
others in productivity and was cut by one sweep of the sickle. The
grain was transferred from the field to its bin by magic, and,
although stolen by the villagers, was restored by the goddess's
dancing in the empty bin. During successive years, she befriended
the orphan and even dwelt in a hut in his field during the
cultivating season, until he became prosperous enough to marry.
The very next season, however, the orphans' wife become jealous of the
goddess, came to the field, and beat her with a bamboo pole, until the
divinity managed to escape from her assailant by changing herself
into a cricket and hiding in a crab's burrow. "Hpi Bi Yaw"
became so incensed at the outrageous treatment she had received
that she has never returned since to aid any mortal; but
offerings are made to her, and the rim of earth that encircles the
entrance to crabs' burrows is placed on top of the paddy pile and
in the bin in her honor.[22-5]

{ The Karen still love to build their houses as close together as possible. }

"Hku Te" is the lord of the region of death, the king of hades.
His origin is explained as follow: A couple dwelling in the spirit
realm once plotted to slay and devour their son-in-law. Accordingly,
they turned themselves into giant winding creepers hanging
across the road by which their intended victim was returning from
his field, carrying a basket of paddy. Instead of attempting to pass
under the vines, as he was expected to do, the son-in-law severed
them with his sickle. One of the creepers, his wife, immediately
flew upward to the sky and became a rainbow, while the other
penetrated the earth, resumed his original form as a man, and became
king of hades. There he receives the souls of mortals and rules
over the dead. As judge of those under his authority he grants
permission to the ones that have lived worthily to enter the higher
realms, but he condemns to the lowest hell those of base lives. No
offerings are made to this Karen Pluto.

"Hku Te" is to be seen as a rainbow in the west occasionally.
At such times, according to one version of the legend, he is lowering
a tube through which to drink the liquor provided at wedding
feasts. When a rainbow appears in the west early in the morning,
the king of hades is again in the sky, this time setting up a funeral
post ("t le") for his children.[22-6] From this it seems that he has had
several offspring, but his wife has never borne him any since their
son-in-law thwarted their plot against his life in the remote past.
The funeral post is intended to remind men that many persons have
died without receiving proper burial ceremonies. Such neglect
entails some sort of a calamity. Hence, the Karen are stricken with
terror when they observe the rainbow arching the western heavens
early in the morning, especially if this sign is accompanied by
thunder and earthquake. Under such circumstances they will not go
to their work for it is a tabu.[22-7] If a Karen should point at such a
rainbow, he would at once thrust his finger into his navel in order
to avoid the loss of the offending member. This act is called "ugh
de de."

The people say of the rainbow in the east that at the time
"Teu Kweh," wife of "Hku Te," became the bow of promise in the
sky she was pregnant, and, being now separated from the earth,
she is seen from time to time in the east going to draw water for
herself. The souls of women who die with child are supposed to
have no other means of obtaining drink, except from the rainbow
divinity. When the two rainbows appear in the west, the upper and
larger one is her husband, who is visiting with her.

The second group of spirits among the Karen comprises those
who has spent some time on earth as human beings, but have not
gained entrance into the realm of the dead because they were
denied funeral rites either on account of their bad character or on
account of their having died by violence. Hence they are doomed to
wander about, avenging themselves upon mortals. As they are
supposed to be particularly occupied with this mission at nightfall, the
Karen think it imprudent to be out during the early evening.

This division consists of three groups of beings. The first are
"Th' re ta hka," or ghosts of those who have died violent deaths or
have been carried off by epidemics of cholera, smallpox, etc. and
could not, therefore, be given proper funeral ceremonies. They are
believed to bring violent deaths and epidemics upon mortals,
probably in revenge for the manner of their own taking-off. The second
group is made up of those who were notoriously evil in the
earthly life and suffered capital punishment for their crimes and
of those who as chiefs were known to be tyrants. This group as a
whole is called "Ta mu xa."[22-8] Its members appear in the forms of
giants and goblins or of Burman "pongyis" (Buddhist monks) and
are usually seen by sick persons whose spirits ("k'las") they are
seeking and on which they subsist.[22-9] These demons are attended
by dogs in the form of woodpeckers. According to a legend two
men, who were detained in the forest until night, heard a wood-pecker
call, and immediately thereafter they heard some ghosts
say that the dog had barked. One of the men shouted, but they
could distinguish nothing but some remark about monkeys, followed
by the sound of a bowstring. The pair being thus discovered by
the woodpecker, which was evidently with the demons, were stricken
with a chill and died the next morning. Consequently, when a
Karen hears the scream of this bird of ill-omen, he calls out:

"Shun me; stay far off.
Go thine own way; keep thine own road."

The third group of the ghosts of mortals consists of those
who, through some accident, have been deprived of the funeral
ceremonies. This group was discovered ages ago through the
distressing experience of a certain patriarch, who came upon the body
of a Talain who had been struck by lightning. He carried off the
skull, took it home, and put it up over his fireplace. During the
night the death's-head assumed human form and wandered all over
the house, thereby striking terror into the members of the family.
Before morning it resumed its former shape. The ghosts of people
thus accidentally killed and left unburied are called "Ta t' hka" or
"Ta s' hka." They inspire the Karen with horror, a fact taken
advantage of by some miscreants who work evil on their enemies by
means of a skull kept for the purpose. However, such working of
evil falls within the realm of magic.[22-10]

The third general division of spirits comprises a heterogeneous
lot of divinities, who exercise more or less influence on the life and
prosperity of men. Some of these may have been inherited from
older tribes in the conuntry, but have become the common property
of the Karen for several generations back.

The Titan Atlas of the ancient Greeks, supporting a globe, as
his counterpart in "Hsi gu maw ya" or "Maw ya," as he is
sometimes called. He is a brother of "Y'wa" and holds the world on his
shoulders. When he grows weary, he shifts it from one side to the
other and thus causes earthquakes. Sometimes the beetles that feed
on the refuse of human beings report to him that they are starving,
because there are more people to supply them with food. This
so angers him that he shakes himself and produces a series of
earth-tremors. As these phenomena are common in Burma, the
Karen seek to quiet them by shouting out: "We are still here. We
are still here." Work is tabu during the day on which an
earthquake occurs.[22-11]

The semi-annual change of seasons can not but attract the
attention of the people living in Burma. For the Karen a company of
demons, the "Law," is responsible for the wet season and another
group, the "Hku de," for the dry season. The former, who are
sometimes named the "Law hpo" (signifying a company of them),
are believed to have cities and dwelling in the upper regions,
whence they regulate the rainfall and reveal themselves in the
thunder and lightning. The falshes of lightning are nothing less
than the flapping of their wings and the thunder is the rattle of their
flying shafts against their foes, the "Hku de."

The "Law" are also regarded as the source of the fructifying
power in all plants and trees that form their fruits in the wet
season. The grain is said to be conceiving when the kernels are
developing, and the "Law hpo" are said to be the husbands who bring
this about. Their function is to provide the plants, especially the
paddy which is heading during the latter part of the rainy season,
with the "sgheu" (the life-givng principle), that is, the vaporous
substance that comes from the land of the dead and revives
all life on the earth.[22-12] The scarcity of domestic animals among the
Karen is attributed to these demons, who are alleged to have raised
such a stifling dust by shooting their shafts against the rocks that
the creatures took refuge in the jungle and became wild before they
could be caught again.

The enemies of the "Law," the "Hku de, "are also demons of
the upper air wth a human appearance, but no abiding-place. During
the period when the "Law" are supreme, these divinities betake
themselves to the clefts and fissures of the rocks on Mount "Thaw
Thi"; but towards the end of the wet season they begin to gather
their forces together for a mortal combat with their opponents.
The flashing of spears is seen in the forked lightning, and the force
of the blows exchanged is revealed in the roar of the thunder. The
"Law hpo" are unable to hold out against the onslaught and withdraw
for six months to the fissures and rifts in the rocks from
which the "Hku de" came forth. A half-year later the "Law" will
vanquish the present victors.

The "P'yo" are demons, vusually in the form of dragons or
serpents, that blow the water up from the ocean and produce the clouds
from which the rain descends. They sometimes take on human
form, and in this guise they figure in many Karen tales. They
preside over the deep pools of streams, whose flow may otherwise be
reduced to the merest trickle. The king of the crocodiles, "Maw
law kwi," is said to be none of these demons.

Eclipses, like the clouds, are supposed to be caused by demons;
but the eclipse-producing demons were once the dogs of a certain
mythical personage who tried unsuccesfully to recover his stolen
elixir of life from the moon. These dogs are "K' paw ta thu" and
"T' hke mo bak."[22-13]

There are other mythical beings of whom the Karen have more
or less vague ideas, for example, the two daughters of "Y'wa"
who came to earth in order to improve the condition of men. A
prophet discovered their identity and urged the people to build a
temple for their worship. The Pwo Karens not only failed to
follow this advice, but also disregarded the proprieties so far as to
begin pulling out their gold and silver hair ornaments. The goddesses
became so disgusted with this rude treatment that they
hastened back to their celestial abode, nevermore to be seen by

A large group of malevolent beings, much feared by the Karen,
are the "Ta na." These are witch-like in their operations, but
possess the power to assume almost any form at will in order to harm
mortals and are superhuman. They are not to be confused with the
Burmese "nats,' although they have certain resemblances to them.[22-14]
The origin of the "ta na" is explained in two ways. According to
one of these accounts, a basket containing all manner of living
creatures was once set before the human race. The people were
commanded to partake of them all, lest, if any were left, they might be
themselves devoured by the survivors. But the "Ta na" clung so
closely to the bottom of the basket that they were overlooked and
have been able to terrify mortals ever since. The other explanation
of the origin of these beings is that they were a sort of
supernatural stomach belonging to certain persons and subsisting not on
ordinary food, but on the "k'las" or spirits of human beings. The
stomachs were capable of detaching themselves, in order to go in
search of their special kind of nutriment. They may perhaps be
compared to the old conception of the nightmare in English
folklore, except that this demon confined its activities to the sleeping
hours of the victim. The deprecations of the horrible "Ta na" are
related in many stories, of which the following may serve as an

A man was awakened one night by a figure, which he took to be
that of his nephew in the act of massaging him. Next morning the
nephew denied all knowledge of the incident and requested his
uncle to strike him, if he was again detected in so strange a
procedure. The next night there was a recurrence of the incident,
but the uncle refrained from hitting his nephew, as he
supposed the apparition to be. On the third night, however, he cut off
the head of the troublesome visitor; and after dawn a headless
corpse was found in the village, which the uncle regarded as proof
that the "na" had assumed the form of his nephew in the effort to
obtain his own shade ("k 'la").

In another instance, one of the "Ta na" gave a slave girl the
appearance of her mistress and _vice versa_. As a result of this
exchange of characters the husband sent his wife into the fields to
drive the birds from the standing grain. The wife, making friends
with the birds, easily induced them to let the paddy alone; while
she sent a dove to her mother to fetch some fragrant oil, by means
of which she was at length restored to her own form and station.

One of the measures sometimes taken by a Karen to protect his
field from the ravages of the birds, is to impale a tuft of grass on
a sharp stick in token of the kind of treatment he declares himself
to be visiting on the demon itself. The latter is thereby duly
warned to stay away from the field.

As certain "na" dwell in the water, persons who go in bathing
must take care not to offend them. Otherwise, the bathers are liable
to sudden illness.

A monster called "T' nu" appears destined to play the part of
destroying angel among the Karen after the righteous shall have
disappeared from the earth. He will then exterminate the wicked.
He is represented as going about with a huge crossbow.

There is a race of giants known as "Daw t'ka," who, like the
"Ta na," feed on the "k'las" of mortals. They are greatly feared
by the Karen, especially in Siam where the people refuse to send
their children to school in the neighboring district of Moulmein,
lest these spirit-eating giants may devour them.

In the Shwegyin district "Ta t' hkaw hkaw" (the one-legged
one) is a demon with the form of a female with but one leg
on which she hops along the jungle paths, occasionally falling over.
If one answers call for help and assists her to arise, her
ill-temper causes her to give no other acknowledgment of the service
than a slap in the face of him who renders it. The Brecs offer the
alleged bones of this creature for sale to the women of other tribes,
who prize them greatly as charms.

From the foregoing account it will br readily seen that the life
of the Karen has been dominated by superstitious beliefs in unseen
and malicious powers, which seem to be always in waiting to take
offense and do some harm to his crops, his family, or himself. In
the succeeding chapter his efforts to propitiate and keep on good
terms with these myriad demons are set forth.


The rites and sacrifices of the Karen people seem almost innumberable.
As we have seen elsewhere, their offerings are designed to
placate the evil powers and win the favor of the good. It is difiulct
to discover the exact meaning of the numerous ceremonies; for the
people are reticent about them, fearing that the demons may overhear
and learn their motives or other matters connected with the
rites that may anger them. Often persons who are performing
some ceremony do not pretend to know its meaning, frankly
admitting that they do not understand but are simply following the
customs of the elders. Offerings that seem nearly alike to the
foreign resident in Burma have their special significance for the
Karen, being made to different demons, or at special times, or as
preventives, cures, etc. The religion of the Karen is not one of love
and worship, but largely of fear of the occult powers by which they
believe themselves to be surrounded. Their ceremonies and
offerings are, therefore, inspired by personal and utilitarian motives,
namely, to avert danger and bring good fortune. Hence, it is not
uncommon for the ritualist to make his offering not to a single demon
but to "all you evil spirits." Since the "k'la" or life principle of
human beings is supposed to be the normal food of these spirits,
sickness is to be avoided or cured by offerings of the most savory
foods, drink, and other things that may tempt the hungry demon
from the person whose shade it is trying to devour.

For convenience we may divide the propitiatory ceremonies
into three classes. One group comprises those acts of homage,
sometimes elaborate, in which the demons are invoked with
sacrifices and rites, as in the case of the offerings to the lords of the
land and water ("Hti k' kaw k' sa"), to the "Mu xa," and to the
"Bgha" of the particuar family. The second group consists of the
rites used in placating evil demons who may be feeding upon the
"k'la" of a sick person. These take the form of offerings and
appeals to the wandering shade to return to its proper abode. The
third group is that in which the offerings are made to the shade
itself, when it has left the body of its own volition or on account of a
sudden fright, and is liable to become lost in the jungle. In such
cases the "k' la" must be lured back and induced to remain in the
body it normally animates.

The "Hti k' sa kaw k' sa" are the powers that rule the earth
and that most abhor the sins of lust.[23-1] It is to these powers that the
Sgaw and Bwe tribes make a periodic sacrifice ("Ta lu hpa do" or the
great sacrifice), ordinarily once in three years, but when the crops
fail because of their sins, as they think, as often as once a year.
The sacrifice serves the double purpose of honoring the lords of
the land and water and purging the people of their carnal sins.
When, therefore, the tribes enjoy a prolonged period of prosperity,
they consider themselves morally acceptable to the powers and delay
their sacrifice for four or even five years.[23-2]


Among the Sgaw the great sacrifice is ordered by the most
influential chief of the country, his directions being given to those
chiefs who are willing to acknowledge his superiority and by them
in turn to their villages. The time being appointed, a suitable spot
near a good stream is chosen to which every family is expected to
bring a boar and a white fowl, while the chiefs each bring a bullock
or a goat. An altar of bamboo with seven posts on each side is
erected, the roof of which consists of seven tiers each smaller than
the one below, like that of a Buddhist palace. Posts are set round
to which the sacrificial creatures are tied. On the day named for
the ceremonies a jar of liquor is placed at the foot of each post, and
a young man is appointed by each chief to kill his animal after
a prayer has been uttered by the great chief. During the prayer the
young men stand holding their "xeh" (sickles) over their victims,
while the chiefs place their hands on the animals. The prayer is as

"O Lords of the land and water. O Lords of mercy. Lest the country
should be stricken and the grain destroyed; lest the people should be distressed
and a pestilence come upon them, we put our sins on these buffaloes, oxen, and
goats.[23-3] From this day henceforth may it please you to disregard our sins. Let
illness not come upon our people. O ye Great Spirits that rule the heaven and
the earth, receive our offerings and have mercy upon us. From now on may our
land be fruitful, may the work of our children prosper, may they keep well.
Forget our evil deeds, which bring distress. May these things come to pass
because of the offerings that we are now making."

The young men hamstring the animals and cut their throats as
soon as the chiefs remove their hands. The blood is poured around
the place of sacrifice. The gall-bladders are examined to see if they
are full and well-rounded. If so, the sacrifice is thought to be
acceptable. Otherwise, it is evident that the sins of the people are
not yet absolved and will not be, until they provide satisfactory animals.
Assuming, however, that the first offering proves to be
acceptable, the hair is burned off of the animals. Their heads and
feet are cut off and laid upon the altar, and seven bamboo water-joints
are fastened to its posts. When the flesh is cooked the great
chief goes to the altar, takes some rice and meat on a silver tray,
fills all of the bamboo joints and puts some of the food down at
various places on the altar. He then eats a morsel himself, after
which each of the others eat in turn.

While this ceremony is in progress, every one must confess his
sins. If there is any doubt about a person, he must remove it either
by the water ordeal or by that of climbing a tree. The water ordeal
consists of two parts. First, the person doubted and the one
doubting him take each a plantain stem and toss it into the swift
current of the river. The chief notes which stem is thrown up
higher by the water. Second, this part is far more serious: it
consists in pushing the two men under the water and holding them
there by means of forked sticks across their necks. The first one
struggling up for air is accounted the loser. If he is the same one
whose plantain was tossed lower than that of his opponent, he is
regarded as surely guilty.

In the ordeal of tree climbing the contending men are sent in
turn up a tree that has been cut around the foot until almost ready
to fall. The climber must ascend to the top and throw down a
garment so deftly as not to touch any one of a number of spears set
up around its base. During the test the tree must not sway or creak,
much less fall. The one who performs this feat with the least
disturbance to the tree is the winner.


The Sgaw offer their great sacrifice in January.[23-4] The Bwe,
however, make their offering in July when the paddy is well started.
They sacrifice one hog in a central spot of the village lands, first
erecting a booth under a eugenia tree, which they consider sacred.
Four elders act as priests, their functions being herediatary.[23-5] Each
man cuts three bamboos, one to represent a post of his paddy-bin
and the other two to show the height he wants the grain to be in
his bin. Then he makes a miniature bin, a long pen, a trap and a
snare. When the people assemble, only the most prosperous elders
sit with the priests in the booth. No woman are allowed to be

The leader takes a sprig from a eugenia tree and raises it
in his clasped hand to heaven and prays, the others doing likewise.
The leader then spears the hog; and, when the blood flows, all
seize their bamboos and cry out: "May my paddy be as high as these
bamboos." Some declare that they have caught many rats in their
traps and others that they have snared many wild fowls, in proof
of their purpose to protect the growing grain. Others dance and
shout, while some beat gongs or blow bamboo pipes.

The hog is then carried to the village to be cooked. Each man
also provides a fowl. When all the food has been prepared, it is
brought back to the booth; and, after a prayer much like that
quoted above, they set out the food but eat none of it. On their
way back to the village they dance and sing and spend the night
in revelry. Next morning they return to the booth, and the priests
begin to eat of the food left there, all being allowed to partake;
but any one who considers himself unholy must not eat, for the
flood is sacred. Not only person guilty of immoral conduct, but
also men whose wives are pregnant are under tabu.

After the feast, when they have again danced their way back ot
the village, the chiefs draw two joints of water for each family
and carry them into the village. The families are then called out
on their verandas and each family group, including the women and
children, is sprinkled with water from one of the joints brought for
it. The other is carried to the field next morning by the head of
the family, and its contents are sprinkled on the grain. This rite
is supposed to cleanse the families form evil and to produce good
crops. The four priests officiate under special names, of which
three signify, respectively, lord of the village, messenger, and
keeper of the village. I do not know the meaning of the fourth title.
During the ceremony they wear embroidered tunis, longer than
ordinary garments. From the people they receive gifts of beads
and ear ornaments. In some villages a bullock is substituted for
the hog, and in one of the Mopgha villages near Toungoo the
inhabitants require a coal-black bullock, being willing to pay a large
price in order to obtain one.

[ Illustration -- Karen Girls Pounding Paddy In A Mortar Out-Of-Doors ]


Besides the great sacrifice offered by the Sgaw to the lords
of the land, they also make a small sacrifice ("Ta lu hpo") to the
same powers. A few men-- the exact number being determined by
divination -- build a little booth in the jungle and clear three paths
leading from it. They sacrifice a white fowl, letting some of its
blood into a bamboo joint containing liqour. Some of the blood is
smeared on the outside of the joint and on the posts of the booth,
and feathers from the fowl are stuck to it. A kind of broom is
made by splitting a bamboo, with which they beat the booth, while
praying: "O Lords of the land and water. Let the sick member of
my family change places with this fowl. Forgive his sins and
free him from disease." Sometimes they address their prayer to
the water-witch: "We are offering thee the blood of this fowl. Eat
this and go thy way. Do not come near us." After cooking and
eating the fowl, they color a little cotton thread yellow and wind it
about their water-joint. Having returned home, they draw water
and sprinkle some of it on the sick person. A piece of the colored
thread is then tied around his waist so that the demon may identify
him as the one for whom the offering was made. They must not
permit any one to accompany them on their sacrificial journey or
to converse with them.


The small sacrifice described above is one of the offerings for
the sick, but because it is made to the lords of the land rather
than to the evil spirits who entice away and feed upon the "k'las"
of human beings, I have grouped it with the offerings to those
deities. Certain demons are malicious and require placating and
diverting to keep them from indulging in this practice, which results
in the illness and perhaps the death of the persons involved.
Divination may indicate that some particular demon, for example, one
of the water-witches ("Na hti") or one of the ghosts of tyrants that
dwell in the jungles ("T're t' hka"), is engaged in this nefarious
work. AIso, the rites peculiar to that demon must be executed in a
effort to induce it to leave the village and follow the person
carrying the offerings to some lonely spot in the jungle, there to remain
and partake of the aroma of the feast, much as one would entice
a pig from rooting in the garden to follow an ear of corn back
to its pen. Having gone through this performance, the carrier
stealthily returns, trying on the way to deceive the demon into
believing that he has taken some other trail by blocking the one he
has actually followed, and fondly thinking that he has removed the
cause of the sickness of the member of his household.

I am led to believe that many offerings are made in remote
districts that belong in this group, although I have obtained no
accurate account of them. The recital in the succeeding paragraph
will suffice, however, to convey a general idea of the nature of these
rites, in all of which, when the ceremony is concluded, the wrist
of the patient is tied around with a string to keep the "k'la" from
getting away again.[23-6]

The offering made when the "T're t' hka," or ghosts of evil
tyrants that inhabit the deep jungles, wander into the village and
attack the "k'la" of some one, is called "Ta taw law ta." This rite
requires the weaving of a small basket, in the bottom of which
cotton is laid, and on this four lumps of cooked rice, one colored back
with soot, another yellow with tumeric, the third red with amotta
berries (from the _Bixa orellana_), and the fourth left white. A
chick is tied to the basket, being made secure by binding both its
wings and its feet. Finally, sprigs of yellow and white cockscomb
are laid in the basket.

The basket thus fitted out is carried beyond at least two ridges
of hills to a place from which it is believed the demon will not be
able to find its way back. There the basket is set down with its
contents and the following petition is offered; "We are bringing
you red and yellow rice and yellow and white flowers, O Great 'T're
t' hka.' Go back to your own place. Keep away from us." The
performers of this rite may sweep a spot under the basket and pick
up a cold of earth near at hand. Calling the "k'la" to follow them,
they leave the chick and rice with the basket to be the food of the
ghost and return home. As they go along they break off branches,
which they place in the path to throw the demon off their track,
should he attempt to follow them.[23-7] On arriving at the house, they
call out to ask whether the patient has recovered or not, and, on
being assured that he has, they ascend the ladder and put a bit of
the clod in the hole of his ear-lobe, believing that they have taken
ample measures to promote his recovery.

In performing the ceremony called "Ta hu law pa law," a bundle
containing a handful of chaff, a piece of broken pot, and a few
chicken feathers is used to touch the sick person, while "Ta mu to
xa, Ta yu ta pleh" are addressed as follows: "O Spirits and very
bad Witches, we are cooling your anger lest you look with longing
eyes on this person. Restore and heal him. Go back to your
places, east, west, north, or south. Return to your own abodes."
The bundle is then borne out along a path indicated by the omens
and left there. The person carrying it pretends to retire into the
jungle, but really returns home.

In the rite known as "Ta taw the hka heh" the patient's friends
carry to a considerable distance a little basket containing a chick
and a prepared betel quid. A similar petition to that given above is
then uttered, and the chick is split in halves and replaced in the
basket, which is hidden in some hollow tree or rock crevice. Again
a plea is made, the basket and its contents are left behind, and a
circuitous route home is followed, the bushes along the way being
cut in order to convince the demons by the marks of the knife that
they will be cut by it, should they follow after.

The rite performed when the water-witches are supposed to
have enticed a "k'la" away is called "Ta lu hti htu hti." A fowl
of one color must be carried down to the water, where a small altar
is erected of two rows of twelve posts each, the two rows converging
like the rafters of a roof. The fowl is killed and its blood smeared
on the posts, four feathers being stuck on each of the corner posts.
The lords of the water and the lakes, the water-witches, are then
besought, in case the sick person has invaded their province in any
way or they have caused his illness, to partake of the fowl, sweet
liquor, and rice that are provided and allow the "k'la" to return
and the person to recover. The petition closes with words:
"Do not look with longing eyes on upon him, but eat your feast here."
The sick man's friends then cook and eat the fowl and return home.

It appears that sometimes the water-witches are offended by a
person who is in bathing and cause him to become ill with cramps
or indigestion. In such a case rice, saffron, and spices are placed
upon the head of the offender and then taken to a rock at the waterside.
The witches are summoned by repeatedly striking the rock
and urged to enjoy their feast there.

The ceremony, "Ta di law kweh leh," is performed with a
bundle containing a handful of chaff, bits of broken pot, a piece of
bamboo, some scrapings of gold and silver, and a fowl. After the
patient has been touched with this bundle, the demons of "Plu"
(hades), the king of hades, and the Great Elephant ("Ta do k' the,
ta do k' saw") are addressed as follows: "I am exchanging the
sick person for a big bird and a big fowl, for quantities of gold and
silver. Let his shade depart. If you hold him, go." The bundle
is then carried out along the road and laid down, and the fowl is
plucked. The latter is brought home, the bushes along the way
being beaten with a bamboo with split ends, while the "k'la" is
summoned to follow. On arriving near the house, the friends call to
those within to see if it has returned. On receiving a favorable
reply, they enter, tie up the wrist of the sick person, and cook
the fowl.[23-8]

A different form of the above ceremony is described by Thra
Than Bya.[23-9] According to his account, the friends carry only a fowl
to the place on the road and there place a dead leaf on a little mound
of earth, after which they call the "k' la" to return. Then they take
the fowl home and cook it, and, after the sick one has eaten a morsel,
the rest of the family partake.

Another form of the offering by the roadside is called "Ka law
ta." In this instance a bamboo post about four feet long is set up, the
upper end of which is split and the splints spread apart by weaving
in and out a piece of bamboo. Upon this a little mat of loosely woven
bamboo is laid, on which are placed three chicken feathers, a few
pieces of egg shell, and a roll of cotton blackened with charcoal at
three points. The feathers seem to represent a fowl and the
cotton a pig, for the one making the offering says, addressing the
demons in general: "I am giving you a pig and a fowl. Do not come
near me any more. Help me and heal me." This offering differs
from any of the others mentioned in this chaper in that it is
symbolic, and also in the fact that the patient performs the rite in his
own behalf.


Sometimes the auspices indicate that the "k' la" of an ill person
has departed by reason of fright or from some other cause then being
enticed by a malicious demon. The place to which it has gone
and the method by which it may be won back are also shown by the
omens. In such cases the appeal and offerings are made to the
"k' la" itself.

In performing the rite known as "Ta kweh k' la hpa do" (the
great ceremony of calling the "k'la"), two black fowls, namely, a
cock and a hen, must be killed by wringing their necks. Their
internal organs must be cleaned and replaced and the birds cooked
whole. They are then laid on a tray on which are three Malay
apple leaves, seven lumps of cold rice, an cup of fragrant water.[23-10]
The tray with its contents is set at the head of the stairs or ladder,
and a lighted candle is placed there. A white cotton thread is
carried from the tray to the foot of the stairs and fastened. The
fragrant water, after being blown upon by the head of the house, is
sprinkled on the family and on the stairs.[23-11] A lump of rice is then
charmed and thrown down the stairs, which are beaten with a stick,
and the "k'la" of the invalid is summoned. The call is: "Pru-u-u
k'la,[23-12] -- heh ke, heh ke. (O Shade, come back, come back.)" If for
any reason it is thought that the shade has not heeded this call, the
operation is repeated until the family feels assured that it has
returned. They then immediately break the string by means of which
it has ascended the stairs and throw it away, lest it should again
escape. With other pieces of string they tie up the wrists of the
sick person and the other members of the family, meanwhile calling
the "k'la" to remain. The patient is bathed all over with what is
left of the fragrant water and is then expected to recover.

The rite of "Ta kweh k' la," or inviting the "k'la" to return, is
performed in the house, like the one described above. The family
elder takes the stirring-stick from its hole in the fireplace post and
strikes the top of the house ladder to attract the attention of the
"k'la," which he begs to return, saying: "Pru-u-u we, pru-u k'la,
come back, whether you have gone to the west, east, north, or south;
come back, whether you are in the bush, jungle, or ends of the earth;
come back to your pleasant dwelling, to your comfortable home. I
will prepare delicious pork and fowl for you. Eat of your rice and
drink of your liquor. Do not wander off any more." Then the
animal specified in the divination is killed -- pig, fowl, goat, ox, or
buffalo- - and if a fowl, its bones are examined for the omen, which is
favorable in case the holes are even in number. In case one of the
animals has been indicated, the performers of the rite look for a
rounded gall-bladder. If the auspices are unfavorable, they must
repeat the whole operation until they find the conditions satisfactory.
The animal is then cut up, cooked, and the feast proceeds.
During these ceremonies every member of the family must be

The rite, "Ta waw k'la" (driving back the 'k'la"), has some
features not found in the one described in the preceding paragraph
and is performed in the jungle and along the paths where the ghost
has disappeared, as revealed by the divination. The man of the
house splits the end of a bamboo pole into four splints and spreads
them into a crude broom, which he takes to the place where the
"k'la" became lost. With a prayer similar to that quoted above he
calls the wandering "k'la" and beats the bushes all the way home.
Before entering, he asks the usual question about the return of the
ghost and receives the usual answer. Mounting to the house, he
beats the top of the ladder with the stirring-stick, repeating the
invitation to the "k'la" to return and then beats the posts of the
fireplace, asking repeatedly if it has come back and getting the
same reply. Finally, the animal or fowl is killed and the omen
declared. In case it is favorable, the feast proceeds.

The rite for the return of a "k'la" thought to have been
driven off by the wind is called "Ta yaw ke a k'la." A bracelet
is suspended by a string from the tip of a slender bamboo over a
cup containing a little sticky rice and a hard-boiled egg. The elder
strikes the cup with the stirring-stick and begs the "k'la" to come
back out of the winds, the storm, the firmament, from near the stars
or the moon, and eat the egg. The string supporting the bracelet is
usually poorly spun, and the suspended object twists back and forth
until finally the string parts, and the ornament drops into the cup.
A person standing near claps a cloth over the receptacle to
confine the "k'la." If an air-space is found at the end of the egg,
it is a sign that the shade has returned; if not, the experiment must
be repeated.[23-13]

The ceremony, "Ta hpi htaw ke a k'la," is in order when a
person's sickness is attributed to the detention of his "k'la" under the
water or in a swampy place. The auspices having shown the
necessity for this rite and the kind of creature to be sacrificed, the
performers of the rite thrown up a little mound at the foot of the
ladder with a sharp bamboo stick or other implement, and set upon it in
order bundles of glutinous rice and jars of bamboo joints of liquor.
The victim, say a fowl, is plucked, and, after the shade has
been attracted by making a noise, it is addressed as the great
"k'la": "If you have been drowned in the water or are anywhere
under the mud or the ground; if you have been led astray in the water
or the mire" say the leader, "I beg you to come back to your
pleasant dwelling, to your comfortable home. Come eat delicious pork
and toothsome chicken. Come and partake of sweet liquor and
white rice." The victim is struck on the head with the stirring
stick, killed, and the omens examined. If these prove to be
favorable, the fowl is cooked and the feast is held. As is usual in such
ceremonies when the shade is believed to have returned, the wrist
of the patient is tied with string to prevent its wandering again. A
piece of the string, together with a morsel of the rice and meat, is
placed on the fontanel ("hko hti") of the patient, which is
considered the seat of the "k'la."


The propitiatory sacrifices discussed in the first section of this
chapter are evidently tribal functions and are, therefore, inaugurated
by the chiefs. Formerly men called "wi," especially designated
as prophets, were consulted to interpret the auspices. On occasion
they went into trances in order to reveal secrets. Their office in
most of the Karen tribes was for life or while they maintained a
good character, and it involved a knowledge of the ancient poetry of
the folk by which the traditions and customs were handed down
from generation to generation. Among the Bwe, who seem to have
esteemed priests more than the other tribes, there were four of
these prophets who presided over the great sacrifice, the eldest
being regarded as high priest. When one of them died, the elders
assembled and chose which of his sons should inherit the office.
Then, earrings, a headband, richly ornamented clothing, and a silver-mounted
sword were secretly prepared for the ceremony of
installation. A delegation of the elders took these gifts to the house
of the chosen one, an elder going ahead to ascertain that he was
at home. The party, being assured of his presence, surrounded the
house to prevent his escape, which he must feign attempt. The
presents were then cast before him. If he really desired to escape,
he must do so before the house was surrounded.

[ Illustration -- A BWE KAREN PROPHET ]
{ Photo by Dr. Bunker }

[ Illustration -- A HUT ERECTED IN A FOREST

In case the elders did not find the chosen successor at home,
they laid in wait for him either by the path approaching the house
or within the house itself. Sometimes an elder climbed up under the
roof, hid himself until the man returned, and then dropped the
gifts at his feet. The appurtenances of the priestly office, having
been presented, could not be refused.[23-14] In some instances a "wi"
was also a chief, serving thus as a leader in the tribe and in its
magic. In any case he was a most important personage and was
held in awe by the people.[23-15] Only a few of these men who remain.

The healing offerings dealt with in the second and third
sections of this chaper fall generally within the province of the
village elders, or are often performed by the members of the family
of the sick person, for almost everybody knows more or less how to
make the offerings, though this is not so true at the present time
as it was a generation ago.



"Mu xa do" (the great "Mu xa" or king of the "Mu xa") is the
demon most intimately connected with the affairs of men. He may
serve as their guardian and protector if properly propitiated with
offerings; but he is more often feared as the author of all kinds of
evil. Some Karens, especially in Shwegyin, regard him as a household
deity to whom the family offer their sacrifies called "ta aw
Bgha" (to eat the "Bgha"). He is addressed as "Thi Hko Mu Xa,"
and is evidently regarded as the lord of demons.[24-1] In most parts of
the Sgaw Karen country, however, the "Bgha" is mentioned as being
distinct from "Mu xa do" and, in a special way, as the tutelary god
of the family by whom it is reverenced and feared. It is supposed
to subsist upon the "k'las" or shades of the members of the
family, if it is not provided generously with pork and chicken;
and even then the family's immunity may not be assured.
In their prayers and offerings the people sometimes associate the
"T'reh t' hka" with the "Bgha," the former having, as I understand
it, no connection with the family. Perhaps this is a precaution
taken in the hope of appeasing whichever spirit may be responsible
for the misfortune they are trying to alleviate.

A veneration of ancestors is manifest all through the family
ceremonies treated in this chapter. The ancestors are thought of
as taking an interest, although not always a friendly one, in the
affairs of living men. The Karen do not, however, indulge in
ancestor worship to the extent that the Chinese practice it.

The family "Bghas" are said to be eternal. As new unions take
place and households are set up generation by generation, each
family finds itself provided with a "Bgha" of its own. But what the
relation of the new crop of "Bghas" is to that of the preceding
generation, no one is able to explain.

The grandmother or the eldest female in the direct line of the
family presides as the high priestess at the "Bgha" feast of the
whole family. She is the "Bgha a' hko." This custom seems to
hark back to the matriarchal state of development among the Karen,
as also does the fact that the groom goes to live with the bride's
family. Why a woman should hold the place of honor at the "Bgha"
feast has been "explained" to me in two ways, namely, (1) that a
female was the first person to fall under the influence of "Mu kaw
li" (Satan) in the orchard, and (2) that as the woman is the more
susceptible to sickness, she probably has more to do with the
offerings and should take the leading part in making them. The Karen
maintain that the elders are responsible for these explanations and
that the ceremonial of the "Bgha" feast has come down from time

There are three kinds of "Bgha" feasts. The most familiar
kind is that observed by the members of the immediate family when
one of their number has fallen sick, in case divination shows that
his illness is due to his having offended the "Bgha". In such a case
the family must at once join in a feast. The second kind of
feast is that observed as a preventive of possible sickness and
as a means of keeping on good terms with the "Bgha." This is
known as "ta aw bwaw a' tha" (eating to strengthen one's heart).
The third kind of feast is that participated in by all the kindred,
when the most elaborate rites are celebrated. Such a feast is called
"ta aw saw ke saw na." While there is a general resemblance among
the feasts held all over the Karen country, the various tribes and
even parts of the same tribe differ in the details of their observances.

In the case of an illness found by divination to be due to the
"Bgha," the ceremonial of the feast among the Sgaw Karen of the
Tharrawaddy district and in the Pegu Hills, is as follow: After
a pot of rice has been set on the fire to boil, a fowl is caught and
killed, and its feathers are burned off in the fireplace. It is then
cut up and cooked with salt and a chili and placed on the table or
family tray. The father, mother, and children in the order of
their ages severally partake of a morsel, after which they eat their
meal together. If the parents of the father and mother are living,
the feast is held in the morning; but if they are dead, it is held in the
afternoon. On the following morning a pig is caught, brought into
the house, and its legs are tied together. It is then killed by
strangulation or by wrenching the neck, care being taken not to
break any of its bones or bruise its skin lest some of its blood should
be spilled. The body of the pig is then run through lengthwise on
a spit, its bristles are burned off, and it is then carried into the
house and laid at the head of the sleeping-mats. The father and
other members of the family touch the side of the animal with the
tips of their fingers. In Shwegyin and Siam this rite is still
observed, but in many other localities it has been discontinued. The
pig is now ready to be cut up and cooked, after which the members
of the family each taste of the meat in turn, avoid eating anything
from the hind-quarters that day and from the fore-quarters
the next, in case their grandparents are living. If, however, their
grandparents are dead, they may eat from any part of the animal.
After having thus each taken a morsel, they complete their meal.
If any is left after the feast, it is not uncommon nowadays for the
family to invite in some of their neighbors to finish the remainder.
This is contrary to the old practice among the Karen.

In the remoter regions, where the complete ceremonial is still
observed, its main features differ but little from those described
above, but the details are much more fully observed, and I will,
therefore, describe the ceremonials as it is carried out in those areas.
The rice having first been cooked, the water from it must be poured
into the fireplace and the pot set down in the wet ashes, while
the chicken is caught by the wife who brings the fowl into the
house and hands it to her husband. He holds it under his arm,
strokes its beak toward the point, and says: "Take away sickness,
Remove weariness and swellings. Give me life and health for a
hundred years." Then the wife and each child in turn stroke the
chicken's beak, while the father repeats the same prayer for each
one. He next wrings the fowl's neck, scalds the bird in a jar of
water, plucks its feathers and carefully puts them in a receptacle by
the fire, and removes the intestines and places them with the feathers.
The flesh is cut up, cooked, and served, each member of the
family taking a morsel. The father now places a small quantity of
the rice and chicken on a tray and summons "the great ancestors of
old" to partake. Meanwhile the family eat the feast, after which
the father throws away the offering. The pig is eaten on the following
day, but in Siam two days are allowed to elapse before this part
of the feast is celebrated. In preparation for this event the father
goes into the jungle after an early breakfast, taking with him one
of his children or, if he has no child, calling some other boy to
accompany him. He carries his small basket and his "xeh" or sickle.
He returns with two pieces of bamboo, each two full joints in
length, some plantain leaves, and a pole long enough to serve as
a spit for the pig. He cuts one of the bamboo pieces into two
sections in which to cook the rice and curry, and splits the other
bamboo into withes. After the rice has been cooked, the mother mixes
a little of it with chaff, puts some of it in a small pot and a lump
of it on top of the pot, besides sprinkling water on the fireplace.

[ Illustration -- SGAW KAREN GRANDMOTHER ]

Later the lump of chaff and rice is used as a bait in catching the
pig that is to become the offering. Two withes of the outside and
two of the inside of the bamboo are used in tying the feet of the
animal, and one more of each kind to bind the feet together.
Other withes are wound around the snout, one turn being passed
through the mouth, which is thus closed securely. The pig is now
carried into the house and laid on plantain leaves spread on the
floor, a winnowing-tray being placed in front of it along with the
pot of rice and chaff and a small bamboo cup ("maw"). Three
times in succession the father touches first the pig and then the pot
with the tips of his fingers, while addressing the "Bgha" as follows:
"Avert all sickness from me. Let me be well and live a long life. I
am feeding you with pork. Therefore, help me." The same petition
is uttered as the other members of the family touch the pig in their
turn. The father then strikes the animal three times with his
"xeh" and stabs it thrice with a knife, but not to a greater
depth than the width of four fingers. The killing of the pig
is completely by binding its snout in a wet cloth to smother it and by
wrenching its neck. The withes are now removed from its feet, and
the carcass is carried to another part of the room and washed.
After being laid again on the plantain leaves, an opening is made
in its belly for the purpose of examining the gall-bladder. If this
organ is plump, the omen is favorable and the feast may proceed.
Otherwise, another pig must be sacrificed on the following day, and
if necessary another, until a gall-bladder is found that meets the
required conditions.

A satisfactory offering having been obtained, the intestines are
removed and the carcass is impaled lengthwise on the sharpened
stick brought from the jungle, and the bristles are burned off at a
new fireplace built for the feast in the inner room of the house.
After the body is washed it is butchered: first the head and stabbed
shoulder being cut off in one piece, then the hind leg on the same
side, next the fore and hind legs on the other side. The carcass is
now opened down the front and down the middle of the back, the
side that was stabbed being first removed and prepared. The wife
puts the currypot on to boil, while her husband cuts up the meat,
including the heart, liver, and lungs, some of which is dropped into
one of the bamboo joints over the top of which a plantain leaf is
tied. The other bamboo joint is filled with rice and both vessels
are set over the fire and watched carefully to prevent burning.
However, the vessels must not be removed from the fire before their
contents are thoroughly cooked, else the offering would be offensive
to the "Bgha."

The rest of the pork is cooked in the currypot, which the wife
has set on the fire. The wife must clean out the intestines, which
she does outside the house. When she brings them in, the husband
brushes off any ashes that may be on the top of the little
pot and covers the mouth of it with a plantain leaf. He makes
little holes in the covering and inserts short pieces of bamboo down
into the pot obliquely, so as to hold the cover on. He then pours
water in through these holes. He now makes a sort of standard,
called "thi keh," out of a strip of bamboo. The bamboo is split
into three strips, but not entirely separated. They are bound
together at three points with withes, and then the two outer ones are
broken between the bindings but only enough to make them stand
out like arms akimbo. The lower ends of each of the side strips are
bent out and then brought back and inserted in a hole, or under
the lowest withe around the stock. This is set in the pot. What the
significance of this is, neither my informant could tell me, nor do
the reference books help one to find the meaning of it.

When the food has been cooked, the husband empties the rice on one tray and the 
pork on another; and the members of the family -- father, mother, and the 
children in succession according to their ages -- each take a morsel from both 
trays. Then the father takes a swallow from a pot containing water or liquor, 
being followed by the others in due order. He also pours out two cups of the 
liquor for the ancestors of the family and throws the rest away. He collects 
into a bundle the withes used in tying the feet of the pig and hangs it on the 
end of one of the floor joints at the rear of the house. Finally, he washes his 
hands and returns to join his family in finishing the feast.

In case the grandparents are living, they are summoned to the
"Bgha" feast and arrive on the evening preceding the event. After
breakfast next morning, the preparations are made much the same
as described above, but include the providing of three little bamboo
cups ("maw") and the construction of a tiny model of a house
("hi hpo hkeh") about a foot long, which is set in front of the pig
 and in which the favorable gall-bladder of the animal is placed,
together with its heart and the lung and kidney of the side that has
been stabbed. The organs of the other side and any blood remaining
in the abdominal cavity are placed on a tray. Only the flesh of the
stabbed side is used at once. While it is cooking, the wife pounds
some rice, moistened with a little water, until it is reduced to fine
flour. Two of the cups are filled with a mixture of this flour, chopped
pork, and a little blood, and hung over the fire to cook. The wife
washes the intestines of the animal, while her husband arranges the
"thi keh" as before and dishes out the food for the family. When
all is ready each member of the household partakes of a morsel and
sip of liquor, the grandfather and grandmother coming after the
children. This ceremonial being completed, all eat together. In
the afternoon the intestines are cooked and eaten. Next morning
the husband removes the heart, lung, and kidney from the miniature
house, cuts them up, and cooks them. These are eaten, the room is
cleaned, the little house is thrown away, the grandparents return
home, and the sick person for whom the feast has been held is
supposed to recover.

In some places the intestines of the pig and the blood-stained
plantain leaves are put in a basket and hung on a tree in the jungle
as an offering to "Thi Hko Mu Xa," the lord of the demons.

The second kind of "Bgha" feast is not preceded by divination.
It is held not to cure sickness in the family, but to prevent it. When
one of the parents begins to worry lest illness may visit the family,
the "Bgha" is feasted and venerated and the hearts of the family
are thus strengthened, as they express it. Hence, this feast is called
"Ta aw bwaw a' tha." The ceremonial does not differ from that
described above.

The third kind of feast is that in honor of the graeet "Bgha,"
in which all the kindred by blood participate. It is, therefore, called
the feast of the whole family ("ta aw saw ke saw na"). The eldest
female of the family, the grandmother if living, or if not her eldest
daughter or granddaughter, presides as cheif priestess or head of
the "Bgha" ("Bgha a' hko"). If the feast is held annually, it
occurs in April or May; but the priestess may fix a time at
her pleasure when she feels that the "Bgha" should be
honored and propitiated. Those required to attend this feast of the
kindred are the full brothers and sisters of the priestess, her sons,
daughters, and daughters' children; but her husband, brothers-in-law,
sisters-in-law, and their sons, together with her sons-in-law
and the sons of her sons, are excluded and eat their feast with their
own kindreds.

The eligible members of the family having assembled, the
grandmother holds a pair of fowls, male and female, by their heads
and says: "O Lord of the demons, we are offering to thee the flesh
of fowls and pigs. Free us from all illness." After wringing the
necks of the chickens, she orders their feathers to be burned
off preparatory to cooking them with salt and chili only. Rice is
also cooked. These viands are set out and the priestess eats a
morsel, followed by her sons and each of the other relatives in the
order of their ages. They are then ready to consume the feast of
chicken and rice. As in the case of the other "Bgha" feasts, a repast
of pork follows.

A pig is caught after dark, its feet are tied together, and it is
carried up into the house where the whole family is present. It
is laid on a plantain leaf on the floor in front of a miniature house
set at the head of the grandmother's sleeping-mat. Placing her
hand on the pig, she prays: "O Great Family Spirit and Spirit of
the jungle ("Thi Hko Mu Xa, t' re t' hka'), we are offering you the
flesh of fowls and of a swine. Do not harm us. When our children
go out, if they happen to come near you, let them pass unmolested."
Then each member of the family touches the side of the pig and
afterwards the plantain leaf. After the animal has been beaten
with the side of an axe or back of a sickle, but not hard enough
to kill it or break any of its bones, it is strangled by pouring water
down its nostrils whlie its head is wrenched to one side. The abdomen
is cut open and the body smeared with the blood. The gall-bladder
is removed, and, if it is full and round, the other internal
organs are taken out. If the gall-bladder is flabby, they must
repeat the sacrifice on succeeding days until they find a pig that affords
the favorable omen. They are then ready to transfix the carcass
with a spit, burn off the bristles at the special fireplace in the inner
room, cut the body in twain lengthwise, and hang the upper half
with the head over the miniature house. The lower half and
intestines are now cooked with salt and chilis and served. The
grandmother takes her morsel and the rest follow her example in
turn, while she again utters the prayer to the great family spirit,
after which they all eat heartily.

Next, morning they cook the head and the portion that was
hung up the day before, the shoulder of the lower side being the
last piece to be cooked. This piece is carried into the jungle in a
basket, where another prayer to the great "Bgha" is repeated. The
ceremony is conclucded by bringing back the shoulder, together with
a clod of earth, giving a bit of this meat to each member of the
family, and placing a little earth over one of the ears of each.
In some parts of the hill-country the people place a pot of liquor
in front of the tiny house and cook bamboo sprouts with the pork.
After the cooking, the heart, liver, and spleen are taken out of the
vessel and sparingly served with a little rice on three plantain
leaves. The grandmother and the other members of the kindred
supply themselves with pieces of plantain leaf and in turn help
themselves from each of the three leaves while praying: "O Lord
of the great spirits, do thou, who carest for us, prevent all sickness
and sorrow from approaching us. May we be protected from
injury by sharp sticks of bamboo and wood, by the arrows and
spears of our enemies, and from all evil that may befall us. Wilt
thou be our shield and defense." Through a small bamboo tube the
grandmother-priestess drinks a little liquor from the pot, as do her
relatives in their turn. She then point a newly sprouted plantain
leaf at the skull of the pig, which has been hung up over her mat,
and repeats the last prayer. Then all drink a little more of the
liquor and are ready to follow the example of the priestess in
partaking of the feast.

The earthen pot, in which the pork has been cooked, is intended
to remind the kindred that they are children of the earth; while the
bamboo joints, in which some of the offerings have been prepared,
serve to keep before their minds the temporary character of their
bamboo houses and utensils.

{ Only the old men retain the Karen costume. On the plains practically all
Karen men dress as do the Burmese. }


Certain customs and tabus incidental to the "Bgha" feasts
should be noted. Unless all the members of the family are present
at such a ceremony, except those excluded from the feast, the
offerings are thought to be objectionable to the "Bgha." If a
person absents himself from a feast that is being held to promote
the recovery of a sick relative, he is suspected of desiring the
continued illness or the death of the sick one. Or his absence may be
interpreted as an effort to bring calamity upon some member of
the family. Such charges are made against the member of a
family who becomes a Christian and remains away from the
ceremony. The others allege that he no longer retains his
affection for his kindred and is willing to bring illness and disaster upon
them by his absence, which angers the "Bgha."

While the feasts are in progress, no stranger is permitted to
enter the family-room. When I first traveled in the hills, I noticed
that as I passed through the corridor of that village-house some
member of a family stood in the doorway of one or another of the
family-rooms to prevent my entering. This seemed strange, in view
of the fact that I was usually received with cordial hospitality. On
inquiry I found that the guarding of the door was to keep me from
unwittingly rendering their offerings futile. The advantage of the
village guest-room then became clear to me. There I and other
strangers could be entertained, and there the men who were ineligible
to attend the feast of the family they had married into could
congregate and visit, while their relatives were participating in the
"Bgha" ceremony.

The idea of sacrifice is undoubtedly at the root of the "Bgha"
feasts. According to the explanation of an old Karen woman, when
one has offended the family spirit or, as the people say, has "hit the
'Bgha'" ("pgha ba Bgha"), one has fallen on the worst possible
fate; for the demon will seek to devour the life principle ("k 'la")
of the unfortuante one, unless propitiated by offerings of
chicken and pork. The "Bgha" is supposed to be satisfied
with the "k' la" of these sacrifices, which constitute the best
eating within the knowledge of the Karen people. Even those who
no longer fear their "Bgha" will call in the members of their family
and makes a feast, principally on account of their own enjoyment of
it. In such cases they add the spices for a curry, instead of cooking
the meat with only salt and chili. The Karen, especially those of
Shwegyin, declare that fornication, adultery, and incest anger the
family spirits more than any other offenses. Such acts of
immorality incite the "Bgha" to curse the soil, blight the crops, and send
epidemics among the people. Once aroused, a "Bgha" will assume
the form of a tiger or snake and wait for its victims, in order
to destroy the "k'las" of the offenders and other inhabitants of their
village. In case of a poor season and bad crops the elders become
suspicious and sometimes succeed in scaring young persons into
a confession of their secret skins. Unusual offerings are required to
appease the offended demon, these being -- according to one list in
my possession -- first, a buffalo, next, an ox, and finally, a chicken and
a pig. All the family must unite in an earnest prayer that these
offerings may prove acceptable to the"Bgha" and avert any further
calamities from them. The great fear of blighted crops, and of
other evils not less feared because unknown, tends to keep the
Karen a chaste people, which they certainly are for the most part.[24-2]

The traditional explanation of the use of the the chicken bones and
the pig's gall-bladder in divination, and of pork and fowls in the
family feasts, is that the chickens and pigs ate most of the
fragments of the God-given book which the white brother delivered to
the Karen back in the mythological age, and which the latter carelessly
burned when he set fire to the brush and he had cut from his
field. What offerings more acceptable to the"Bgha" could be made
than the creatures that had absorbed the wisdom of the divine
book?[24-3] That the pig is regarded as a vicarious sacrifice is shown
by the rite in which the members of the family touch the side of the
animals, while the "Lord of the spirits" is asked to protect them from
sickness and sorrow. However, the Karen do not charge the pig
with a message to the great spirit, as do the Kenyah and Kayan
tribes of Borneo;[24-4] nor do they put their sins on the pig, as did the
ancient Hebrews on the head of the sacrificial bullock or on the
scapegoat.[24-5] In Toungoo the dog is substituted for the pig in the
family rites, the tradition there being that it ate some of the fragments
of the book of wisdom. The Rev. E. W. Blythe is authority
for the statement that the cat is also offered to the "Bgha" in Toungoo.[24-6]
The Bwe and Red Karen tribes, among whom the ox, buffalo,
and goat are the common domestic animals, use one or another of
these creatures, according to the manifestations obtained through
divination.[24-7] I am told that in Shwegyin there are some localities
where the people do not sacrifice animals of any kind, but make
offerings of flowers only.

The leaves used in the feasts must be those of the wild plantain
("ya"), which is found everywhere in the jungle throughout
Burma; for the tradition is that it was this variety of plantain which
"Htaw Meh Pa," the mythical ancestor of the Karen race, cut off in
blazing the trail for his people to follow on the way to a more
fruitful land.[24-8]

The miniature house ("hi hpo kheh") is intended as resting-
place for the "Bgha," when it comes to enjoy the feast provided for
it. This tiny structure is set in the inner room where the pig is
killed, the sacrificial fireplace built, and the feast held. This
fireplace is a sacred family altar apart from the place where the cooking
is carried on daily. The inner room affords greater privacy
to the family during the feasts. The Pwo Karen have special trays
and dishes for their feasts, which are kept sacredly for this purpose.
I remember being asked by a family, who had become Christians
and were discarding the old ways, to destory these utensils for them.
They had not yet freed themselvse of their fears sufficiently to
perform an act that seemed to them like desecration.


Families who are about to adopt Burmese customs or to accept
Christianity, generally dispose of all their pigs and fowls, with the
exception of two or three of the latter and one of the former. When
the time for a feast arrives, they make the usual preparations; but
before the pig is killed, one of the elders will put his hand on its
side and inform the "Mu xa" that the family are about to make
their last offering and beg the demons to dismiss them and allow
them to go in peace. This rite is called "Ta aw k' tew kwi Bgha"
literally, "eating to finish the 'Bgha'." The statement that this is
the final offering is repeated in every address to the spirit uttered
during the course of the feast. If the parents of the head of the
family are living, they construct a little house and put into it
offerings of rice and meat in order to satisfy the appetite of the "Bgha."
Families, who thus terminate their relations with their special
divinities, observe the tabu of not keeping pigs and fowls again for
a period of three years. Not all families who become Christians
observe this rite, for many times they make the transition by simply
forsaking the "Bgha" once for all.



In Karen lore mention is often made of the sacred mountain,
"Thaw Thi," which was early thought to be identical with the
fabulous sacred mountain of the Buddhists, "Myenmo Taung." When,
however, Dr. Mason went to Toungoo, he found that "Thaw Thi"
was the dominating peak of the range of hills separating the valley
of the Sittang from that of the Salween -- a peak evidently held in
reverence by the Burmese who call it "Nattaung," that is, the
mountain of the "nats" or demons. Of this range "Thaw Thi" is
the most impressive peak, although it is a thousand feet lower than
Mount "Pghaw Ghaw" four miles to the north, which rises to a
height of 8,607 feet above sea-level and from which a wonderful
view may be had over the surrounding hills. Of these two peaks
"Thaw Thi is thought to be the wife and the more important. Its
summit is a wide clear space which, the people believe, is swept
clean every morning by the goddess "Ta La," who has her abode

Several traditions concerning the mountain suggest that it may
have been a place of veneration of the people in its neighborhood.
One story connects Mount "Thaw Thi" with the flood
that submerged the world, except the ridge along the top "as much
as a comb."[25-2] When the flood receded, the paecock pheasant ("pgho
ghaw") alighted on the summit now bearing its name. Another
legend represents "Thaw Thi" as being considered the highest
mountain in the world, whose sides abound with all kinds of game, these
creatures being constrained to render homage to this kingly
mountain. Hence, all the beasts and the birds of the air, inclding the
tiger, bear, crocodile, wild dog, dragon, vulture, and adjutant,
ascend in procession to do reverence.

Mount "Thaw Thi" also figures in some of the ancient folk-tales
of the people. For example, one version of the story of the
patriarch "Htaw Meh Pa" locates his home there. The den of the White
Python is still pointed out on one side of the mount. It was to this
den, according to the tale of "Ku Law Lay" and "Naw Mu E," that
the fabulous serpent carried off the latter, whose husband dug holes
there in trying to rescue her. These holes are also still shown.

When, in the middle of the nineteenth century, evangelists
began to travel in the Toungoo district they discovered that the people
living in the villages near Mount "Thaw Thi" indulged in various
more or less elaborate rites on the peak. They had leaders or
prophets in each village who interpreted the signs and set the
time for the annual pilgrimage to the summit, where they sacrificed
pigs and buffaloes, made offerings of wood and water, and built
cairns of stones. A recent visitor to this spot reports that the
cairns may still be seen, as also the broken pieces of the jars and
bottles which once held the offerings; but that the paths are now
overgrown, inasmuch as the former ceremonies have been long
discontinued. Only a few old men recollect the pilgrimages to
the summit made in their boyhood days. Some of these says that
the people ascended the mountain to await there the appearance of
the god, "Y'wa," in order that they might commune with him;[25-3]
while others connect these rites with the Karen goddess, "Ta La,"
who they say dwelt there and must be propitiated at her own
shrine. That "Y'wa" was venerated on the mountain is confirmed
by the following poem, which Dr. Mason found in Tavoy, more than
three hundred miles from "Thaw Thi" itself:

"'Y'wa' will come and bring the great 'Thaw Thi'.
We must worship, both great and small,
The great 'Thaw Thi', created by 'Y'wa'.
Let us ascend and worship.
There is a great mountain in the ford.
Can you ascend and worship 'Y'wa'?
There is a great mountain in the way.
Can you go up and commune with 'Y'wa'?
You call yourselves the sons of 'Y'wa'.
How often have you ascended to worship him?
You claim to be the children of 'Y'wa'.
How many times have you gone up to worship 'Y'wa'?"

That so conspicuous a peak as Mount "Thaw Thi" should have
been regarded as the abiding-place of the great god, "Y'wa," and
become an object of veneration among the Karen is not difficult to
understand in view of the prevalence of animism among Oriental
peoples. Other great mountains in the East have been reverenced
by the inhabitants of the region round about.


Like the Jews, who two thousand years ago were constantly
expecting the Messiah and followed after those who set themselves
up as such, the Karen seem to have been ever ready to accept the
teachings of some self-constituted prophet. Dr. Judson met with
a person of this sort north of Moulmein in 1832.[25-4] The names of a
number of these religious teachers, including a few women, are
known. The founder of one of these cults, which attained a
remarkable vogue and is known as the "Maw Lay," began his labors
in the village of Pli hta, which lies about fifty miles north of
Shwegyin, where they still point out the original pagoda and the
huge stone steps leading up to it, reputed to have been built by the
founder of the sect. The teaching was eclectic, as is generally true
of other cults of this sort, embracing in this case the "Y'wa" and
other traditions of the Karen, together with some elements of
Buddhism and some of Christianity. The concluding sentence of
the myth concering the incarnation of the reputed author of this
religion relates that when he appeared among the white men
he was called Jesus Christ, and that when he appeared among the
Karen he was known as "Maw Lay." The new cult originated about
the middle of the last centry and spread rapidly into almost every
district where the Karen are found. At one time its adherents
seem to have numbered some thousands, and a few of them still
remain. They have a regular form of worship, consisting of a
liturgy, hymns, and offerings of food and water.

Later movements of a similar nature, but more influenced by
Christianity, have gained a large following chiefly among the
non-Christian Karens, to whose national feeling the leaders have
undoubtedly appealed. Conspicuous among these religious leaders
has been Ko Pisan, also later known as Ko San Ye, who came from
Papun or Shewegyin, entered the Baptist Mission, and for some
years at the beginning of the present century exercised a
considerable influence toward a real religious revival. Later he withdrew
from his Baptist connection and started an independent Christian
church, which has survived its founder and now has a membership
of between six and seven thousand persons. The future
developement of this movement will be watched with interest for, under the
direction of a few trained preachers and others, it affords an
excellent opportunity for the Karen to show what they can accomplish
in the way of religious progress by themselves.

If they can maintain their ideals, administer the affairs and
discipline of their church, and increase its membership, while
continuing friendly relations with other Christian bodies in Burma,
they will be worthy of all praise.

Contemporaneous with the founding of the independent church
by Ko San Ye, a former priest of the Church of England
started the "Hkli Bo Pa" cult in the Toungoo Hills, basing his
preaching on a misapprehension of a passage of Scripture. He has
instituted a form of worship with peculiar practices, has been
excommunicated from the Anglican body, and has since been carrying
on his labors with only indifferent success.

{ the Karen on the plains in the Prome District have become Burmanized.
These children are wearing their hair trimmed Burmese fashion. }


The division lines between religion, magic, and science, as
these matters appear to primitive peoples, are hard to trace. In
truth, the three fields so overlap and interpenetrate that it is almost
impossible to tell where one begins and the other leaves off. However,
religion for them may be defined as consisting of the socially
recognized practices and conceptions belonging to the tribe or
group and relating to the supernatural powers or forces. Through
their conceptions and practices the people try to enter into relation
with these powers for their own welfare. Magic may be defined as
the art of influencing the action of spirits and occult powers for the
purpose of serving private ends. This art may invovle resorting to
secret and sinister means for an anti-social purpose. As many, if
not most, of the magical rites are concerned with matters of health,
the realm of magic includes a portion of that of science, especially
of medical science, which makes use of the effects of roots, herbs,
and minerals on the human body, as well as of other treatments,
which form the beginning of a real scientific knowledge.

The underlying principle of Karen magic seems to be the
"pgho," that all-pervasive impersonal power which is so potent for
good or ill. By observing certain ceremonies and incantations the
individual is thought to be able to induce the "pgho" to take up its
abode in some person or object and have it accomplish the end he
has in view.

The belief in the power of magic doubtless grew out of
incidental observation and primitive experimentation with the unseen
forces surrounding all human life, in which coincidence of events
was ignorantly seized upon as establishing a necessary connection
between them. That the magical power of an alleged charm rests
on very insecure foundations is illustrated in an experience which I
had with a Karen, who brought me two magical stones about the
color and size of horse-chestnuts to be tested. The Karen had
inherited these stones, which had long been regarded in his family
as charms against injury by weapons. He wanted me to fire my
gun at them; but I had one of my native helpers fire the gun, in
order to preclude the deduction on the part of the owner of the
stones that a foreigner's handling of the gun had prevented the
working of the charm. The discharge of the weapon knocked the
stones to bits to the great surprise of the owner, who exclaimed
repeatedly that the stones were worthless after all. Such
decisive demonstrations of the uselessness of magic were, of course,
lacking in the olden time, and the failure of a charm to accomplish
what was desired could always be explained by some unfavorable
circumstances, such as the omission of some necessary rite or the
ill-humor of the spirit whose cooperation was necessary. It should
be remembered also that the absence of the accustomed charm
produces an adverse psychological effect on those depending on
them. I am told that both Karen and Burman boys who play football,
have a "medicine" to protect them from injury and to bring
victory. Without this talisman, which has its counterpart in the
mascot of some American baseball and football teams, the players
are apt to do poorly and lose the game. In like manner a Karen,
who attributes his indisposition to the evil influence of some one
who is bewitching him, is likely to become worse through the power
of suggestion; just as his fellow-villager, who has placed himself
under the protective charms and remedies of the medicine-man,
often derives benefit from his own faith in their efficiency.

In some outlying Karen districts there are still persons of both
sexes among the Karens who profess to maintain communication
with the powers of the invisible world. Of these "wi," so-called,
one group has dealings with the powers of evil, while the other
looks to "Y'wa," the eternal God, for the revelations of unseen
things. The latter group is sometimes designated leaders of
religion ("bu hko," heads of the feasts). The prophesies of the
deliverance of the Karen from the Burman yoke and of the coming
of the white brother were uttered by some of these "wi." The
members of the former group are believed to be able to see into
hell and to bring evil forces to bear on men. They go into trances
and work themselves into a state of frenzy, writhing on the ground
and frothing at the mouth until they have received a message.
Then they calm down and deliver their oracle in verse. They are
reputed to have often deceived their patrons. They are at enmity
with the prophets of the second group. Their influence is limited
to those of weak "so" or personal powers.[26-2] Not only have
strong-willed persons been able to resist their magic, but also in some
instances have put the magic-workers to death. These "wi" are not
supposed to be easily persuaded into exercising their sinister influence.
It is said that they reserve their offices for the client who has
suffered a real injury, or one whose distress is revealed by his tears,
or one against whom seven malicious attempts have been made.
Usually they are men of high-strung nervous temperament. Occasionally,
other persons think themselves possessed of magic power
("pgha pgho") and try to use it for good or ill in influencing their
own or some one else' life. However, a casual practitioner of the
art must observe proper reticence in regard to such matters, or run
the risk of falling into disrepute or of exciting the envy of some
more experienced "wi." Many persons living in Karen villages at
the present time are usually spoken of not as "wi," but as "k' thi
thra" ("medicine-teachers" or doctors). They are very backward
about referring to their art.

A class of persons supposed in the early days to be gifted with
magical powers, consisted of the orphans and other unfortunates
who were driven from the villages and compelled to live by
themselves in the jungle.[26-3] In Karen folklore many tales recount episodes
in which an orphan exercises his uncanny powers, usually in
defense of some weaker person whom he saves or helps to get the
better of his foes. One such story tells of a chief whose village
had been raided again and again. Having no orphan magician
at hand to aid him, he was beaten every time; while the victorious
villages were every one of them blessed in having such a champion.
The chief, anticipating another raid, sent his daughter away
because he had no one else to give in ransom, should he be
vanquished again. She ran through the jungle until she fell exhausted,
and next morning was found by an orphan, one of seven brothers,
near whose hut she had fallen. She related her story, to the aged
grandmother of the seven, and they were so captivated by her that
they detemined to aid her father in recovering the bronze drums
and other treasure that he had surrendered, in order to save his
village from destruction. Before the grandmother would consent to
her grandsons' enterprise, she required them to make a trial of
their strength. This they did by each catching a tusker elephant
in the jungle, grasping him by the fore and hind legs and using him
as a huge kind of battering-ram in knocking down a clump of
bamboos. Quite satisified with this demonstration of their magic
power, the grandmother allowed them to go on their mission. In
the battle that followed the seven orphans severally engaged the
champions of the seven victorious villages and won back for the
maiden's father the treasure that he had been forced to pay over in
the previous raids. The oldest of the brothers then received the
hand of the chief's daughter in marriage, having cleared himself of
the curse that had rested upon him as an orphan.

Why such extraordinary powers have been attributed to the
once despised orphan is not known. At first he was feared for the
bad luck he might bring to the other inhabitants of the village,
if allowed to remain within the stockade. That he did not perish as
an outcast in the jungle must have been regarded as a sort of
miracle by the village community, whose members had always lived
and worked together in close interdependence. They must have
looked upon him with awe and believed that he was protected
by some powerful influence, not only from the evily disposed "Bgha"
but also from the dangers of the forest. It was, therefore, natural
enough to regard him in course of time as a person who had "pgho.'
In these later days orphans appear to have been considered
less extraordinary persons, as indicated by the following couplet:

"In olden times the orphans had magic.
Orphans now must talk" [like other person.]

The "k' thi thra" or "medicine-teachers" constitute another
group that should be mentioned among magic-workers. It is true
that they possess a rude knowledge of the efficacy of roots and
herbs, but they also sometimes dispense disgusting and filthy
concoctions The Karen, like other primitive peoples, regard sickness
as due to some mysterious force or "mana" and believe that all
medicine, even that perscribed by European physicians, operates
to dispel or vanquish this force. They expect a dose to cure
immediately and discredit a medicine that must be taken repeatedly.
Hence, in general, they prefer their native "medicine-teacher" and
his nostrums to the educated physician and his medicine, the
therapeutic effect of which are beyond their understanding. Doubtless,
some Karens do distinguish between the charm and the drug, but
most of them seem to cling to the idea that the drug has more or
less of the charm connected with it.

Magic among the Karen, as among the primitive races, is
divisible into white and black magic. The former is the beneficent
kind, involving the use of certain rites, practices, and conceptions
by which one tries to protect one's self against unknown powers and
forces. White magic may be divided in turn into three varieties,
namely, defensive, productive, and prognostic magic.

As suggested by its name, defensive magic is employed to
safe-guard one from injury and to prolong one's life. Charms are used,
such as the wild boar's tusk without a nerve cavity, to prevent the
possessor from being wounded by the firing of a gun or the bolt
from a crossbow. The tusk charm is called "soh."

The boar's tusk must be the tusk of an old and fierce animal
(for the older the animal, the smaller the cavity), which was,
therefore, hard to kill. This, according to Karen belief, renders
its owner equally hard to destroy. Sometimes the tooth of an
ancestor is worn, in order to gain the reputed courage and strength of
the latter. A female wears such a charm around her neck. A man
may wear it set in a finger-ring. The latter method of wearing the
tooth would not serve in the case of a woman or girl, for unavoidably
it would be brought in contact with her skirt and that would
be disrespectful to the dead, thus destroying the value of the charm.
A lock of hair or the parings of nails from a corpse are also frequently
worn to prolong the life of the wearer.

A certain plant of magic power, called "k' thi baw tho" or
"tiger medicine" is said by the Karen to confer such immunity
upon him who uses it that he may enter a den of fierce tigers at
any time without the least fear.[26-4] It is also reported that by burying
the root of their magic plant at the bottom of a hole seven cubits
deep, pulling the root up with one's teeth, and jumping out -- according
to one of my informants -- even when men are standing around
the opening with sticks in their hands, one will be turned into a
man-eating tiger and spend the remainder of his life in the jungle
composing verses and springing down upon unwary persons.
Certainly, one who can believe that a man can leap out of so deep a hole
and dodge the blows of his fellows at the top, will experience no
difficulty in believing the rest of this story.

A second form of white magic is what is defined as productive
magic. It has to do with increasing a crop, rendering a family
prosperous, or adding children to the family circle. Certain plants of
the ginger family (_Zingiberaceae_) growing in Burma are
supposed to be endowed with the power of bringing a good crop
production. Consequently, they are set out at the entrance of the
fields. A native reported to me an example of productive magic
in connection with the finding of a spiral coil of heavy brass wire
by his great aunt. The coil was from four to six inches in diameter
and was unearthed by the aunt while digging a large yam in the
jungle. The coil was carried home, but at first brought only
misfortune. However, in the full moon of "Thadingyut" (Burmese
for October) the aunt hit upon the happy idea of offering the blood
of a red cock to the spiral coil, and in due time the family became
prosperous. A failure to make the annual offering was followed by
ill-fortune. The offering must not be made by an unchaste person
or by one who had falled out of the house during the year. The
coil, which sometimes assumed human form, must not be approached
too closely. It was believed to possess the power of foretelling the
future when it appeared in human shape.

The red and yellow varieties of the flowering plant, cockscomb
(_Amarantus_), wjhich grow abundantly in the hills, are reputed to
have a beneficial effect on the crops. The red variety has the added
virtue, according to various tales, of dazzling the eyes of pursuing
spirits, which are so attracted by it that they forget any evil intent
they may have had against persons or objects. A root taken from
a red cockscomb found growing in a field three years after
cultivation, if bound up in the turban of a husband, will prevent the wife
from conceiving, according to Karen lore. The opposite result is
attained by the women of Shwegyin by wearing the bones of the
"Ta t'hkaw hkaw" (a one-legged female demon) as a necklace.
They buy these bones from the Brecs.[26-5]

[ Illustration -- PAKU KAREN SCHOOL GIRLS ]
{ These maidens are carrying the smaller Toungoo baskets. They
are wearing the usual Paku costumes. ]

Black magic is bad magic or witchcraft. The Karen speak of
it as "ta ho ta yaw" or sometimes as "ta ho ta lo," meaning to
work evil on a person and thereby cause his death. It is difficult
to learn very much about the practices involved in the art, for those
who exercise it are prone to keep their methods secret, revealing
them, if at all, to one or two intimates only and thus preventing
their secrets from losing their potency. By blowing on a cup of
water that is later to be handed to the intended victim, the worker
of black magic imparts to it a baleful action that will cause him to
sicken and die. A quid of betel blown upon in the same way may
be thrown at the person intended to be harmed, and, if it strikes
him, will produce the fatal result desired. Some sorcerers pretend
to have the power of inducing a lingering disease, which after a
year or two will terminate the life of their victims. Other methods
resorted to are reputed to stimulate the growth of tumors, thick
membrances, or bones in the bowels of a person and thus effect his
premature death. It was reported to me that one sorcerer
demonstrated his destructive power by coaxing a squirrel to come near
and hitting it with a betel quid upon which he had blown, whereupon
the little animal fell dead. The man telling me of this
experiment had not witnessed it, but learned of it from one who had.
The practice of magic by the blowing method is attributed to a
certain man, named Saw Hteu (a famous prophet), who was gashed
severely by a wild boar in the chase. The prophet blew and spat
on the wounds, which healed immediately. It was said that the
mastery of this method could be gained only through instruction
from its author. It is a method that can be used either for good
or evil purposes. Those who apply it in doing harm are often called
fasle prophets ("wi a' bla") and are greatly feared by those
Karens who are still deep in ignorance and superstition. Dr. Wade
thinks this blowing charm is of Talaign origin, which is very likely,
for it is used by all the peoples in Burma and is probably a survival
of the old demon-worship, which still remains powerful despite
centuries of Buddhist teaching.[26-6]

A well-known method of wrecking vengeance on an enemy, but
one that would be used only by the most craven wizard, is that of
invoking the action of the skull of a corpse that had been elft
unburied. During the daytime the skull appears to be harmless
enough; but at night, if magical lore is to be credited, it takes
on the complete similitude of a wretched man, a kind of retributive
agent, ready to be sent on a mission of murder. Anothe familiar
method of doing evil to a person is to take a piece of his clothing,
a lock of his hair, or even some of the dust from his foot-prints and,
after blowing the baleful breath on whatever has been taken, to
make a little image of him, stick a feather in the bottom of it, and
hang it on a tree. When the wind swings this manikin to and fro,
the mind of the person it represents will being to give way, becoming
capricious and unsettled. The imparting of bad luck is also
accomplished by secreting a fragment of a monstrous woman's
skirt in the pillow of the hated individual. I heard of a wife who
did this out of spite to her husband, who had taken unto himself
another woman. The result of her action was all that could have
been desired, for the man finally died.

Certain stones ("ler na") and some plants of the ginger family
("paw na") are credited with having the ability to consume
food. If offered raw flesh and blood, they prefer the latter. The
owners of such specimens can cause harm to any one against whom
they have a grudge. In case one of the "ler na" is sent to a person,
to take on the appearance of the owner and produces the death of
the recipient. Such stones, according to report, are usually picked
up in swampy places, glow in the dark, and will eat into one's flesh
like an acid. It seems to be customary to send one of these
carnivorous stones to the intended victim when he is in a weakened
condition on account of sickness. He is, therefore, in a physical
state to experience such an hallucination as that referred to above.

To counteract the effectes of the "ler na," a medicine is
compounded from the gall-bladder of one who has suffered a violent
death and been stolen from the grave at night. The remains of
the gall-bladder are mixed with the charred dust scraped from the
bamboos used in piercing the corpse when it was being burned.
These ingredients are moistened with water and shaped into a ball,
from which the patient takes dose when he finds the spell of the
magic stone asserting itself. Other fragments of the medicine-ball
are pulverized and scattered in the air about the patient. This
internal and external treatment is supposed to afford both cure and
protection from the menace of the "ler na."[26-7] Another method
(called "po") of preventing witches and wizards from working their
evil spells, is by inserting twigs of the indigo plant in the split ends
of three sticks, spitting on the twigs, and offering a prayer for

Much of the magic of the Karen prophets and "medicine-teachers"
is concerned with recalling the "k'las" of sick persons. The
multitude of demons and powers by which the tribesman believes
himself to be surrounded, renders it next to impossible for him to
tell which of these spirits is assailing him when he falls ill. Hence
he calls in a diviner, unless he should undertake to consult the
chicken bones or make marks on a bamboo, in order to determine for himself
the cause of his sickness. When he has learned the cause, he
makes offerings to placate the particular spirit concerned. In case
his recovery is not as rapid as he thinks it ought to be, he calls in
some "wi" to find out what the matter is and what he must do.
The "wi" who was summoned to prescribe for a sick grandmother
some years ago, inspected the chicken bones several times and, when
he got a satisfactory divination, placed some rice, cooked chicken,
and liquor on a tray and drew it along the floor of the house to the
top of the ladder at the entrance. He then ran a string from the
tray down the ladder to the ground for the old woman's "k'la" or
shade to come upon. The "k'la" did not return because, as the
witch-doctor explained, it was held captive in a betel-box by some
one. Thereupon, he asked for seven cubits of white cloth, wound it
about himself, and lay down to sleep with a "dah" (large knife) and
an axe on either side of him. With the shades of these tools in
hand his "k'la" was to go and release the shade or spirit of the
grandmother. On awaking, the witch-doctor reported that he had
had a hard struggle and been shot at by the man who was
restraining the old woman's spirit from returning, but that he had
succeeded in releasing it. When the doctor unwrapped himself, so the
granddaughter of the patient told me, the cloth was riddled with
what appered to be shot holes. The string on the ladder was
broken, showing conclusively that the "k'la" had returned at last.
A piece of this string was now tied around the patient's wrist to
prevent her spirit from again escaping. Needless to say, the old
woman recovered her health.

A ceremony is sometimes observed among the Karen to keep
the "k'la" of a deceased person from aimlessly wandering about and
to beguile it into remaining with the corpse, until it shall depart to
the king of spirits. In this ceremony the coffined body is placed in
the center of the fooor. A slender rod of bamboo is inserted in a
hole in the coffin lid, a thread reaching from the tip of the bamboo
to the floor. This thread has small tufts of cotton and bits of
charcoal tied to it in alternate order throughout its length. Under the
loose end of the thread a small cup containing a hard-boiled egg is
placed. A silver for brass ring hangs at the end of the thread just
over the cup. In case the thread is drawn downward with some
force so that it vibrates or breaks, the "k' la" is supposed to have
returned from its wandering, otherwise not. Colonel MacMahon
relates that he watched an experience of this kind, but that when
he required everybody to go a considerable distance from the cup,
nothing happened.[26-8]

Among the Karen and Burmese the abdomen is held to be the
seat of the passions and the diseases, varying moods and bodily
conditions being attributed to the presence of wind ("k' li"), fire
("me"), or water ("paw leh"). The elders assert that fifteen
hundred cavities in the abdomen contain wind, twelve contain
fire, and one contains water. The prevalence of wind over the
other elements produces pride, ambition, avarice, evil desires, and
hilarity. When fire is in the ascendancy, one is incited to envy,
malice, hatred, and revenge. When water predominates, issuing
from its single cavity, it disseminates peace, love, kindness, patience,
quietness, and other allied virtues. The various qualities are
intermingled in one's character in proportion to the mingling of the
several elements.[26-9]

Many of the charms worn by both the Karen and the Burmese
are intended to prevent wind from gaining the ascendancy in the
abdomen. Among such charms are strings of dried berries of
certain plants, strings of coins that have been blown upon, and knotted
cords that have been put on the wearer by elders or prophets.

Something remains to be said about the"k' thi thras" or
"medicine-teachers," who compound drugs from various roots and herbs
with which they practice a sort of medical lore, in addition to their
occult rites. There is no doubt but that they understand the
medicinal action of certain plants. They will often point out 
a particular tree with the remark that its leaves are good for fever or
some other ailment. On my requst for some prescriptions a Karen
doctor gave me a hundred of them. Dr. Wade has collected over
forty pages of medical formulae of various kinds, among them many
of real value. Dr. Mason mentions the name of a small creeping
plant _(Hydrocotyle asiatica)_ which, if applied as a poultice in time,
will arrest, if it does not cure, leprosy.[26-10] How many of these Karen
prescriptions are of Burmese, Shan, or Talign origin I am unable
to say. I have been told several times that the Karen who still
remain in their primitive conditions, depend wholly on magic and
offerings to cure sickness. My observation leads me to believe that
the use of medicine increases, as the people come more and more
into contact with other races.

The Karen believe that smells have a marked effect on the
body, both for good and for ill. There is hardly anything that a
Karen or, indeed, a Burman fears so much as he does the smell of
cooking fat ("ta neu xo"). They believe that the odor somehow
enters the body, especially if there is an abrasion of the skin,
and causes all kinds of trouble, even sudden death. To avoid coming
in contact with this smell, they usuall do any frying that may be
necessary out-of-doors, and hold their hands over their noses to
keep off the dread danger. For curative purposes smelling-salts are
popular among both Karens and Burmans, when they can be bought
in bazaar. Many of the medicines contain asafoetida and other
pungent-smelling ingredients, which are thought to have an
immediate effect on the paitent. Bitter and acrid-tasting drugs are also
in great favor.

Apart from such remedies the Karen "medicine-teachers"
resort to disgusting concoctions of the scrapings from the horns
of the sambur, the hair and genitals of certain animals, tigers' and
leopards's whiskers, certain parts of human corpses, the body hair
of human beings, dung of all kinds, the scrapings from the charred
ends of bamboos used in piercing corpses on the funeral pyre,
etc. The urine of one sex is sometimes prescribed as a liniment for
persons of the opposite sex. The following is a prescription taken
from the _Karen Thesaurus,_ where it is described as "a grand febrifuge":
"Take the umbilical cord cut from a new-born child, the
undigested kernels from the dung of a dog, white and red onions,
ginge and black pepper in equal quantities; mix thoroughly and
make into pills the size of the end of the little finger; dose, one at
a time to be taken in hot water."[26-11]

The formulae for other kinds of pills are even more disgusting
than that just given. Draughts, lotions, liniments, smelling-compounds,
liquids for bathing, hot and cold applications; herbs and
other things to be hung over the patient, placed under his bed, or in
an adjoining room, are among the strange mixtures that might be
enumerated without interesting any but the curious.


Recourse is had to the bones of the fowl of prognosticating
the future throughout many parts of southeastern Asia. In these
regions the chicken is indigenous, and it may be that the custom
of examining their bones came about in a natural way, as
suggested by Sir J. G. Scott.[27-1] It would be natural for people entering
a new country for the purpose of settling in it to take note of all
indications as to its fertility, including the size and condition of the
fowls. Perhaps this gives us the clue to the origin of the Karen
practice of inspecting the holes of the thigh-bones of the fowl. The
words designating this usage are "ka hsaw ki," which literally
means to break the fowl's bones. It may be that originally they
actually broke the bones and examined their structure, strength, and
condition to determine whether the fowls were well nourished or
not, and that later the custom arose of inspecting only the holes
in the bones. Why such a change should have taken place is without
explanation, unless the people thought they had discovered a
relation between the general healthiness of the bones and the pinholes
along their sides.

The Karen people themselves connect the origin of this custom
with the legends of their early golden age, before they had lost their
book or "Mu kaw li" (Satan) had temped their ancestors to disobey
th eternal God, "Y'wa," and had then taught them divination. The
story of the Lost Book is found among other peoples in this region of
the earth and in brief is as follows: In the beginning in "Y'wa" had
seven sons, the eldest of whom was the Karen and the youngest, the
white man. The father, being about to go on a journey, invited the
Karen to accompany him; but the latter declined on the score that
he had his field to clear. The Burman also refused to go. However,
each of them gave "Y'wa" a gift, the Karen presenting him with
a bamboo trough, such as the pigs feed out of, and the Burman, with
a paddle.[27-2] The white brother was induced to accompany his father,
and, when they got to the sea, they transformed the trough into a
boat and the paddle into a mast and sail. By these means they soon
reached the celestial shore. While there "Y'wa" prepared three
books: one of silver and gold for the Karen, because he was the
oldest; one of palm-leaf for the Burman, and one of parchment
for their white brother. These were given to the white man, and
he accepted them, but kept the silver and gold book himself,
sending the parchment book to the Karen by the hands of the
Burman. The Karen was busy clearing his fields and, paying little
attention to the book, forgot to carry it home. When he burned
off his clearing, it was lying on a stump and was nearly destroyed.
The pigs and chickens ate the charred remains of it.[27-3] Thus, the
wisdom contained in the book, which the ancestors of the race sorely
needed after sickness and trouble came upon them, was nowhere
to be found except in the pigs, chickens, and charcoal, and it was
to these they turned in their distress. According to the account
contained in the "Y'wa" lengend, the serpent, "Mu kaw li," was
directly responsible for leading them to these sources of wisdom.[27-4]
SUch is the mythical story of the origin of divination among the

If one asks Karens versed in the old poems, why the people
consult these omens, they are apt to answer by quoting the
following lines:

"The book of the ages was rooted by the pigs.
At first the women neglected it.
The men also did not look at it.
If both men and women had studied it,
All the world would have been happy."

"Our book of gold that "Y'wa" gave,
Our book of silver that he gave,
The elders did not obey.
Lost, it wandered to the foreigner."


Among the forms of divination the one most in vogue is that of
examining the chicken bones. It is used on all occasions. Nothing
is undertaken by those retaining the old superstitions, whether of
little consequence or great importance to them, without divination,
usually by inspecting the fowl's bones and obtaining a favorable
omen. Detailed accounts, which I have obtained of the interpretation
of the arrangement of the holes in the thigh-bones of chickens,
show that these vary more or less. The system of readings
furnished to me by an old man of the Tharrawaddy district correspond
in general with data from other Sgaw sections. According
to this system, the left thigh-bone ("mi") represents the jungle,.
If this bone has a larger number of holes than the right thigh-bone
or has them arranged ina certain way, the omen is unfavorable.
That is, the "k'la" or life principle will be influenced by this reading
to depart from the body of the person concerned, thus causing
his sickness or death. If, however, the bones are being consulted
in regard to some undertaking, the reading above indicated would
imply that it must be postponed until a favorable omen can be had.
The right thigh-bone ("hsa") represents the house, and, when it
affords the favorable reading, all is well for the undertaking or the
person concerned. The bones are held reversed at the time of
reading, the top being called the "hkaw" (literally, the foot,), the
other end being designated the "hko" (literally, the head). The
right ("hsa") and left ("mi") are the reverse of the diviner's right
and left.


Six different arrangements of the holes were specified to me,
as follows:

(1) In this arrangement the jungle bone ("mi") has three
holes, while the house bone ("hsa") has only one. Hence, the
diviner says: "Mi a, mi neu hsa," meaning that "the jungle has more
and wins over the house. This bodes bad uck or sickness.

(2) This arrangment is the opposite of (1) and is reported
as "Hsa a, hsa neu mi." This reading is a prognostication of good

(3) In this instance the bones show both a foot and a head hole
on the right and a head but no foot hole on the left. The reading
is "Hsaw xi wa ti htaw," and the omen is good.

(4) In this instance both the right and left bones show a head
hole, the explanation is "Hsaw xi wa hkwa," and the omen is fair.

(5) The bones show foot holes on both sides, the explanation
being "Shaw xi ku hko mi." The omen is less than far.

(6) In this instance the left bone shows only one hole in the
middle, a most unfavorable omen. The reading is "Hsaw xi htaw
deh pgha k' le." Thra Than Bya says that in case the bones have
no holes at all it is a most unfavorable omen; for once in the
remote past the signs read this way when a certain king was going
to war, and the outcome of his campaign was an utter defeat.
Hence, no one will now undertake anything, when he gets this
reading of the bones.[27-5]

If the bones display any of the unfavorable omens, three more
attempts are made in the hope of obtaining a better response.
Supposing that the omen is being taken in order to ascertain the
fate of a sick person and none of the four trials is successful, his
relatives and friends will withhold the discouraging information,
lest by telling it they should hasten the patient's death. I am
unable to give translations of most of the phrases quoted above, for
they seem to be in archaic language not readily understood at the
present time. I am not sure that the six readings which I have
mentioned exhaust the list.

Captain C. E. Poynder and Lieutenant E. W. Carrick have
noted that in some of the Bwe and Padaung communities hairs or
bamboo splinters are inserted in the holes of the chicken bones.
According to Bwe practice, if these slant at the same angle the
omen is regarded as being favorable. According to the practice
among the Padaung people, if the inserted splinters slant upwards
the sign is good, but if inwards it is bad.[27-6] Before inserting the
splinters to see whether a journey may be undertaken, the diviner
holds the bones up before him and addresses them, saying:

"O, you supernatural chicken bones!
We are now planning to go and return.
If it is right for us,
Show us a favorable omen.
Do not let the reply turn out bad."

In certain localities the splinters are not inserted until the
bones have been spat upon, rubbed with charcoal, scraped all over
with a sickle, and the holes cleaned out. Sometimes the wing-bones
are used, but not so generally as the thigh-bones.

Before preparing and eating the feasts in honor of the "Bgha,"
as has been pointed out elsewhere,[27-7] the gall-bladder of a pig is
examined. If it is full and round, it is evident that the spirits will
be pleased with the offering and that good fortune, health, and
plenty will follow. This form of divination is common not only
among the Karen, but also among the tribes of Malaysia and

On occasions of little consequence, and perhaps more often nowadays
than formerly, the Sgaw resort to a form of divination in
which a number of transverse marks are made at random with a
piece of charcoal, which has been spat upon, on a stick of wood
or a piece of bamboo. When the space allotted has been filled up,
the marks are counted by twos. If it appears that an even number
of marks has been made, the affair in hand will turn out well;
if not, the same process is gone through a second time in the hope
of securing a different result. In case this attempt also fails, the
project is abandoned for the present. The use of the charcoal is
reminiscent of the charred remains of the Lost Book.

A method that is sometimes used to discover the outcome of
an illness may be described as follows. The diviner hold a fresh
egg to his mouth, spits upon it, and says: "May this egg show us
what is the cause of the illness. If due to the 'Bgha,' may the egg
have white streaks on its yolk; if due to the 'th' re ta hka,' may it
have red streaks on its yolk; if due to witchcraft, may the red
streaks be mixed with blood." After rubbing the sick person with
the egg, the elder breaks it open in the palm of his hand and carefully
examines the yolk for one of the signs he has mentioned. If
he observes any of these, he prescribes the offering to be made to
the spirit concerned. If, however, the yolk discloses no particular
marks, he repeats the operation and this time prays to "Pa'k' sa
Y'wa" (Father God) to aid him: "'Pa k sa Y'wa,' this man is sick.
We do not know the reason for it. But you are in heaven and care
for all of your children. As you have prophets, give them a word
to say." Again the egg is rubbed over the sick person, broken open,
and examined. A peculiar appearance of the contents, described
to me as consisting of two points connected by fibres going around
the yolk, is supposed to show that a "ta na" (one of the violent evil
demons) has caused the illness and that he will be hard to appease.
If the streaks are black, the patient is thought to be doomed to die.

In practicing these various forms of divination the Karen, like
other primitive peoples, feel that they are peering into the realm
of the unseen but powerful forces that dominate the universe. To
the Karen the omens obtained are real revelations, without which
they dare not venture into the future. When they fail in their
undertakings despite favorable omens, they believe that some other
power, opposed to the one invoked, has held sway. Their concern
then becomes to win the favour and assistance of this more influential
power in their next venture.


As among the Polynesians and South Sea Islanders, so also
among the Karen people, certain foods, animals, persons, places,
days, names, etc., are temporarily or permanently prohibited under
penalty of a curse falling upon those who disregard the tabu.
Among the Karen such prohibitions ("ta du ta htu") are most
commonly associated with marriage, adultery, births, widows and
orphans, portents, signs of bad luck, crops, certain domestic
animals, the "Bgha" feasts, the names of persons, high waters, and
the gathering of herbs for dyestuffs. The people's fear of offending
powerful spirits and thereby bringing calamity upon themselves, is
at the root of most, if not all, of these tabus, which serve to
illustrate the fact that primitive man does not recognize broad
principles of conduct, but depends on precepts covering specific
experiences in his life. When asked why they do not do the tabued
acts, most Karens content themselves with the reply, "Ta t' ghe ba"
(It is not good). The observance of these prohibitions, which are
usually accompanied by certain sacrifices or offerings, is a matter
of custom that has descended from former generations.

It is evident that most of the tabus are related to the domestic
life and the occupations of the people. Only in a few instances are
they concerned with interests distinctly tribal. It was formerly
the custom among the Red Karen for the mothers of
prospective chiefs of the tribe, and for the chiefs themselves, to abstain
from the use of rice and liquor.[28-1] The tabu on the eating of rice by
these persons is difficult to explain; but we know that the Red
Karen use rice less extensively than the inhabitants of the plains,
yams and other roots constituting an important part of their diet.
The suggestion has been made that the tabu on liquor drinking by
the chiefs and their mothers, was for the purpose of promoting the
clearness of mind so desirable in the leaders of the tribe; but it is
truer to say that they believe that by ascetic practices one may gain
unusual powers -- perhaps magical -- either for oneself or, in the
case of the chief, for his people. When the Red Karen chiefs observed
their tabus they prospered, but when they neglected them
they suffered adversity, it is alleged.

Marriage of a Karen with a person of another race was
formerly strictly forbidden. This exclusiveness kept the racial stock
pure and unmixed. In recent times the prohibition has not been
rigorously enforced. Hence, the barriers between the Karen on
the one hand and the Burmese and Shan on the other have been
somewhat weakened, betokening -- it must be confessed -- a moral
looseness that was unknown before. The village elders have
always maintained that marriages outside of the tribe ("taw leu
hko") were not good, although such unions have not been lately
tabued. Marriages between members of the same tribe or of the
same village, providing the parties concerned are not more closely
related than cousins, are permitted. To marry a relative closer than
a cousin would be incest, and all the tribes forbid such unions. On
the day of a wedding in a village the inhabitants are forbidden to

Adultery and fornication are under strict tabu, except in the
Red Karen tribe,[28-2] the belief among the other tribes being that these
sins are offensive to the "Bgha"[28-3] and destroy the productiveness
of the field, the "Lords of the earth" withholding their favor from
the crops when they find that such deeds have been committed. in
making their annual feast to these deities, the Bwe tribe formerly
requried those who had been guilty of uncleanness during the year
to confess their sins and did not permit them to come near the
sacrificial altars.

A number of prohibitions are connected with birth. One of
the Sgaw precepts forbids pregnant women to eat the flesh of the
curious monkey-tiger _(lctides ater)_, bitter herbs, and the long
smooth pod called alligator's tongue. Before the men adopted the
modern fashion of wearing their hair short, the husband of a
woman who was with child was not permitted to trim his locks,
for fear of shortening the life of his expected offspring. During
the first six days following a birth the custom of the Padaung denies
to the father the right of associating or even speaking with
any one, except his own family. He alone cares for the mother and
child during the period named.[28-4] The purpose of thus secluding the
father is to prevent the transmission of the danger and weakness
of child-bearing to other members of the village. MacMahon states
that the Bwe husband of a newly delivered mother complies with
the custom of cutting fresh bamboo joints, in which he draws
and heats the water for bathing the infant, over a fire kindled by
himself in the open. He then carries the water to his wife's room
up a new ladder, which he has made. After his wife has washed the
child or he himself, in case she is too weak to do so, he hangs the
bamboo joints under the house and leaves them there for six days
before they may be used again.[28-5] On the day of the birth of a child,
or even of a domestic animal, members of the village are forbidden
to work. This is the tabu of births ("ta du ta ble").

In the early times widows and orphans, as well as persons
found to be holding improper relations, became tabu and were expelled
from the village, in order to keep other inhabitants from
falling under the vengeance of the evil-working demon, whose
attention might be diverted from his first victims. The driving of
these unfortunate into the jungle to live there by themselves, may
be described as a kind of primitive quarantine.[28-6] Precaution of a
different kind was at the bottom of the requirement that a visiting
stranger should enter and leave the village-house by the same
ladder. It was also required that the visitor must descend the
ladder while facing inwards. Leaving the house by a different way
from that by which one had entered, created suspicion of hostile
intent among the inhabitants and might lead to hostilities. Like
other neighboring peoples, the Karen observe a tabu in regard to
women's garments, which must not come in contact with a man.
Garments that are put out to dry must be hung away from the
common paths in some inconspicuous place. Probably this custom
originated in the fear that the supposed weakness of women might
be communicated to the men. For the same reason, evidently, the
Brec tribe prohibits married men from taking part in making the
coffin for a woman who has died in child-birth.

Tabus connected with portents, such as eclipses of the moon,
earthquakes, the cries of apes, and certain strange sounds in the
jungle, have a religious significance for the Karen and are
accompanied by the prohibtion of work for one or more days. The
witnesses of these portents are seized with fear, drop their work, and
stand about in helplessness. This, undoubtedly, is the normal
behavior of primitive people under such circumstances. They
ascribe the portent to some angry demon, who may at any moment
impose a worse calamity upon them if they fail to observe this
warning. The tabu of labor, until their fears have subsided, is
clearly the precept that would suggest itself to people of
deep-seated superstitions. According to Karen legend, the dgos that
cause the eclipse of the moon by eating that luminary, are colder
than water; while the one that swallows the sun, is hotter than fire.
In order to prevent excessive heat or cold and the sickness and
death that would follow, the people must abstain from work on the
days when an eclipse occurs. The Karen name for the tabu of the
eclipse is "ta du ta yu mu ta yu la."[28-7]

The portent of the earthquake is produced by the mythical
giant, "Hsi Ghu," when the beetle that feeds on the refuse of
human beings, tries to decive him into believing that the human
race has disappeared from the earth. In his wrath the giant shifts
the planet from one shoulder to the other, and the people shout to
him in consternation: "We are still here. We are still here."
When, in times past, the giant caught the beetle in this trick, he
struck it in the face, and the beetle has had a flat nose ever since.
At the time of an earthquake the people refrain from their work
for a day, in order to help restore the equilibrum of the planet and
to mollify "Hsi Ghu." This practice is called the tabu of the earthquake
or "ta du haw hko hu."[28-8]

When the apes howl it is a portent that the goddess "Ta La."
who dwells on Mount "Thaw Thi,"[28-9] one of the higher peaks of the
mountain range separating the Toungoo district from Karenni, is
uttering curses, which are greatly feared. In Shwegyin the people
ascribe the falling of the leaves in the latter part of February to
her imprecations and refrain from work for three days. They believe
that if they failed to observe this "ta du hpa taw" ( the long
tabu), their crops would be ruined.

The portent of strange sounds in the jungle betokens a
combat between two celestial beings, one of whom, "Kwe De," hurls his
spear at the other. The whizz of the wapon as it speeds through
the air and its thud on striking the ground, evoke the cry, "Htaw
law," from those who hear these startling sounds. They must stay
at home that day, lest they should be in danger from these mythical

A number of tabus are associated with signs of bad luck. Many
of these signs are incidental to going on journeys. For example, if
one sneezes on rising to start on a journey, or on the way hears the
cry of a barking deer, or sees one of these animals or a snake
crossing his path, or hears of somebody's death, or sees a civet-cat
near his path, he must give up his excursion until another day.
Otherwise,he will meet with an accient, fall sick, or experience
some misfortune in his family. It was once the custom of those
who were setting out on a trading journey to repeat the following

"I am going to ------ to trade.
O Snakes, do not cross my path.
O Barking-deer and Rabbits, do not hinder me.
I am going across my land and along my path.
There are many other paths on the earth.
O white Civet-cat, do not hinder me."

If divination shows that one's illness is due to having taken the
wrong road on a recent journey, that road rests under a tabu for a
period of from four to seven days. The branch of a tree is laid
across the forbidden trail where it leaves the main path, and no one
will enter it until the tabu is lifted. This is called the tabu of the
road ("ta du kleh"). When a death occurs in a village, the death
tabu ("ta du ta thi ta pgha") is observed until the burial ceremonies
are over. Children and persons of weak constitution are kept from
witnessing the removal of a corpse from the village, inasmuch as
their "k'las" are said to be easily enticed away by that of the dead
person. On an elephant hunt it is forbidden to mention the name
of the beast, lest its spirit should hear and take alarm, thus destroying
the chance of success in the chase. Instead it is called "ta hpa
do" or "the great one." Other signs of ill luck surely bring their
tabus. If one does not return from work on hearing thei wildcat's
cry, one will die. No one should live in a house whose owner dies,
or by which a green pigeon flew while the house was building.

The observance of certain tabus are regarded as conducive to
the production of good crops or of prosperity in other forms. When
the people have made the offering, "theh a hku," they must refrain
from going into their fields for seven days. Otherwise, the demons
will follow them and spoil their crops. This tabu is known as "ta du
hku ta du theh." During the dark and the full of the moon, in February
and July, respectively, when people say that "it is hot,"
meaning that conditions are unfavorable, they avoid work for
the purpose of improving the conditions and keeping their crops
from being ruined. Failure to observe this custom brings
disappointment ("t' kle t htwa"), for one's labor will be worse than useless.
On the plains, where they prepare a dirt threshing-floor after
the Burman style, it used to be prohibited to drive a cart across it
or to walk on it with shoes on. In other sections,where the threshing
is done on a great mat, no one may step on it but the members
of the family who take part in the work. The succulent shoots of
vegetables, which are grown with the paddy, must not be cut with
a sharp knife or other instrument, inasmuch as cutting would
endanger the "k'la" or life principle of the paddy and scare away
the demons that preside over the fields. Both the vegetables and
their shoots, the latter being largely used for greens, must be
plucked with the fingers. Another tabu prevents the eating of
flesh during harvest-time. Any family who should transgress this
precept would find, it is believed, that thier supply of rice had
vanished from the storage bin.

The following examples of tabus relating to domestic animals
may be cited. If a sow or bitch has a litter composed only of
females, they must all be killed. When less than three chicks are
hatched from a nest of eggs, they must be killed. So also must the
chick whose down dries fast to the feathers of the mother hen.
A crowing hen is likewise doomed to death. These phenomena are
supposed to be signs of weakness in the creatures concerned, for
which some offended demons is responsible. Such weakness must
not be allowed to spread.

Certain tabus contribute to preserve the integrity of the
family through the female line. One of these prevents any outsider
from entering a house where the family is celebrating the "Bgha"
feasts. Indeed, a tabu debars from such gatherings the men who
have married into the family, while those who are privileged to
attend must remain in the house during the performance of the

On the plains, where the Karen villagers build separate houses
after the manner of the Burmans, persons are forbidden to drive
their carts through the village road close enough to the houses to
bump against the supporting posts. This tabu, which, in the eyes of
a Westerner, partakes of the nature of a town ordinance, is
enforced upon the offender by the imposing of a fine, namely, four
annas in money or a fowl, payable to the heads of the household
concerned. In the hills the money is put in a hole in the bamboo ladder
leading into the house or, in lieu of a money payment, the fowl is
hung under the house. Some persons, who have received the fine
in the latter form, have shown a prejudice against eating it. I have
been told that the British Government officials have upheld this
tabu, when the collection of the fine has been resisted by the offending

Perhaps there is no more widespread tabu among the Karen
people than that of personal names.[28-10] I have known some individuals
for years without knowing their names and have used the common
expedient of calling them by the name of their eldest son. A man
who served as our cook for years in the Baptist school at
Tharrawaddy I knew only as "Ba Gyaw's father"; although I did finally
discover his own personal name. For a boy to mention his father's
name is almost equivalent, according to Karen ideas, to the son's
wishing his parent's death; for the spirits, learning the latter's
identity, might destroy him. Instead of speaking of his wife, a man
will talk of the mother of his children, or of his oldest child
whose name he may think it safe to mention. Not long ago a young
man of good education, who was engaged in filling his blank application
for a marriage certificate, was confronted with the fact that he
was unable to give his mother's name. Not infrequently parents
bestow opprobrious names on their children, in order to deceive the
demons into thinking them too unworthy to be molested.

During the month of July, when the streams are in flood, the
people observe the tabu of the rising and falling of the waters ("ta
du ta htaw ta law"). They refrain from labor, make an offering
of a fowl all of one color on the path near a stream, and utter
the following prayer: "O Lord of the great water and the small
water, of the oceans and the lakes. We are offering you a large
sweet fowl and sweet rice. Flow in your own banks as usual, so
that we shall not be drowned or fall into the water to be devoured
by crocodiles and dragons. Watch over us on our journeys, eat
our offerings, and do not molest us." They then examine the fowl's
bones and the gall-bladder of pig, and, if the ones are favorable,
they swim the stream three times. In case no mishap occurs, they
believe that their offerings have been acceptable and that they will
prosper. If the omen are not propitious the first time, they try
a second time and if necessary a third,in order to obtain a
favorable response.

{ A number of Burman boys from neighboring villages attend this school
in addition to the Karen children. }

The Karen esteem the gall-bladder of a certain variety of fish
as a valuable medicine, but assert that during the early days of
August this medicinal organ becomes enlarged and "hot" (that is,
flabby). They, therefore, consider it necessary to desist from
work, in order to restore the gall-bladder to its normal condition and
efficacy. During the other months this medicine is thought to be
strong and useful in certain severe illnesses.

The time for gathering the herbs of which dyestuffs are made,
is determined by divination. If, however, some one happens to
pick them on a day found to be unfavorable, he becomes subject
to a tabu, lest colds and coughs should spread throughout the village.
To prevent this epidemic, the erring person must cut a sheaf of
tall grass and set it up in the ashes of his fireplace, and when the
other villagers come in they must spit on it. An elder then
takes up the grass, saying: "May all coughs and colds be prevented.
May we not catch them." Next, he leads the people out into a field,
where he plies their heads and the stumps in the field with the sheaf
until it is broken, meantime calling out: "Beat here. Beat there.
Beat the tails of the demons and woodpeckers. Do not bring us
illnesses, coughs, or colds." When he has finished, he leaves the
frayed grass gainst a stump, and they all return to their houses.
Finally, the elder asks in a loud voice: "Is every one well?" and they
all shout back: "All are well." This is repeated three times, after
which they all shut their doors and refrain from work during the
rest of the day.

While all of these numerous tabus have helped to nourish the
ancient superstitions of the Karen, it is well to remember that
some of them, in the absence of other social and moral sanctions,
have exercised a beneficial influence. Among the latter are
the tabus against marriage outside of the tribe, and especially
outside of the race. These tabus have been instrumental in maintaining
the integrity of the various tribes and of the people as a whole,
and in enabling the Karen to live largely aprat from the corrupting
influences of neighboring peoples. Other tabus have served to
magnify the importance of the religious rites and to enforce a
stricter morality than prevails among some primitive races. It is
obvious that these benefits have been secured at a great economic
cost, when one considers the large number of holidays which falls
to the lot of the conscientious Karen. These holidays, however,
have contributed in no small degree to sociability among the people,
for they could spend them only insisting at home in conversation
and gossip with their friends over the hospitable betel-box. The
rapid progress of the race in recent itmes has been accomplished
by the breaking down of the validity of these tabus -- a thing that is
to be commended. Nevertheless, the civilizing agencies will have
failed of performing an essential service, if they do not succeed in
speedily creating a healthy public opinion and new social and
religious sanctions in their place, in order to overcome the present
tendency towards moral slackness.

{ The younger man (on the right) is the pastor and manager of the school
shown above. The other is the son of the first convert in the
Tharrawaddy District. }


If one were planning to start a movement to transform the life
and religion of a race, one would not be expected to choose a savage
bandit --a cutthroat who had taken part in the murder of at least
thirty persons -- to promote his enterprise. But such was the
first Karen, under the providence of God, whom Dr. Adoniram Judson,
the founder of the American Baptist Mission, undertook to
teach.[29-1] Dr. Judson purchased this man, Ko Tha Byu, who was
about to be sold into slavery in payment for a debt, in the hope of
gaining access to the Karen, of whom he had hitherto had only
fleeting glimpses. Notwithstanidng the fact that the bandit was
then in middle life, seemed to be hopelessly stupid, and yielded at
times to his diabolical temper, Dr. Judson was rewarded for his
months of patient effort in trying to teach this most unpromising
pupil by seeing his mind begin to open. Ko Tha Byu became eager
to learn and gained the ability to read the Burmese Bible. His whole
life underwent a gradual transformation. When the Rev. Geogre D.
Boardman went to Tavoy for the purpose of establishing a mission
station, he took Dr. Judson's pupil with him and baptized him there
on May 16, 1828. In this obscure way was begun the movement that
has resulted in the remarkable growth of Christianity among the
Karen can, therefore, be regarded as complete, which does not
contain missions during the last hundred years. No account of the
Karen can, therefore, be regarded as complete which does not
contain some mention of the widespread influence of the Christian
religion among them, raising them from a humble position to one
of importance and transforming them to such an extent as to cause
their Burman neighbors to marvel greatly at the change.

Immediately after his baptism, Ko Tha Byu set out for the
Karen villages in the hills. He was shortly to confirm a tradition,
then current among the people, to the effect that one day their long
absent "white brother" would return to them from across the great
waters, bringing the Lost Book which they had looked for with
unabated expectation.[29-2] His message of good news was received with
wonder and surprise by the elders in the jungles.[29-3] Delegations
accompanied him to Tavoy to see the "white brother" and listen to
his teaching. Among those who came was a prophet, who a few
years before had bought from a white sailor in Tavoy a book that
he had since regarded as a fetish. On examination this book
proved to be a Book of Common Prayer; but the elders accepted the
message of their white brother, Mr. Boardman, as the fulfilment of
their own prophesies, and a number of them were soon baptized.
They wished to learn to read, and Ko Tha Byu became their teacher.
Later he traveled in the Moulmein district, and it was there in 1832
that Dr. Wade, while engaged in reducing the Karen language to
writing, first learned to his great surprise that the old poems of
the Karen contained the "Y'wa" tradition.[29-4]

In 1833 Ko Tha Byu removed to Rangoon to carry the good
news to his countrymen in the Burmese territory of Pegu. By the
end of the first rainy season the report had spread throughout the
jungles of this region, and groups of Karens came in from a wide
area, some to learn more about the mission of the white brother and
others to receive immediate baptism and admission itno the
Christian Church. The movement grew apace and attracted the
attention of the Burmese authorities, who forbade the Karen to come to
Rangoon and imprisoned those whom they caught, among these
being the influential young chief of Bassein, Ko Shwe Waing, who
was only released through the good offices of the English resident,
Mr. Edwards.[29-5]

Determined to carry back to his people a few copies of certain
religious books which had been prepared for the Karen, the young
chief succeeded in smuggling them out of Rangoon. He traveled
by unfrequented jungle trails and, on reaching home, hid the books
in a bundle of old clothes. Long after nightfall, stealthily by ones
and twos, men and women came to his house. Guards were posted
outside of the village, and the bundle was broght out and
unwrapped until, by the dim light of a wick burning in an earthen cup
filled with oil, the books were disclosed, including a Bible that
was regarded as the now recovered Lost Book. At the sight of
this unspeakable treasure some of those present bowed down and
worshiped, others wept, some touched and caressed the sacred book,
some kissed it, and some gazed long and curiously at its title. They
crowded around the volume so thickly that the chief lifted it high
above his head, in order that all might see, and all gazed at it with
bated breath. They had been permitted to witness the return of
their book, and they believed that they were no longer to be
members of a despised nation.[29-6]

The years just preceding then annexation of Pegu by the British
Empire, were hard ones for the Karen Christians. Their faith was
severely tested by persecutions. Thra Klaw Meh, pastor of a
Bassein church, and the converts of his village were imprisoned for
their acceptance of the new religion. Their friends collected a
handsome sum for their ransom, and all but the pastor were
released. He was ordered to give up preaching, but, refusing to do so,
was subjected to torture for days and finally was disemboweled and
shot. Others were much persecuted, many suffering martyrdom
both before and after the Second Burmese War.[29-7] Until Pegu was
annexed by the British Government in 1853, no missionaries were
allowed to remain permanently in Lower Burma. Hitherto the
work for Bassein had been directed by the Rev. E. A. Abbott and
his associates from Sandoway, in Arracan, and that for Rangoon
and vicinity had been supervised from Moulmein. But as soon as
the country was opened to resident missionaries, Dr. J. H. Vinton
removed to Rangoon and established the headquarters of the
mission there, near Mission Road, where his descendants are still
supervising the activities of some ten thousand Karen Christians. The
Rev. E. A. Abbott removed to Bassein and put the mission work of
that district on a permanent and self-supporting basis. He has
been succeeded by several able missionaries, including Dr. C. A.
Nichols, the present superintendent, under whose direction certain
industries have been started, including a saw-mill, a rice-mill, and a
launch-building plant. Twelve other important centers for work
among the Karen were established by the American Baptist
Mission. The founding and conduct of churches and schools have been
carried on in and from all of these centers. In 1853 Dr. Francis
Mason finished his admirable version of the Bible in Sgaw Karen.
Meantime, Dr. Jonathan Wade was engaged in preparing
dictionaries and a grammar of the Sgaw and Pwo dialects. The Bible was
also translated into Pwo Karen by the Rev. D. L. Brayton. A
Karen Theological Seminary was organized by the Rev. J. G. Binney
in 1845 at Moulmein. This institution was later removed to
Rangoon and still later to its present location in Insein, where the
Rev. D. A. W. Smith, D. D., served for many years at its president.
The Baptist college at Rangoon, now called Judson College, has
served the Karen young people, both men and women, since its
organization in 1875.

{ The one on the left is the grandson of Thra Klaw Meh, Karen martyr,
and the other of Thra Ng Lay, who narrowly escaped martyrdom. }

Careful statistics do not appear to have been kept during the
early years of the Baptist Mission, and it is, therefore, difficult to
discover how many of the Karen became Christians. In 1856 eleven
thousand, eight hundred and seventy-eight communicants were
reported, but this number includes many estimated returns. From
that time on there has been an almost steady increase in the
membership of the Baptist Mission, which numbered in 1919 fifty-five
thousand, three hundred and fifty-three communicants enrolled in
Karen churches, representing a nominal Christian community of
two hundred thousand souls.[29-8] In this same year there were
nineteen thousand, four hundred and twenty pupils in the Karen mission
schools, including both the Anglo-vernacular and the village-vernacular
schools, the converts contributing 375,426 rupees or $125,142
towards the maintenance of these. Not only do the Karen
Christians contribute to the support of their schools, but also to
that of their churches and pastors. For this purpose they expended
38,596 rupees or $12,856 in 1919. In the same year they gave to
benevolences outside of their own fields 152,203 rupees ($50,734)
for home and foreign missionary work and 184,627 rupees ($61,532),
making a total of 375,426 rupees or $125,122 for all purposes.

Apart from the generous sums of money which the Karen
Christians give, many of the men who have been trained in the
schools have manifested the spirit of self-sacrifice by going out to
the more distant tribes and some even into China, despite their small
pay, in order to carry the Gospel and its civilizing influence to the
people in those regions.

The Roman Catholic Mission began its labors among the Karen
in the forties of the last century at Myaungmya, near Twante, in
Palaw township, Mergul district, and at Bassein. About two
thousand persons were baptized. It was not, however, until the
arrival of Bishop Biganget that the work of converting the Karen
was undertaken in earnest, and it has been continued ever since.
In 1919 there were seventeen stations under the charge of resident
priests and approximately twenty-five thousand, three hundred and
fifty converts, including infants.[29-9] At many of these stations schools
are conducted, which together enroll a large number of Karen

The Church of England Society for the Propagation of the
Gospel entered the field at Toungoo in 1871, taking over some three
thousand members of the Baptist Mission. The work has been
carried on from that city, where two separate missions are maintained.
Early in 1919 the Anglican Bishop of Rangoon wrote that
"the total number of Christian people (in the Toungoo region) is
about five thousand. Of these sixteen hundred are communicants.
About six hundred are under instruction with a view to baptism.
The Karens contributed about L250 to the funds of the two missions
during the year."[29-10] About fifty boys and the same number of girls
are boarders in the Toungoo schools. The number of pupils in
village schools is not available.

While the figures given above supply a certain index to the
success of the missions among the Karen people, it must be
remembered that they do not illuminate particular features that have
become an important part of modern mission work. The most
significant of these features are the education of the children, the
training of the men to become intelligent leaders in their
communities, and the inculcation among the women of better ideals as
homekeepers, all contributing to the elevation of the people. If these
results are not measurably attained by the mission work at the
present time, it is regarded as falling short of its proper aims.
When the people have realized sufficient growth and stability in
Christian character and have gained the breadth of vision to enable
them to assume leadership in their religious affairs, it will be
time for the white teachers to allow them to undertake the
responsibility. In the past it has been too much the custom to place undue
emphasis on creed and dogma. The development of character
through Christian experience is the primary object to be attained,
and without the formation of admirable character no abiding
result can be achieved. The Baptist Mission -- I can not speak for the
others, although they may maintain similar ideals -- demands total
abstinence and the surrender of all animistic religious practices as
prerequisites for church-membership. The Baptist denomination
is convinced that these requirements have been the means of social
and economic progress, although the enforcement of them has tended
to limit the growth in numbers. No doubt, much may still be done in
the way of character-building among the members of the churches;
but when we consider the environment of the people and the fact
that they have had less than a century of Christian development,
may we not say that they have made remarkable progress.

{ There are more than a thousand village chapels in Karen villages
throughout Burma, built entirely by the villagers themselvse.}

{ One-fourth the cost of this building was contributed by the
Karen Christians of the district. }


Although the Karen tribes have probably lived in Burma and
Siam for more than a thousand years, in company with the
Burmese, Shan, Siamese, and Chin, occupying no territory that they
did not share with other people except the hills of Toungoo and
Karenni, they have remained curiously isolated. Politically
subordinate to the ruling races in the countries in which they had
settled, except in the last named localities, they were subjected
to oppression and exploitation, which they could resent only to the
extent of local raids against poorly defended villages or of occasional
assaults upon stray foes caught in the lonely jungle or in outlying
districts. The inevitable result of these conditions was mutual
hatred of the races, which was intenstified on the side of the
Burmese by their feeling of contempt for the subject race; while
the enforced clannishness of the Karens drew sustenance from
the conviction that their "golden age" lay in the past, and that
the customs and precepts which they had inherited from the matchless
elders of that age were not to be changed. There was nothing
in the religion or life of the Burmese that appealed to the Karen,
even if it had been offered to them -- certainly nothing from which
they could expect any amelioration of their condition. Progress
was almost impossible to people so situated, who could only look
vaguely into the future for the deliverer, the "white brother,"
whose coming was foretold in their traditions.

The acquisition by the British East India Company in 1827 of
the provinces of Arracan and Tenasserim, on the western and southern
coasts of Burma, respectively, made little impression on the
Karen at the time, although it was the beginning of a new era in
their history and that of Burma -- one in which the ideals of justice
and fair play were to become increasingly operative. Christian
missionaries were beginning their labors in the country at the same
time, thus making possible the spiritual emanicipation to which the
Karen had looked forward. The significance of these events lay
in a double revelation, which the missionaries first imparted.


{ This school of about five hundred pupils has both Karen and Burman pupils working
side by side, as in many schools in the country. }

That the Karen were eager for a change of administration is
shown by several circumstances. In the first expedition of the
English forces against Ava in 1826 they served as guides and were
commended for their good faith by Major Snodgrass.[30-1] In the provinces
that fell under British control they found themselves
sympathetically dealt with and soon began to take on new ways; but in
the province of Pegu, where the old regime of Ava still held sway,
they continued to suffer from oppression. They were prohibited
from visiting their teachers in Rangoon, and the Burmese viceroy
of the city threatened, even as late as 1851, to shoot instantly the
first Karen whom he should find capable of reading.[30-2] In the Second
Burmese War (1852) they are reputed to have again acted as guides
to the attacking force, which took the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, the
most formidable military work near Rangoon, by assault in the
rear.[30-3] The Burmese knew that the Karen regarded the English
as their deliverers and took vengeance on them accordingly, burning
all their villages within fifty miles of Rangoon, seizing or
destroying their stores of rice, and putting men, women, and children
to death in barbarous ways.[30-4] No wonder that a large number of
the oppressed and persecuted people migrated from the delta of the
Irrawaddy to Moulmein, or across the Arracean hills into those
provinces where they could dwell in security. Even under British
rule conditions were not what they might have been, for there were
frequent miscarriages of justice on acocunt of the employment of
Burmese officers in subordinate and local positions.[30-5]

Nevertheless, the new order of things in Burma has brought
progress in many respects. The continual raids and forays, which
previously devastated numerous Karen villages, have been stopped.
The administration of justice has been taken out of the hands of
private individuals and placed in those of accredited officials.
Marked progress in education has been made. A new literature in
the vernacular has come into circulation. Christianity has made
a strong appeal to the Karen. Finally, in the World War the people
again showed their loyaty to the British Empire by offering their
services in its defense. Such of these topics as have not been
treated elsewhere in this volume will be briefly discussed in the
following paragraphs.

The cessation of open hostilities between the Karen and the
Burmese has largely mitigated the old animosity existing between
them. Where members of the two races living in close proximity,
however, some friction is still produced. Nevertheless, the Karen's
dislike of their neighbors is not so great as to prevent many of
those living on the plains from adopting Burmese ways and speech.
They do this not out of admiration for things Burmese, but becasue
of the prevalence of Burmese culture and in order to avoid the
appearance of rusticity that marks those who fail to conform. Some
not only wear the dress of the Burmese and speak their language
-- always with more or less of an accent -- but also, except the
Christians, go to the pagodas and participate in Burmese feasts. A
number of wealthy Karens, who have moved into the larger Burmese
towns along the railway line and live there in Burmese style, have
to all appearance lost their racial identity. In many cases those
who have copied the manners of their neighbors, experience a
decided weakening of their old religious faith and its moral restraints,
being led into evil ways by Burmans of the less respectable classes,
with whom they fraternize.

The first experiment of the British in the administration of
justice among the Karen, was not succesful. It consisted in
appointing certain influential Karen chiefs to serve as magistrates for
their people. This plan was unsatisfactory, because some of the
appointees were reluctant to assume authortiy, and also because the
different tribes were much intermingled. It was,therefore,
decided to try the cases of Karens, like those of the members of the
other races, in the ordinary courts. While this method is correct
in principle and an improvement in practice, it has not always been
administered by representatives of the English nation or in the
spirit of British justice. A closer supervision of the court is
needed to curb the prejudices sometimes manifested by the local

The progress of the Karen in education has been very marked.
Their "Lost Book" having been restored to them by their "white
brother" in the person of the Christian missionary, they have been
most eager to learn to read it. This has been true from the early
years of missionary activity. Before the British had established
orderly government in Burma, one American missionary had pupils
in her school in Moulmein almost every year who came over two
hundred miles through the jungles by night, "not daring to travel
by day," for the sake of learning to read the Bible in their own
tongue."[30-6] The number of mission and Government schools began to
increases rapidly, being scattered in all parts of the country. Every
Christian church had its accompanying school, and in recent years
many, if not most, of the non-Christian villages have come to have
their schools also. The early Christian teachers, realizing the
dangers lurking in the new conditions, began aright by teaching self-control,
as well as the usual subjects, infusing the whole
educational movement with moral purpose. The result has been more
than gratifying. "It is not often given," says Mr. D. M. Smeaton.,
late Chief Commissioner of Burma, "to witness such a remarkable
development of a national character as has taken palce among the
Karens under the influence of Christianity and good government."
Another observer adds: "Where only a few years ago were tribal
wars, child-stealing, house-burning, and savagery, now are quiet,
orderly villages, each with its preacher and teacher, chapel and

{ The man in the long garment is a Sgaw Karen, who is a
missionary in the North Shan States among the Lahu
people. He has brought three pupils to Lower Burma
with him.}

The _Fifth Quinquennial Report on Public Education in Burma_,
covering the years 1913-1917, inclusive, gives the number of Karen
children in school as 34,896, an increase of twenty-five percent over
the total for the previous five-year period. This number is about
three percent of the total Karen population. The figures for the
Burmese are not given. Judging, however, from the number of
Buddhsit school children, which is 531,541 and includes the children
of some Karens and most of the Shan, while excluding those of a
few Burmans, the Burmese have under six percent of their
population in school. The Shan have 5,730 school children, or about
one-half of one percent of their population.[30-8]

From their village school the children, boys and girls, go to the
mission boarding-school at the district or mission headquarters
or to some neighboring Government school, where they learn
English and, if they progrss so far, prepare for college. A
considerable number of Karen young men and few young women are
college graduates and are leading useful lives in various communities,
as may be seen by looking over the list of officers in
Government positions in the Education, Forest, Police, Military, and
subordinate branches; while others are doing well in business and the
professions. Perhaps the most prominent Karen, the Hon. Dr. San
C. Po, is a physician, graduate of an American medical college, who
has served for several years in the Legislateive Council of the
province of Burma, being the first member of his race to be thus

With the progress of Christianity and education has come
literature. As soon as the Karen language has been reduced to writing,
the missionaries began to prepare books for the people. In this
work they have been assisted by a number of educated Karens.
Thus far these translators have provided in the vernacular the
Bible, a few plays of Shakespeare, _Pilgrim's Progress_,
the _Arabian Nights_, and short stories and pamphlets in
large number. Dr. Wade, with the aid of Saw Kau Too, has
compiled _The Karen Thesaurus,_ a vernacular encyclopedic
dictionary of language and customs in four volumes, which
is a work of great value. Christian literature, in the form of
commentaries and text-books of various kinds, has been
largely supplied by Dr. E. B. Cross, Dr. D. A. W. Smith, and
the Rev. T. Than Bya, D. D. An admirable collection of hymns
has been brought together, including both some of the English
favorites and some original hymns composed by Karens as well
as by missionaries. The largest number in the collection by one
writer is by Mrs. J. H. Vinton. Of the seven or eight vernacular
newspapers and monthly periodicals all but one or two are under
native management. The _"Dwakula"_ (_Karen National News_)
is a biweekly, the others being monthlies, of which the _Karen
Morning Star_, founded by Dr. Francis Mason at Tavoy in 1841,
has had a continuous existence and is the oldest vernacular
periodical in southeastern Asia.

The American Baptist Mission Press at Rangoon has been from
its establishment the headquarters for Karen printing. Karen type
were first manufactured here and the first pages struck off in the
new characters. Here also the linotype machine has been adapted
to vernacular use. Other Karen presses are in operation at Bassein
and Toungoo.

At the time of the Third Burmese War (1885), when the Karen
were suffering from brigandage which threatened to devastate the
whole country, certain leaders of the race began a movement to
develop a national spirit among the people, who had always been
clannish and provincial. Some progress was made immediately
after the war through the formation of Karen levies, without which
the province could scarcely have been brought back to a state of
good order. At length the Karen National Association ("Daw k'
lu," meaning literally "the whole race") was organized. All the
districts in which the Karen live were presented at its first
meeting, a few non-Christians attending, although the leaders were
Christians. The aim of the association was simply to promote the
economic and educational interests of the people, as well as to plan
for their representation at public functions, such as on the occasion
of viceregal visits. Funds have been raised for these purposes, but,
unfortunately, through mismanagement, have not proved to be
permanent. During the World War the association served as a mouthpiece
for the expression of the loyalty of the race and did some
active work in recruiting. It furthered the sending of deputations
to meet the Montague Commission and later sent a rather ill-advised
delegation to England to promote the national interests,
which have been so much emphasized as a result of the world conflict.

[ Illustration -- REV. THRA MAUNG YIN, OF BASSEIN ]
{ He held the rank of honorary havildar in the Karen battalion of
the Burma Rifles, 1917-1920, and was most highly commended by
his commanding officers for his wholesome influence as a religious
teacher. }

The military activities of the Karen have been largely confined
in the past to village raids. There had been times when there
was a prospect that a real leader might arise to unite a large group
of villages into a kind of state and carry on warfare on a large
scale. One such attempt was made by a Karen, of Martaban or
Shwegyin, who assumed the Burmese title of "Nun Laung" or
Coming Prince -- a favorite title with rebellious members of the
Burmese court who tried to usurp the throne. This adventurer
organized a religio-political movement among his compatriots
throughout the region from Siam to Bassein. They expected him to
fulfil a prophecy to the effect that the Karen would drive out the
foreigners and establish a new dynasty at Pegu. However, this
rebellion was soon put down and its leaders were driven into
Karenni, where they disappeared.[30-9]

The Karen levies, which did so much to re-establish peace
throughout the province of Burma after the Third Burmese War,
and, for the most part under their missionaries as officers and with
but little military organization, captured some of the dacoit leaders
after scattering their followers, rendered a service deserivng
of more credit than it received at the time. Local and racial feeling
was still running too high, and official circles did not always understand
the situation fully.[30-10]

Soon after these services, which were rendered by most of the
Karens gratuitously and with arms which they had paid for,
malicious rumors were circulated that these men were of doubtful
loyalty. The result was that they were divested of their arms
and given no compensation whatever. It still remained true,
however, that they had saved their homes, protected the
honor of their wives and daughters, and rendered an important
service to the Government, the fruits of which have not yet
disappeared. After all their long suffering and patient
endurance this experience was a hard one, to which they
should not have been subjected.[30-11]

[ Illustration -- KAREN MILITARY POLICE ]
{ These men were a part of a squad who shot some notorious dacoits
in the Insein District, 1917. They are all from Toungoo District. }

Meantime, a battalion of the Karen Military Police had been
organized and was rendering service to the Government. It
remained a separate unit until 1899. At that time an unfortunate
affair, in which liquor played a prominent part, resulted in the
dispersion of the battalion, the companies that were retained being
sent into different sections of the province. These surviving
companies have not failed to give a good account of themselves, for
example, in scattering within the last few years the dacoits in the
Okkan region of the Insein district and also in the Bassein district.

At the outbreak of the World War in 1914 the loyalty of the
Karen people manifested itself in the large number of applications
to enter military service in defense of the Empire. Some of the
applications were made through the author. None was accepted
at the time, for the Government had not yet adopted the policy of
recruiting in Burma. Later, when this was done, the response on
the part of the Karens was not equaled by that of any of the
neighboring races. However, the number of Karens taken into the
service was limited. In the Burma Rifles, the one regiment
recruited in the province, of a total of sixteen companies three were
Karen; one, Shan; one, Arracanese, and the others, Burmese. Karens
were in all the other regiments in about the same proportion.[30-12]
In the Sappers and Miners, the first unit to leave the country for
duty abroad, the highest native officer was a Karen. There
was also a small group of Karens in the company which did itself
credit in Mesopotamia. An officer of that company told them that
other officers, in calling for detachments, often asked that Karen
might be sent. In one Karen company so many of the men were
detailed for instruction service in other companies that regular
drill was much interfered with. These incidents suggest that the
enlisted men among the Karens were rendering an honorable and
appreciated service in the war.

Should one inquire as to the future of the Karen people, my
answer would be that not as a separate people, living apart and
seeking special advantages for themselves, will they make the most
progress; but, forgetting racial feeling as far as possible and throwing
themselves into the life of the land in which they find
themselves and adding their quota to the general good, they will not
only raise themselves, but also the level of the common life which
they must share with their neighbors. In this way they will truly
find themselves and contribute to the growth and progress of a
country that is capable of untold advancement.


Note. The vowels in this glossary are to be pronounced after the
usual continental method. _Eh_ is pronounced as _e_ in _met_,
and _eu_ as _e_ in _her_. The Greek _x_ is used for the gutteral
which is pronounced as _ch_ in _loch_, and _th_ is as in _thin_.
Asperated consonants are indicated by placing the _h_ in front
of the letter as _hk_, _hp_, _ht_, etc. The half vowel is shown
by the apostrophe following the letter, as _k'_, _t'_, etc. In
pronouncing, slip over this half vowel as in the first syllable
of cajole or the coloquial pronounciation of t'morrow.

_Bgha_, family demon.
_bgha a hko_, leader of the bgha feast
_bla e_, bat dung; powder
_blaw_, young men's club room, or guest room
_Brec_, name of a Karen tribe
_Bu deu htaw li_, the paddy has headed out (lit., conceived)
_bwe_, seeds of the coix plant
_Bwe_ (for _Bghai_), the name of a Karen tribe
_dah_ (Burmese), long knife
_daw do_, a relation by marriage
_daw t' ka_, race of giants who feed on the k'las of mortals
_deu_, room or section of a village-house.
_deu mu lwa hpa_, three stars just east of the Pleiades
_De nya_, a lily, the lily month (May)
_du la_, a plot selected for cultivation in the hills.

_Ghw Le Be_ &
_Ghaw Ser Paw_, two Pwo Karens who stole the original drums

_Ghaw Kwa Htu_ &
_Ghaw Kaw Se_, names of the two original bronze drums

_Gai hko_, the name of a Karen tribe

_Hi_, a house
_hi hpo xch_, tiny model of a house used in bgha rites
_hkaw_, the foot
_hkli_, the crossbow
_hkli p' ti_, a kind of long bow
_hko_, the head
_hko hti_, the fontenal
_hko peu_, a headdress or turban
_hko peu ki_, a woman's woven headdress
_hko saw_, a hut-shaped receptacle for the bones of the dead.
_hko so law_, a receptacle as above, but pagoda-shaped.
_hk' ye_, trumpet-shaped fish trap.
_Hku de_, demon of the dry season
_Hku Te_, king of hades
_hpa k' pu_, a fireplace
_hpa hpaw mu_, midnight
_hpa ti_, uncle
_hpaw_, a flower
_hpaw baw_, yellow cockscomb
_hpaw ghaw_, red cockscomb
_hpi ba_, musical pipes
_Hpi Bi Yaw_, name of the goddess of the crops
_hpo_, child; little
_hpo khwa_, a son
_hpo mu_, a daugher
_hpo nya mo_, &
_hpo nya pa_, part of wedding ceremony,
(lit., children tease mother, children tease father)
_hpo tha hkwa htaw_, to become abdolescent (spoken of a boy).
_hsa_, a star; also the right thigh bone of a fowl used in divination
_hsa a hsa neu mi_, a good omen derived from reading the chicken bones
_Hsa bu hpaw_, the Milky Way
_Hsa deu mu, the Pleiades
_Hsa hki hku_, the constellation Sagittarius
_Hsa k' hsaw_, the Great Bear, (lit., the elephant)
_Hsa kwa hka_, Orion.
_hsa t' so_, a constellation.
_Hsa hta hko_, three stars south of the Pleiades
_Hsa tu ghaw_, the morning star
_Hsa tu ha_, the evening star
_hsa mck htaw_, a comet
_Hsa mo la_, a star near the moon.
_Hsa yo ma_, the three stars of Orion's belt
_hsa yu_, &
_hsa hpo tha_, shooting stars.
_hsaw_, a fowl; also a basket for catching fish
_hsaw xi wa li htaw_, a good omen obtained from reading the fowl's bones
_hsaw xi wa hkaw_, a less favorable omen
_hsaw xi ku hko mi_, a rather unfavorable omen
_hsaw xi htaw deh pgha k' la_, an unfavorable omen
_hsaw o_, the crowing of the cook; early morning
_hse_, a Karen garment; a smock
_hse plo_, man's garment
_Hsi hsa_, the tenth month
_Hsi mu_, the ninth month
_hso hko_, a platform for receiving guests
_hta_, a hand loom, a song
_hta do_, an epic poem
_hta mo pgha_, a great poem
_hta na do_, poems chanted over the dead
_hta hpo_, lyric poems, or narrative poems of light character
_hta plu_, poems of the dead
_hta thi kwaw_, extempore poems of betrothal
_hta thwe plu_, poems chanted at funerals addressed to the spirit
_hta yeh law plu_, poems for the king of hades
_htwa law_, a cry which one utters on hearing strange noise in the jungle
_Htaw meh_, Monday
_hteh_, a plow
_hteu_, a bag
_Hte ku_, the second month
_hti_, water
_hti hsaw_, a scoop for catching fish in shallow water
_Hti k' saw k'sa_, the lords of water and land; the lords of the earth
_hti pu law_, place in the house for the water-joint
_hti th' mu_, charmed water
_hti seh meh ywa_, the river of running sand, or the sandy river
_hto bo_, a pole for poling a boat
_hto tu_, a harrow_,
_htwi maw sch_, a hunting dog

_K'la_, the shade or spirit of a person
_K'la pych_, a booth
_k'li_, the wind
_K'paw ta thu_, a demon who cause total eclipses
_K'sa_, lord_, (a person or a title)
_k'taw_, a shield
_k'thi_, medicine
_k'thi baw tho_, a magical tiger medicine
_k'thi thra_, a doctor (lit., a teacher of medicine).
_ka hsaw xi_, the inspecting of fowl's bones for divinations
_ka law ta_, an offering for demons
_Ka ya_, the Red Karen tribe
_Kayin_ (Burmese), the Karen people
_ki ku_, a creeper_, the leaves of which are used in certain rites
_klaw_, a mat
_klo_ (couplet, _klo ogh tra ogh_), bronze drums
_klo a deu_, the base tube of a Karen xylophone
_klo ka paw_, &
_klo ma ti_, &
_klo ghaw ple_, three kinds of Karen Bronze drum
_ku_, a basket
_kwa_, the cry of the wildcat
_kweh_, the wedding horn
_kyee zee (Burmese)_, a triangular gong

_La_, the moon; a month
_La hkli_, the fourth month
_La hku_, the ninth month
_La naw_, the eleventh month
_La nwi_, the seventh month
_La plu_, the twelfth month
_La xo_, the eighth month
_Law_, demons of the rainy season
_Law hpo_, demons who bring about the reproduction of the grain
_ler na_, stones having magical power
_li_, grandchildren
_Li naw_, Sunday
_lo_, to transmit life
_longyi_ (Burmese), a loin cloth or skirt worn by men and women

_Ma_, wife
_ma hpo tha_, little wife or concubine
_maw_, a small bamboo cup
_maw keh_, a giant creeper, the seeds of which are used as playthings
_Maw law_, _kwi_, the king of the crocodiles
_me taw_, rice cooked in joints of bamboo
_me u_, fire
_Meh la ka_, the Southern Cross
_meu do_, a large bamboo trap
_mi_, the left thigh bone of a fowl used in divinations
_mi a mi neu hsa_, an evil omen obtained from reading the fowl's bones
_Mu daw hpa_, Friday
_mo_, mother
_mo a si_, an offering made to bring a good crop of paddy
_mu_, the sun
_mu gha_, aunt
_mu haw law_, early evening
_mu heh htaw_, sunrise
_mu heh htaw hpa htaw_, the sun is high
_Mu Hka_, the king of spirits
_mu hse wa htaw_, dawn (lit., the sun's garment whitens)
_Mu htaw K'hou_, Saturday
_mu htu_, noon
_Mu kaw li_, the evil power of devil
_mu law nu_, the sun is set
_mi xe law_, the sun declines
_mu yaw ma_, late evening (lit., the sun is deep down).
_mu pgha_, a married woman
_Mu xa_, celestial spirits that preside over births
_Mu xa do_, one of the principal demons of the Karen
_Mu xa hklew_, a divinity presiding over the banyan tree
_mwi_, a blood-brother; a friend

_Na_, a sword
_na nya hti mch_, a sword shaped like the tail of an eel
_na theh hko_, a sword with two edges and a sharp point
_na xu hko_, a blunt-pointed cutting sword
_naw blu tha_, sling-shot pellets
_Naw k'plaw_, the evil demon opposed to Y'wa (God)
_naw xaw_, wild indigo
_ni_, a woman's skirt; a day; a year
_ni-thaw_, the couplet meaning a day
_ni-la_, the couplet meaning a year
_nya_, fish
_nya u_, fish paste, (lit., rotten fish); Burmese, _ngape_

_P'yo_, a great dragon or a demon in the form of a great dragon
_pa_, father
_Pa k' sa_, Father God (used of Y'wa)
_paw_, (Burmese, pauk), a kind of fish-trap
_paw ku_, a xylophone
_paw leh_, the sea
_paw na_, plants having magical powers
_pgha_, a person; also means old
_pgha a pgho_, a wonder worker or magician
_pgha ba bgha_, one who has offended the family demon
_Pgha k' nyaw_, the Karen term for themselves, (lit., men)
_pgha htaw leu hko_, one who marries outside the tribe
_pgha tha pgha_, an old man; an elder
_pgho_, an impersonal all-pervasive force; (Melanesian, _mana_)
_phgo ghaw_, the peacock pheasant
_Pghaw ghaw_, the twin peak of Mt. Thaw Thi, the sacred mountain
_po_, the method of preventing witches from working evil charms
_po dwa_, open bamboo pipes
_pru-u-u_, a call for children, fowls, spirits, etc.
_pu_, a fish-trap
_pula_, betel-leaf vines trained to run up tall trees
_Pu Maw Taw_, mythical owner of the first bronze drums

_Seh_, a rough basket
_sgheu_, the fructifying principle in life
_so_, power to resist an evil charm; personality; a generation
_soh_, a charm made out of a wild boar's tusk
_so so xa xa_, generation upon generation; eternally
_Sgaw_, the name of a Karen tribe

_T'ba_, negative particle
_t'kaw_, a measure of distance; the distance one can hear a call
_t'hka_, a pace
_T'hke mo baw_, the demon that causes partial eclipses
_t'hkwa_, a cousin
_t'hkli_, a yard
_t'hpi_, the stretch of the thumb and forefinger
_t'hta_, a hand's breadth
_Thwe kaw_, the third month
_t'kle t' htwa_, a disappointment brought about by disregarding a tabu
_t'kwi leu_, a stone's throw
_t'le_, a post set up at funerals over the receptacle holding the bones
_t'leu_, a fish-trap made by placing a jar in the water
_t'lo pa_, a mediator who arranges weddings
_t'mu tu leh_, a hald-day's journey
_t'na_, a harp
_t'ni leh_, a day's journey
_T'nu_, the destroying angel who exterminates the wicked
_t'pia_, a cubit
_t're t' hka_, ghosts of tyrants, etc., who harass mortals
_t'so_, a unit of measure
_t' su mu_, the length of the forefinger
_t'xe_, the jew's-harp
_t'xo_, Karen armor
_t'yaw_, a decoction of the bark of a tree used for washing the hair
_t'yaw lo ke a k'la_, rites intended to recall the k'la or spirit of the dead
_ta_, the nominal prefix
_ta aw bgha_, the feast to the household demons
_ta aw bwaw a tha_, a feast as above to prevent illness
_ta aw saw ke saw na_, the feast at which all relatives must be present
_ta aw k'teu_, a final feast before giving up the worship of the demons
_ta di law kweh leh_, an offering to the king of hades
_ta do hkaw_, the rhinoceros
_Ta do k'the_, _ta do k'hsaw_, the Great Elephant addressed as a demon
_ta du ta htu_, tabu, chiefly prohibition of work
_ta du haw hko hu_, tabu to be observed at the time of an earthquake
_ta du hku ta du theh_, the tabu after offerings for good crops
_ta du hpa htaw_, the long tabu
_ta du kleh_, the tabu on traveling
_ta du ta ble_, the tabu connected with births
_ta du to yu mu ta yu la_, the tabu connected with eclipses
_ta du ta htaw ta law_, the tabu connected with the rising and falling of a stream
_ta du ta the to pgha_, the tabu conected with death
_ta he ta yaw_, &
_ta ho ta lo_, witchcraft or bad magic
_ta hku hka_, the cool season
_ta hpa do_, the great one, used of the elephant by men hunting lest the spirits
             should hear its name mentioned
_ta hpi htaw a k'la_, to recall a human spirit from under the water
_ta hseh hsu ma beu_, a raid
_ta k'heu_, things that will win
_ta ko hka_, the hot season
_ta kweh k'la hpa do_, the great ceremony of recalling the human spirit
_ta le mi_, lighting the dead on their way
_ta leh kaw_, a game at funerals (lit., stretching the neck)
_ta lu_, a sacrifice or offering
_ta lu hpa do_, a great sacrifice to the lords of the earth
_ta lu hpo_, the small sacrifice to the lords of the earth
_ta lu klu htu hti_, an offering to the water witches
_ta lu law pa law_, offerings to the celestial spirits that preside over births
_Ta mu xa_, the spirits of those who have been notoriously evil
_ta na_, malevolent supernatural beings
_ta neu xo_, the smell of burning fat
_ta plu aw ka_, the fleeting existence of babies who dies soon after birth
_ta se kle_, the game of jumping bamboo poles
_ta su hka_, the rainy season
_ta t' ghe ba_, lit., it is not good (spoken of things tabued)
_ta t' ka_, ghost of person left unburied
_ta t'hkaw hkaw_, a one-legged female demon
_ta t' su_, a canopy erected over a beir
_ta taw law ta_, offerings to the demons
_ta taw the hka keh_, offerings for the spirits of notoriously evil persons
_ta to ku_, pounding pestles (a funeral game)
_ta wi ta na_, evil spirits
_ta xeh_, a sickle
_ta yaw ke a k'la_, recalling human spirits from the clutches of a wizard
_ta yaw kha_, the dry season
_taw_, a paddy basket_, (Burmese, _taung_)
_taw kwe law_, &
_taw klaw taw_, a ceremony performed at funerals of very old men
_taw leu hko_, to marry outside the tribe
_Taw Meh Pa_, the mythical ancestor of the Karen race
_Teu kweh_, the rainbow
_teu_, a bag
_Th' le_, the first month
_th' reh t' hka_, spirits of those who have died violent deaths
_th' waw_, a village
_tha_, soul
_th' ma_, a crocodile
_the na_, a monarch of hades
_theh a hku_, to make offerings for the field
_ta th' mo_, to make offerings for the field
_Thi hko mu xa_, the lord of the demons, of heaven and earth
_thi keh_, a bamboo pole or standard used in the bgha feast
_thit se_, (Burmese), lacquer
_Thi thwa_, Thursday
_tho_, a blood brother
_Thwe kaw_, the third month
_To kyaw_, Wednesday
_lo me to pi_, paste made of glutenous rice
_To mu_, Tuesday
_tu_, traps in which weights fall on the victims

_U_, to embroider
_ugh de de_, to thrust the finger into one's naval to prevent the
             rainbow demon fron injuring one.

_Wa_, bamboo
_Wa hkaw_, a spring trap; a spear made of bamboo
_Wa hklu_, a kind of large bamboo
_Weh_, a basket work paddy-bin; elder brother or sister
_weh hpo hkwe_, elder brother
_weh hpo mu_, older sister
_wi_, prophet_, soothsayer

_Xeh_, sickle
_xaw hta_, a plant used for poisoning the water in fishing

_Y'wa_, the Great Spirit of the Karen; God
_ya_, wild plantain or banana.


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Gilmore, Rev. D. C., D.D., A Karen Grammar, Rangoon, 1901.
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  Pt. II, 36. Phonetic Change in the Karen Language, Vol. VIII, Part II, 122.
Karen Morning Star, The.*
Karen Recorder, The, Rangoon, Burma, 1915-1917
Logan, J. R., On the Ethnographic Position of the Karens, in Journal, Indian Archipelago, Vol. II, (1854).
Lone, Ko San, Sketch of Rev. Jonatham Wade, D.D., and Karen Tradition, Rangoon, 1907*
Lowe, Lt. Col. James, The Karen Tribes or Aborigines of Martaban, in Journal, Indian Archipelago, Vol. IV, 413 (1854)
Luther, Mrs. Carlista Vinton, The Vintons and the Karens, Boston, 1880.
MacMahon, Lt. Col. A. R., The Karens of the Golden Chersonese, London, 1876.
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Mason, Rev. Francis, D.D., The Karen Apostle, A Memoir of Ko Tha Byu. Boston, 1861.
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   of Bengal, (1858), Vol. XXXIV, Pt. I; Physical Character of the Karens, Vol. XXXV, (New
   Series, CXXXI) (1866); On Dwellings, Works of Art, etc., of the Karens, Vol. XXXVII. (1868).
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   (N.S) (1858) 391; Notes on Karen Nee, in Vol. IV, (N.S) (1859) 25.
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Smeaton, D. M., The Loyal Karen of Burma. London. 1887.
To Rev. Ba, "The Union of the Karen Tribes," in Minutes of the Second Annual Meeting of
   the Karen Trading Society, etc. Rangoon. 1912.*
Than Bya, Rev. T., M.A., Karen Customs, Ceremonies, and Poetry. Rangoon. 1906.*
Than Bya, Rev. T., M.A., The Karens and Their Progress, 1854-1914. Rangoon, 1914.*
Vinton, Rev. J. B., D.D., and Rev. T. Than Bya, Karen Folk-lore Stories, Rangoon. 1908.*
Wade, Rev. Jonathan, D.D., The Grammar of the Sgaw and Pgho Karen Language. Tavoy, 1842.**
Wade, Rev. Jonathan, D.D., The Karen Thesaurus, Vols. I-IV., Tavoy. 1847** New ediiton in
   press, Vol. I. Rangoon, 1915.
Wade, Rev. Jonathan, D.D., A Dictionary of the Sgaw Karen Language. (Karen into English).
   Rangoon, 1896. Revised by Rev. E. B. Cross, D.D.**
Wade, Rev. Jonathan, D.D., The Anglo-Karen Dictionary. (Completed by Mrs. J. G. Binney).
   Rangoon, 1883.**


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Crawfurd, J., Journal of an Embassy from the Governor General of India to the court of Ava,
   Vol. I and II. London, 1834.
Cumming, E. D., In the Shadow of the Pagoda. London. 1893
Fifth Quinquennial Report on Public Education in Burma.
Forbes, Capt. C. J. F. S., Burma and Its People. London. 1878.
Frazer, Sir J. G., The Golden Bough, Vols. I-XI. Oxford, 1911.
Frazer, Sir J. G., The Old Testament and Folk-lore. Oxford, 1919.
Graham, W. A. Siam, A Handbook of Practical, Commercial, and Political Information. London, 1913.
Hanson, Rev. O., Litt. D., The Kachins. Rangoon, 1911.
Heger. F., Alte Metalltrommeln aus Sudost-Asien, Leipzig, 1902.
Hose and MacDougall, The Pagan Tribes of Borneo, London, 1912.
Imperial Gazetter, Burma, Vol. I.
Jevons, Introduction to Religion.
Laufer, Berthold, The Si Hia Language, A Study in Indo-Chinese Philology, in Teoung-Pai, 2nd.
   Series, Vol. XVII, No. 1. Leyden, 1916.
Laufer, Berthold, "Review of Mythology of all Races," in Journal, American Folklore, Vol. XXXI,
   No. CXX.
Lowis, C. C., "The Tribes of Burma," in Ethnological Survey of India, Rangoon. (Gov't), 1910.
Nieuwenhuis, Dr., Quer Durch Borneo. Leyden. 1907.
Parker, E. H., China and Religion. New York. 1905.
Parmentier, H., "Anciens Tambours de Bronze," in Bulletin, l'Ecole d' Extreme-Orient, Hanoi, 1918.
Richardson, Dr., "Tours in the Shan Country," in Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal. (1837).
Sangermano, Father, Description of the Burmese Empire, 1783-1808. (Reprint) Government of Burma. Rangoon. 1885.
Scott, Sir J. G., "Indo-Chinese Mythology," in Mythology of All Races, Vol. XII. Boston. 1918.
Scott, Sir J. G., Burma, A Handbook of Practical, Commercial and Political Information. London. 1911.
Scott, Sir J. G., and Hardiman, J. P., The Upper Burma Gazetter, 4 vols (Government). Rangoon. 1901.
Scott, Sir J. G., ("Shwe Yoe"), The Burman and His Life and Notions. London. 1883.
Skeat and Blagdon, The Pagan Tribes of the Malay Peninsula. London.
Snodgrass, Major, The Narrative of the Burmese War. 2 vols. London. 1827.
Spearman, Col. H., British Burma Gazetter, 2 vols., Rangoon. (Gov't) 1880.
Yule, Col. Sir Henry, Narrative of the Mission to the Court of Ava in 1855. London. 1858.
Wayland, Rev. Francis, D.D., Life of Adoniram Judson. Boston. 1853.

Carpenter, J. E., Comparative Religion. New York. 1913.
Codrington, R. H., The Melanesians. Oxford. 1918.
Cole, Fay Cooper, The Wild Tribes of the Davao District. Chicago. 1913.
Davies, Maj. H. R., Yunnan. The Link between Burma and the Yungste. London. 1913.
Deniker, J., The Races of Men. New York. 1906.
Foy, W., "Uber Alter Bronzetrommeln aus Sudost-Asien," in Mitteilungen der Anthropologischen
   Geselschaft in Wien, Vol. XXXIII, 1913.
Indian Imperial Census, The, Part I. 1911.
Ross, John., The Original Religion of China.

* Denotes works in Karen.
** Denotes works in both English and Karen.

[1-1] J. S. Scott: _Burma_ Appendix, pp. 470-481.

[1-2] W. A. Graham, in the _Handbook of Siam_, estimates
the Karen of that country at 30,000, but I think this estimate rather low.

[1-3] These citationts are all from the _Census of India_, 1911,
Vol. IX, pp. 275, ff.

[1-4] Karenni means literally Red Karen, in Burmese. It has been used
of the tribe dwelling in the country now called by that name, because
they wear red clothing. Similarity some writers have spoken of the
White Karen and the Black Karen, "Karenbyu" and "Karennet."

[1-5] Rev. W. H. Young, formerly of Kenteung, tells me that
the Wa language resembles the Karen in structure but not in vocabulary,
while the Lahu and Pwo Karen have similar customs and vocabulary
but a different sentence structure.

[1-6] Vol. I, Pt. I, Chapter IX.

[2-1] This tradition is found among the Lhu and also,
according to Thra Ba Te, among the Chin in the northwest of Burma.

MacMahon, in _The Karens of the Golden Chersonese_, p. 106,
refers to a different version of this story, in which the Chinese go
ahead instead of "Htaw Meh Pa," and on p. 104 MacMahon says
he found traditions indicating that the Karen formed part of
a Chinese expedition into Burma and that they were left behind
because of their sluggish movements. These all point to early
relations with the Chinese.

[2-2] Mason, _British Burma_, p. 831.

[2-3] E. B. Cross, Journal, _American Oriental Soc. (1854)
Vol. IV, pp. 293, ff, and D. C. Gilmore, _Journal_,
_Burma Research Soc.,_ Vol. I, p. 191.

[2-4] J. B. Vinton, D. D. and Rev. T. Than Bya, M. A.,
_Karen Folklore Stories_.

[2-5] Dr. B. Laufer, Curator of Anthropology, Field Columbian
Museum, Chicago, in a note to the writer, Jan 6, 1920.

[2-6] By the Rev. Thra Ba Te, in a letter dated August 14, 1917.

[2-7] Dr. Martin in the _Lore of Cathay_ gives the name of the
other three of the four ancient tribes of China as the La
in the North, the Yi in the East, and the Man in the South.

[2-8] Maj. H. R. Davies, _Yunnan, The Link between Burma
and the Yangtse_.

[2-9] D. C. Gilmore, "Phonetic Changes in the Karen Languages"
in _Journal, Burma Research Society_, Vol. VIII, Pt. ii, pp. 122, ff.

[2-10] Several pamphlets and articles in anthropological journals
deal with these drums. The most extensive work on the subject,
which is in German, is by Franz Heger and is entitled
_Alte Metalltrommelu aus Sudost-Asien_, Leipzig 1902.
An excellent short work entitled "Anciens Tambours de Bronze,"
is by H. Parmentier and is printed in the
_Bulletin l'Ecole d' Extreme-Orient_, Hanoi, 118.
See also Chapter XIII on Bronze Drums, pp. 115-126.

[2-11] W. W. Cochrane, in _The Shans_, mentions the Shan towns
of Tagaung or Ta Kawng and Mogaung or Mong Kawg as denoting,
respectively, Drum Ferry and Drum Town, and on page 62 he says:
"They took also a palace drum, whose reverberations could call
the people together, daunt enemies, or bring rain in time of draught."
He makes no further reference to their use.

[2-12] The tradition of the Lost Book is not peculiar to the Karen,
but seems to be found also among other tribes in and about
Burma, e.g., the Kaws, Was, Palaungs, and the Hkamoks of
Siam; letter of Mr. Taw Sein Ko to Thra Ba Te, dated 10th Oct., 1917.

[2-13] In a letter to the Baptist Missionary Society, dated
Oct., 1832, Dr. Mason mentions hearing of the shipwreck
on the Tenasserim River some decades before of a foreign merchant
who told the Karen that other white men would come and teach them
about God. He adds that he thought that the traditions came from
Portuguese priets who had earlier come to the East. But in a later
letter, dated Oct., 1834, Dr. Mason writes that he had come to
believe that the traditions were indigenous with the Karen,
whom he thought to be the lost Hebrew tribes. He wrote a
communication to the Government to that effect from the
"Headquarters of the Tenasserim," dated Dec. 6, 1833.
(See _Missionary Magazine_, Dec., 1833, p. 469, and Oct. 1834, p. 382).

[2-14] See _Journal, American Folklore, Vol. XXXI, No. CXX,
pp. 282, ff. for his review of Sir J. G. Scott's Indo-Chinese
Mythology, in _Mythology of All Races_, Vol. XII.

[2-15] See also _China and Religion_ by E. G. Parker, who says
(page 108) that there is no mention of any Western religion
in China up to the end of the sixth century. A. D., when
Christianity entered the country, except Buddhism which had
come in centuries before. On page 165 he gives the date of
the arrival of the Jewish colonies in China as 1163, A. D. The
Article on China in the latest edition of the
_Encyclopedia Brittanica_ also bears out this testimony.

[2-16] John Ross, in _The Original Religion of China_,
makes this the subject of an interesting volume.
Also E. H. Parker, in _China and Religion_, gives a few hints
that may show that the earliest ancestors of the Chinese
held one god in much greater esteem than the other beings
in their mythology.

[2-17] Sir J. G. Scott, Introduction to Indo-Chinese Mythology,
_Mythology of all Races_, p.258.

[2-18] C. C. Lowis in Burma, _Ethnological Survey of India_. (1910) p. 15.

[2-19] Lt. Col. A. R. MacMahon,
_The Karen of the Golden Chersonese_, p. 114.

[2-20] J. O'Riley, _Jounral, Indian Archipelago_. Vol. IV, N.S. (1859). p. 8.

[2-21] Ibid.

[3-1] I took a few measurements with the tape line, and found
that about seventy men on the plains gave the above average.
The tallest was five feet, nine inches, and the shortest was four
feet, eleven inches. In the hills my measurements were confined
to one village. Here the headman was the tallest, measuring five
feet, six inches. The shortest man in the village was four feet
and eleven inches in height. Of about twenty women measured
the tallest was five feet, five inches, and the shortest, four feet,
nine inches. Three were each four feet, ten inches. The average
among the women was a very small fraction over five feet. Dr. Mason
gives the shortest man, a Bghai chief, as being only four feet, eight
inches high, while the shortest woman he measured was four feet,
five inches tall. (Jour., Asiatic Soc. of Bengal, Vol. XXXV, p. 7.)
MacMahon notes that in Red Karen country the women are
usually as tall as, if not taller than, the men.
(_The Karen of the Golden Chersonese_, p.56.)

[3-2] According to Breca's plates for classifying the color of the skin
I found, in examining about ninety persons, that twenty-five matched
No. 30 of his series: nineteen, No. 25; fifteen, No. 44; eight, No. 26;
five each, Nos. 29 and 45; three each, Nos. 24 and 31; two, No. 21,
and one each, Nos. 37, 40, 47 and 53. The lighest color found was
No. 24. One of the fair ones was an infant, and the other two were
men, namely a clerk and a hill boy. The darkest complexion corresponded
to No.37, of which I found but one. No. 29, which was the color of five of the 
subjects examined, is a much redder hue than No. 37. All determination of 
color were made on unexposed parts of the body where the skin had not 
been tanned by sunlight.

[3-3] _The Indian Imperial Census_, 1911, Burma, Pt. I, 281-286.

[4-1] Sir J. G. Scott, _Burma, A Handbook_, p. 120.

[4-2] Sangermano, _Description of the Burmese Empire, 1783-1808_.
(Rangoon, 1885) p. 36;
Maj. Snodgrass, _The Narrative of the Burmese War_.
(London, 1827) Vol. I, p. 142.

[4-3] "Shiko" is a Burmese word signifying the act of worship,
or of showing respect to officials.

[4-4] See Pages 139, 142, 192, 288.

[5-1] _Journal, Burma Research Society_, Vol. VIII. Pt. II, pp. 122, ff.

[5-2] Dr. Mason in the _Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1858,
Vol. I, Pt. II, pp. 129, ff.

[5-3] The _Grammar_ of the Karen Language by Dr. Wade, now
reprinted at the American Baptist Missionary Press, Rangoon,
Burma, and that by Dr. Gilmore, from which the writer has largely
derived his materials for this chapter, are available for those who
wish to make a study of the language. _The Karen Thesaurus_,
an ecyclopedic dictionary of the Karen language, people, and
customs, is a valuable work. Volume I of the new edition, which
appeared in 1915, is especially useful, as it contains definitions
in English such as are not to be found in the later volumes.

[6-2] _Gazetter of Upper Burma,_ Vol. I, Pt. I, p. 537.

[6-3] J. G. Scott, _Burma, A Handbook_, pp. 212, ff.

[6-4] J. G. Scott, _Burma, A Handbook_, pp. 121, ff.

[7-1] _The Karen Recorder_, a vernacular paper published
by the Sgaw Karen Mission at Rnagoon, printed a long discussion
on the order of the months and the significance of their names,
which appeared in various numbers from 1915 to 1917. The
outcome of the discussion was not at all convincing.

[7-2] A writer in the Karen _Morning Star_ in January 1918,
suggested another meaning for the name of this month, which
comes at the opening of the rainy season when, as often happens,
there are alternate weeks of sunshine and rain. Karens generally,
probably almost without exception, understand the name of this
month to refer only to its numerical position in the calendar.

[7-3] Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. XXXVII, 43.

[7-4] See Chapter XXVIII on Tabu, p. 289.

[8-1] See p. 102.

[8-2] Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal, XXXVII, Pt. II, 129.

[9-1] Messrs. Hose and MacDougal speak of some writer, whose
name they do not give, as conveying the impression that the Karen
do not eat the flesh of animals belonging to the cat tribe. I have not
found this to be true.
(_Vide_ Hose and McDougal, _Pagan Tribes of Borneo_, Vol. II, 239).

[9-2] This word means literally "rotten fish".

[9-3] The fire piston is used by the Ibans in Borneo. It is also found
throughout the Malay Peninsula and in Sumatra:
Hose and MacDougall, _Pagan Tribes of Borneo_.

[9-4] "Chota hazri" is the Hindustani word used throughout India
for the little basket of toast and tea or coffee that European take
immediately on rising.

[9-5] Skeat and Blagdon, _Pagan Tribes of the Malay Peninsula_, Vol. I, pp. 395, ff:
Cole, _Wild Tribes of the Davao District_, 71;
Hose and MacDougall, _Pagan Tribes of Borneo_, Vol. I, 228-230.

[10-1] The "ya" cultivation, it is obvious, is most destructive of
the forests. Unsuccessful efforts have been put forth to induce
the Karen in the hills to give it up. It has been suggested that
the people keep gardens and raise produce for sale. This
proposal overlooks the lack of adequate roads for transporting
the crops to market. The Karen are backward about engaging
in new undertakings. They raise their food and obtain what else
they need by barter. Until recently this mode of living has sufficed
for them. They have not been accustomed to handling money or
making it last long.

With the introduction of new ideas and the increase of mining
concessions and forest restrictions, changes are inevitable and
should be planned for, especially as the granting of new mining
concessions will increase the number of outsiders. It has seemed
to the present writer that "ya" cultivation might be lined to a term of
years, during which a number of British officers who should become
familiar with the Karen people and language, should develope
a plan in accordance with which these tribes might be given
reservations of land in exchange for the valuable areas now
under their control. These reservations might be either in the
hills or on the plains, but the Karens should be taught to
cultivate them according to approved methods. In order to
gain an ample livelihood. Old racial animosities and the
temptation for one people to exploit another militate against
entrusting such a policy to Burman officials. It ought to be
placed only in the hands of earnest, straightforward
Government officials, who have gained the confidence
of the Karen and are able to deal with them sympathetically
but firmly. This general program would doubtless involve some
outlay in supplying cattle, not to speak of competent instruction
in modern agricultural methods, animal husbandry, etc.

[10-2] See pages 27, 149.

[10-3] The divinity who presides over the cultivation of the paddy;

[10-4] _British Burma, Its People and Productions_, p. 495

[10-5] See page 110

[10-6] See pp. 84, 93. 226

[10-7] The size of baskets varies in different districts, ranging in
capacity from forty to sixty pounds. Those having a capacity of
forty-six pounds are now considered to be of standard size. As
the price varies inversely with the size, the result is about the same.

[10-8] See _ante_, pp. 78, 79.

[11-1] For a discussion of the blow-gun,
see Skeat and Blagden, _Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula_, Vol. I, 254-257.

[11-2] The crossbow is found all over Yunnan among the Lisu
and the Lolo. It is used in China, having been evidently adopted
from the Lolo, as its name there indicates. It is not seen in Tibet,
or is it used by the Burmese or by the Malay tribes, except as
a toy by the children in Borneo:
Hose and MacDougall, _The Pagan Races of Borneo_, Vol. I, 46.
The crossbow does not seem to be found in the Philippine Islands.

[11-3] See p. 158.

[11-4] Cf. Mason, _British Burma_, 489.
For an account of the poison made in Borneo from the
Ipoh (_Antiaris toxicaria_)
see Hose and MacDougall, _Pagan Tribes of Borneo_, Vo. I. 218.
Skeat and Blagdon, in _Pagan Tribes of the Malay Peninsula_, Vol. I,
Chap. VI, pp 242, ff. give an account of the preparation of poisons
employed by the various tribes of that country. But a man of the area
in which the poisons are used does not include Burma, probably
because their use among the Karen was unknown to the writers.

[11-5] The similarity of these traps to those of Malaysia and Borneo
is striking: see Hose and MacDougall, _The Pagan Tribes of Borneo_,
Vol. I, 146, ff; Skeat and Blagdon, _Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula_,
Vol. I, 206, ff.

[11-6] The name "wa hkaw" is taken from the spear that forms
an essential feature of this kind of trap. The head of the spear is
of bamboo, being cut from the side of a large piece. The hard silicious
skin of the bamboo is left on to form the cutting edges of the spear. The
Karen have different names for different sizes of these traps, which are
set for smaller or larger game from wildcats or tigers.

[12-1] See Hose and MacDougall's _The Pagan Tribes of Borneo_, Vol. I, 221,
for description of the processes of cotton-ginning in the region of which
they treat. The methods they describe are remarkably like those used
by the Karen.

[12-2] For an account of dyes and methods of dyeing in Burma,
see _The Upper Burma Gazetter_, Vol. II, Pt. I, 337-399.

[12-3] See _ante_, p. 82.

[13-1] In addition to the authorities mentioned at the foot of page
9, Chapter II, the article by W. Foy, entitled "Uber Alte Bronzetrommeln
aus Sudost Asien" in the _Mitteilungen der Anthropologischen Gesellschaft
in Wein_, Vol. XXXIII. (1903) is a valuable contribution to the general
subject of bronze drums. Herr Foy, however, differs somewhat in
classification from Franz Heger, who is followed by M. Parmentier.
Origin, shape, and ornamentation form the basis for the differentiation
into classes. Heger puts the Karen drums in Type III, while
Foy distinguishes them as Type V.

[13-2] The Swa are mentioned in some of the old Karen tales and
appear to have been wild cannibals, of whom but little was known.
Their location seems uncertain. Some of the tales place them beyond
the great waters, while others sugest that they live to the north.
Probably the references are to the Waer, who are one of the head
hunting tribes still living in the northern Shan States, on the Chinese

[13-3] _The Karen Thesaurus_, 1847, Vol. I, pp. 327, ff.

[13-4] Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1868, Vol. XXXVII, Pt. II, pp. 128, ff.

[13-5] Mr. Taw Sein Ko, in _Annual Archaeological Report_, Burma, 1917,
pp. 22, 23. Mr. Po Lin Te writes in the _Rangoon Gazette_, Sept, 27, 1919,
that the Yu were the oldest of five families who emigrated from the Sandy
River and were, therefore, entitled to use the drums.

[13-6] See Chapter I. pp. 9, 12.

[13-7] "Gaw" is the prefix used for drums, as "saw" is for men.

[13-8] Mr. Po Lin Te in the _Rangoon Gazette_ of Sept. 27, 1919. I regret
that this writer's article appeared after I had left Burma on my furlough. I
have not been able, therefore, to identify the design mentioned by him
on any picture or sketch of the few I have with me or that are accessible
to me.

[13-9] Heger, _Alte Metalltrommeln aus Sudost-Asien_, 227, ff. 
The quotation goes on to say that "the frogs on the top of the drums
are cast in one piece which, considering the thinness of the metal,
is a good example of Karen art." I think the author of this account is
mistaken in ascribing the manufacture of these drums to the Karen.
It has always been said in recent times that the Shan are the makers
of them.

[14-1] The British conquest of Burma was accomplished in three wars,
each of which was brought on by the arrogance and stupidity of the
Burmese kings and their high-handed dealings with British subjects.
The First Burmese War (1824-26) resulted in the ceding of the provinces
of Tenasserim and Arakan to the British, in the former of which there was
a considerable Karen population. The Second Burmese War (1852-53)
ended with the annexation of the country of Pegu or Lower Burma,
in which dwell the great body of the Karen people in Burma; and the
remainder of the territory ruled by the despotic Burmese kings came
to enjoy the privileges of the Indian Empire after a single short campaign
of only two month's duration in 1885, known as the Third Burmese War.
Soon after this an orderly government was established throughout
what is now known as the provicne of Burma:
Sir J. G. Scott, _Burma, A Handbook_, 190-206.

[14-2] See Chapter XX, p. 202.

[14-3] See Chapter XXIV, pp, 248, 249.

[14-4] See Chapter XXVI, pp. 269-270.

[14-5] Dr. J. Wade, D. D., _A Dictionary of the Sgaw Karen Langauge_.

[14-6] Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. XXXVII, 159.

[14-7] In Sir J. G. Scott's _Burma, A Handbook_, p. 123, 
this institution is referred to uner the name of "haw."
See also _Upper Burma Gazetter_, Vol. I, Pt. I, 539, ff.

[14-8] This mild form of slavery, which we find previously existing among
Karen, seems rather general among some of other peoples in the
neighboring regions, as in Borneo:
see Hose and MacDougal, _Pagan Tribes of Borneo_, Vol. I, 71. ff, and
Cole, _Wild Tribes of the Davao District of the Philippine Islands, 96, 182.

[15-1] See ante, p. 127. What follows in this chapter is largely condensed
from Dr. Mason's article: _Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal_, Vol. XXXVII.
Pt.II, 130-150.

[15-2] See pp. 134, 288.

[15-3] See pp. 192, 287

[15-4] See p. 157.

[16-1] This prayer, in which superhuman powers are attributed to
the fowl, is simlilar to prayers of the Kenyas of Borneo, who ascribe
like powers to the pig.

[16-2] Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. XXXVII, Pt. II, p. 161.

[16-3] For the weapons used in hunting,
see pp. 104, ff.

[16-4] _Karen Thesaurus_, Vol. III, 154;
Cross, _Karen-English Dictionary_, 907.

[16-5] Report of 1894-95, p. 22.

[17-1] For this note on Karen music and the score of the accompanying
"hta' I am indebted to Mrs. U. B. White, of Rangoon.

[17-2] The Burmese harp is similar in form to the first one described
above, but has thirteen strings, although the musical scale of both
the Burmese and Karen harps comprises only five tones. For an account
of Burmese music, see SIR J.G. SCOTT'S _Burma, A Handbook of
Practical, Commerical, and Political Information_, 352-357.

[17-4] These graduated-pipes exhibit a striking similarity to those found
in Malaysia, Borneo, and the Philippine Islands; Skeat and Blagdon,
_Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula_, Vol. II, p. 145; Hose and
McDougall, _Pagan Tribes of Borneo_, Vol. II, p. 192, and the figure
opposite p. 122; Cole, Davao Tribes, p. 110.

Illustrations of musical instruments used by the Bangals and Bajande
tribes of the Congo region, including just such a harp as the Karen have,
are given in _George Grenfell_ and the _Congo_, Vol. II, p. 719. An
instrument like the graduated-pipes of the Karen is shown in
A. W. Niewenhuis's _Quer durch Borneo_, Vol. II, p. 142.

[17-5] MacMahon, _The Karens of the Golden Chersonese_, p. 291.

[18-1] Cf. Dr. Alonzo Bunker, _Soo Tha_, 21.

[18-2] Cf. Notes on the Bwe Expedition, by Capt. Coynder
(Rangoon, 1894); also _Notes on the Bwe and Padaung Countries_,
by Lieut. E. W. Carrick (Rangoon, 1895). These are Government

[18-3] Mason in _Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal_, 1866; Bunker,
_Soo Tha_, p. 21.

[18-4] Parents sometimes express their satisfaction over the male sex
of a child by applying to him a nickname indicative of the presence
of the male genitals. Such appellations, as terms of endearment, are
regularly recognized names and carry no opprebrium with them.

[18-5] On account of the fact that the Karen do not keep accurate age
records, and also because of the shyness of the youth, it is difficult
to obtain exact information as to when the children come to the age
of puberty. The ages usually given me have been twelve for the girls
and a year or two later for the boys. Two cases of arrested development
of girls have come under my notice. Both of these died when they were
reported to have been about sixteen or seventeen, and both were
reported never to have had any periods. One appeared to be not more
than a girl of nine or ten, while the other was larger but was emanciated
and had defective eyes.

[18-6] Burmese children also play with these seeds.

[18-7] John Crawfurd, _Journal of an Embassy from the Governor General
of India to the court of Ava_, Vol. II, 164.

[19-1] In the _Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal_ for 1866, Dr. Mason
mentions similar customs as existing among the Karen of Toungoo.

[19-2] See Chapter XXVII, pp. 280, ff.

[19-3] The Karen often use the word "larger" in referring to an older child.

[19-4] This booth is often called a "mandat." The name, "k'la pyeh,"
is from the Burmese. Perhaps the booth itself is of Burmese origin,
but I do not know.

[19-5] The years of full crops always bring a plague of rats in the hills.
Thus, the time of rats is a time of prosperity.

[19-6] This verse, recited by the villagers, refers to the girls who have not
yet married and are still waiting from one moon to the next.

[19-7] This refers to the white kernals of the cooked rice, which are often
spoken of as the "children of the pot."

[19-8] Dr. Mason tells us that it was the custom for the bride to be
conducted to the groom's house and to be there drenched with water:
_Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal_, 1866.

[19-9] A nickname for the intermediary.

[19-10] In some places the pig's head was hung about the intermediary's
neck, and he went about barking at one or another of the company,
as the spirit moved.

[19-11] On the subject of adultery and its relation to divorce among
the Karen, see p. 148.

[20-1] See Chapter XXIII, pp. 239-245, and Chapter XXIV, pp. 249-254, 257.

[20-2] For an account of betel chewing see pp. 72, 73.

[20-3] At a funeral which the writer attended in the Pegu Hills in 1917
only a few of the elders, and a young man who had come from Papun,
could repeat the "htas" which were used in the ceremonies. The young
folks of the village itself could only be persuaded to take part after much
talking, and then they appeared to be ashamed and shy. Only one night
did they attempt to recite the poems, and the next morning the corpse
was taken out through the side of the house and carried to the burial
place where, they told me, no further rites were observed.

[20-4] This fabulous great river is supposed to separate this world
from the next.

[20-5] A drop of water rolls from the axil of a caladium leaf like
a drop of mercury.

[20-6] Dr. Nieuwenhuis tells of a rice-pounder dance in Borneo
performed by the women, who skip into the center and out again
between the simultaneous strokes of the rice pestles. This dance
is not unlike the funeral game described above. He also shows
a peculiar of wrestling in Borneo, a sport evidently conducted like
wrestling among the Karen. See plate 13, p. 137 of
Dr. Nieuwenhuis's _Quer durch Borneo_ (Leyden, 1907).

[20-7] See Chapter XIII on Bronze Drums, pp. 121-123.

[21-1] This view was first brought to the attention of scholars
by Bishop R. H. Codrington in his work, _The Melanesians_, pp. 227 ff.
Compare also J. E. Carpenter, _Comparative Religion_, pp. 80. ff. 
for a brief but full discussion of the subject.

[21-2] _The Karen Thesaurus_, old ed., Vol. III. p. 489.

[21-3] In speaking of the attributes of "Y'wa" the people say:
"Y'wa a pgho a pkhaw." The use of the couplet gives a more
finished form of speech.

[21-4] See Chapter XXII on Supernatural and Mythical Beings, p. 223.

[21-5] See pp. 10-12.

[21-6] Rev. T. Than Bya. D.D. _Karen Customs, Ceremonies, and Poetry_, p. 51. 
The Karen name for the edolius is "hto hklu." Dr. Mason speaks of it as
the Moulmein nightingale: _Burma_, p. 219.

[21-7] This version is printed in D. M. Smeaton's _The Loyal Karens of Burma_.

[21-8] Mason, _The Karen Apostle_, p. 97.

[21-9] The derivation of the name of this being are interesting.
"Naw" is the usual feminine prefix of the names of all females,
"k' plaw" signifies quickly, in reference to the suddenness with
which his power to tempt one was exercised. The later name,
which has now come into universal use both among non-Christian
and Christian Karens at the designation of the Devil, is composed
of "mu," meaning woman; "kaw," signifying the state of or pertaining
to, and "li," denoting the female _locus impudicus_. This combination
constitutes a term of the utmost contempt and refers to the insult which
Satan visited upon "Y'wa" when offerings are being brought to him. The
Devil's offering was a flower on which he had micturated. His act was
discovered and aroused the anger of the entire celestial company.

[21-10] See p. 221.

[21-11] The form of the tradition which is found among the
Gaihko tribe is more explicit than the versions found elsewhere.
The original ancestors of the human race are by them called
"Ai-ra-bai" or "E ra bai," and "Mo ra mu" or "Moren meu."
(Among the Sgaws they are called, respectively, "Saw Tha nai"
and "Naw E u"). From the first pair they count by name thirty
generations to the time of "Pan dan man," when the people
attempted to build a pagoda which should reach to heaven.
When the pagoda was half built, God came down and
confounded the speech of the people and they became
scattered. The father of the Gaihko tribe was reputed to be
"Than man rai," who came westward from the Red Karen
country in which they had all previously dwelt, and with eight
chiefs settled in the valley of the Sittang River.
Dr. Francis Mason doubts the antiquity of this legend, for
it certainly shows the marks of Hebrew influence. (Dr. Mason in
_Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal_, 1868, Vol. XXXVII, p. 163).

[21-12] The above paraphrase is based on the translation of
the legends by Dr. Mason as printed in the
_Journal, Burma Research Society_, Vol. I, Pt. II, pp. 36, ff.

[21-13] A full study of the Karen "k' la" and "tha" was made by the early
missionaries to determine which of these two words should be used in
translating the word, soul. "Tha" was the word finally chosen. The results
of these studies are recorded, those of Dr. Wade, in
_The Karen Thesaurus_, new ed., Vol. I, 442, ff, and
those of Dr. Mason in the _Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal_,
Vol. XXX, Pt. II, 195. ff.

[21-14] Sir J. G. Frazer quotes Dr. Nieuwerhuis, who tells of a similar
experience among the people of Borneo: _Golden Bough_, Vol. III, p. 99.
Some of the Karen object to having their photographs taken on account
of their fear of sympathetic magic, that is, they fear that an anccident to
the photograph would cause a similar one to the original.

[21-15] See Dr. J. Wade's account in _The Karen Thesaurus_, new ed., Vol. I, pp. 450, ff.

[21-16] See Chapter XXII on Supernatural and Mythical Beings, p. 230.

[22-1] Dr. J. Wade, _The Karen Thesaurus_, ed. of 1915, Vol. I, pp. 455-484;
Dr. F. Mason. _Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal_, Vol. XXXIV, Pt. II. pp. 195, ff:
Rev E. B. Cross, _Journal, Oriental Society_, Vol. IV. (1854) pp. 312, ff.

[22-2] See Chapter XXV in regard to Mount "Thaw Thi", pp. 262-264.

[22-3] For a description of the rites tendered to the "Mu xa"
see pp. 248, 254, 260.

[22-4] See _ante_, pp. 76, ff.

[22-5] See _ante_, p. 62. An account of the ceremonies
performed in connection with the cultivation of paddy occupies
pp. 54-62. The myth concering "Hpi Bi Yaw" resembles more or
less that of the Irish and Scotch corn maiden, Kernaby, and
suggests that of the Roman Ceres and the Greek Demeter:
Sir. J. G. Frazer. "The Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild," 
in _The Golden Bough_, Vols. VII and VIII.

[22-6] See Chapter XX on Funeral Customs, p. 200.

[22-7] See Chapter XXVIII on Tabu, p. 289.

[22-8] The Karen designation of this group differs
in pronunciation from that of the celestial beings (Mu xa)
not only in having three syllables, but also in that its last
syllable has the grave or heavy tone, while in the latter case
"xa" is given the rising or light tone.

[22-9] For the rites in connection with these, see p. 240.

[22-10] See Chapter XXVI on Magic, p. 274.

[22-11] See Chapter XXVIII on Tabu, p. 289.

[22-12] See Chapter XXI on Religious Conceptions, p. 222.

[22-13] For the tale of the origin of eclipses see Chapter XI
on Measures of Time and Space. Karen Astronomy. p. 59.

[22-14] See "Shwe Yoe" (Sir J. G. Scott),
_The Burman, His Life and Notions_, Chap. XXII. pp. 299. ff.

[23-1] See pages 225.

[23-2] Dr. Mason in the
_Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal_, Vol. XXXIV, pp. 212, ff.:
Rev. T. Than Bya in _Karen Customs_, pp. 20, ff.

[23-3] In these ceremonies one can readily see the similarity to
that of the scapegoat of ancient Israel. (Lev. 16: 21-23). For a
full discussion of this widespread idea, see Sir J. G. Frazer's
article on "The Scape Goat," in _The Golden Bough_, Vol. IX.

[23-4] So far as I have been able to ascertain, it seems to have
been many years since one of these great sacrifices has been
observed by the Sgaw Karen of Lower Burma. I have been able
to get no contemporary accounts of such a ceremony. As to the
legend of time since the Bwe have held such a sacrifice,
I can give no definite information.

[23-5] See p. 247 on priests among the Bwe.

[23-6] It is not uncommon to see a black line tatooed about
a Karen's wrist, the obvious purpose of which is to serve as
a permanent hindrance against the escape of his "k 'la," thus
preventing sickness.

[23-7] In traveling if one who goes ahead wishes to warn those
following not to take a certain path, one puts branches across
its entrance. Thus, notice is given that the path is "killed" and
not to be taken.

[23-8] I am told now, with the waning of the faith in these old
customs, the person who has taken out the offering occasionally
becomes angry if the people in the house do not give a favorable
answer concerning the return of "k' la" and the improvement of the
patient and refuses to repeat the ceremony, as he is supposed to do.

[23-9] Rev. T. Than Bya, _Karen Customs_, p. 30.

[23-10] The leaves named (those of the "thabye" or
_Eugenia malaccensis_) are generally called for this purpose,
but I do not know why.

[23-11] When the Karen on the plains perform these ceremonies,
in which the wandering "k' la" is expected to return to the house
by the ladder, they retain the old-fashioned notched log that has
served from time immemorial as the means of entrance to the
house, but that is being superseded in modern houses by flights
of stairs. They think the "k' la" will more easily return by the kind
of stairs to which it has been accustomed.

[23-12] "Pru-u-u" is a sort of trill which the women use in calling
their children, pigs, or fowls, as well as their "k' las."

[23-13] See p. 207 of Chapter XX (Funeral Customs) for
a similar method of determining the presence of the "k' la" of
the dead.

[23-14] Bunker, _Soo Tha_, pp, 66, ff.

[23-15] For the "wi's" connection with magic, see p. 275.

[24-1] Dr. Wade in _The Karen Thesaurus_, new ed., Vol. I., p. 469.

[24-2] See pp. 30, 139, 142, 148, 192, 225, 288

[24-3] Colonel A. R. MacMahon,
_The Karens of the Golden Chersonese_, pp. 140, ff.
For the story of the Lost Book, see p. 333.

[24-4] Hose and MacDougall, _Pagan Tribes of Borneo_, Vol. II, pp. 60, ff.

[24-5] Leviticus, 16:21-23.

[24-6] Rev. E. W. Blythe in _The Rangoon Diocesan Quarterly_, 1917, p. 9.

[24-7] E. O'Riley in _Journal, Indian Archipelago_, 1859, p. 16.

[24-8] See _ante_, p. 5.

[25-1] See p. 289.

[25-2] Dr. Mason, who is quoted in MacMahon's
_The Karen of the Golden Chersonese_, 242, ff.,
is authority for this interpretation. A similar meaning
was given me in Toungoo, but the spelling of the name
of the bird and of the word meaning "as much as" differs
a little from that commonly employed. These difference are
probably due to local usage.

[25-3] Rev. E. W. Blythe, of Toungoo,
in _The Rangoon Diocesan Magazine_, (1917) Vol. XXI. No. 11, pp. 98, ff.

[25-4] Dr. Francis Mason, _The Karen Apostle_, p. 96.

[26-2] See Chapter XXI on Religious Conceptions, p. 221.

[26-3] See pp. 133, 134.

[26-4] _Karen Thesaurus_, new ed., Vol. I, pp. 643, ff.

[26-5] See Chapter XXII on Supernatural and Mythical Beings, p. 233.

[26-6] _The Karen Thesaurus_, new ed., Vol. I, p. 445.

[26-7] Dr. Wade, _The Karen Thesaurus_, new ed., Vol. I, p. 463.

[26-8] A similar ceremony is gone through at noon of the last day
of the funeral rites. See _ante_, p. 237: Col. A. R. MacMahon,
_The Karens of the Golden Chersonese_, p. 138; Cross,
in the _Journal, American Oriental Society_, Vol. I.

[26-9] _The Karen Thesaurus_, new ed., Vol. I, p. 500.

[26-10] Dr. F. Mason, _British Burma, Its People and Productions_, pp. 501, ff.

[26-11] _The Karen Thesaurus-, new ed., Vol. I, p. 641.

[27-1] Sir J. G. Scott, _Burma, A Handbook_, 399, ff.

[27-2] Another version of this myth says that the Karen gave
"Y'wa" a "saw ku" or rain cover such as is worn when the
people are transplanting rice in the rainy season.

[27-3] There are two accounts of the loss of the book,
which are about equally common. Besides the version
which says that the book was left on the stump, is another
relating that the book was left on the floor, near the entrance
to the house. Here it lay unheeded, till at last it fell through
the cracks and was picked by the fowls and chewed by the pigs
under the house, being finally entirely destroyed. Then, at last,
the unhappy people began to feel the needs of its guidance.

[27-4] See Chapter XXI on Religious Conceptions, p. 213.

[27-5] Rev. T. Than Bya, M. A., _Karen Customs, Ceremonies, and Poetry_, p. 42.

[27-6] Capt. C. E. Poynder,
_Notes on Bwe Expedition_ (Government Press, Rangoon) 1894-95, p. 1; 
Lieutenant E. W. Carrick, _Notes on Report of Bwe & Padaung Countries_,
1894-95, p. 11.

[27-7] See Chapter XXIV on Feasts to the "Bgha," pp. 251, 252.

[27-8] For Borneo, see Hose & MacDougall,
_The Pagan Tribes of Borneo_. Vol. II. 60, ff.

[28-1] Upper Burma Gazetter, Vol. I, Part II, p. 308.

[28-2] See Dr. Mason's account in the
_Journal, Asiatic Society of Bangal_, 1866.

[28-3] This is true in those localities where the "Bgha" are
regarded as the family penates. In other localities, as among
the Bwe, the offended powers were the "lords of the earth."

[28-4] Lieutenant E. W. Carrick, _Report on Bwe Expedition_, 1894-95, p. 23.

E. B. Cross, J. A. O. S. (1854) Vol. IV, 293, ff, and D. C. Gilmore, Journ, Burma

[28-5] MacMahon, _The Karens of the Golden Chersonese_, p. 319.

[28-6] See Chapter XIV on Social Conditions, pp. 133, 134.

[28-7] See Chapter VII, p. 54.

[28-8] See Chapter XXII, p. 230.

[28-9] See Chapter XXV, p. 262.

[28-10] See Chapter XVIII on Birth Customs and Childhood, p. 170.

[29-1] The Rev. Adoniram Judson, D. D., was the first
missionary of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.
He landed in Burma, July 13, 1813, and began his labors among
the Burmese under great difficulties. His zeal as a Christian
apostle, his remarkable linguistic attainments, and the terrible
imprisonments he endured, have given him a place among the
foremost missionaries of modern times. While he always
maintained a friendly and helpful attitude toward the Karen
people, he devoted himself almost entirely to the Burmese.
His compilation of the Burmese grammar and dictionary and
his translation of the whole Bible into Burmese, are among
his great contributions to the Christianizing of the country.

[29-2] _The Karen Apostle_, or _Memoir of Ko Tha Byu_,
by Dr. Mason, gives an interesting account of this first Karen
convert. Unfortunatey this book is now out of print.

[29-3] Letter of the Rev. George Dana Boardman in the
_Missionary Magazine_, Boston, Mass., Jan, 1830, p. 22.

[29-4] Journal of the Rev. Jonathan Wade,
_Missionary Magazine_, May, 1833, pp, 196, ff.

[29-5] Rev. T. Than Bya, _The Karens and Their Progress_, p. 21.

[29-6] Thra Than Bya, then a little boy, went with his mother 
to see the Book on this notable occasion.

[29-7] In the Rangoon district Thra Ng Lay escaped martyrdom
only through the accession of a new governor, whose first
official act was to release him on the eve of his execution day.
However, presecution did not deter such men or their descendants
from becoming preachers. Both Thra Klaw Meh and Thra Ng Lay
have had sons in the ministry, and their grandsons have since been
in the Theological Seminary at Rangoon, preparing for the same calling.

[29-8] _Annual Report_,
American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, 1919, p. 195.

[29-9] Notes on the Roman Catholic Mission in South Burma
by the secretary of the Diocese, dated Moulmein, March 3, 1919.

[29-10] Letter of the Bishop of Rangoon, dated Rangoon, February 12, 1919.

[30-1] Major Snodgrass, _Narrative of the Burmese War_, pp. 140, 142.

[30-2] Calista V. Luther, _The Vintons and the Karens_, p. 30.

[30-3] I have repeatedly heard the statement that Karen served
as guides in the war, but I can not verify it by reference to any
work at hand.

[30-4] Calista V. Luther, _The Vintons and the Karens_, pp. 89, 90, 92, n.

[30-5] For instances of miscarriage of justice, see Mason,
_Burma_, pp. 610-618; Smeaton, _The Loyal Karens of Burma_.
I regret that similar instances are not hard to find, even at the
present day.

[30-6] Calista V. Luther, _The Vintons and the Karens_, pp. 82, 83.

[30-7] H. P. Cochrane, _Among the Burmans_, pp. 278, 279.

[30-8] _Fifth Quinquennial Report on Public Education in Burma_
(for the years 1912-13 to 1916-17), p. 28.

[30-9] _British Burma Gazetter_, Vol. I, p. 488;
_Imperial Gazetter, Burma_, Vol. I. p. 335;
Lieut. Gen. A. Fytche, C. S. I., _Burma, Past and Present_,
Vol. I, Ch. 3, quoted in an article entitled "The Karens" in the
_Rangoon Gazette_ of June 6, 1917.

[30-10] For an account of the capture of Bo Hline, the notorious
dacoit, in Toungoo, see the closing chapters of Cumming's
_In the Shadow of the Pagoda_. These chapters are quoted
in Dr. Bunker's _Soo Tha_, pp. 248-276. The murderers of
Mr. Barbe, the deputy commissioner of Bassein, were
apprehended by the Karen levy in that district.

[30-11] This statement is based on correspondence between
members of the American Baptist Mission and the Secretary
to the Government carried on at the time.

[30-12] The following statement is taken from a letter of Feb. 16,
1919, from the officer in charge of recruiting at Meiktila:
"In all other units Burmans and Karens are mixed up together,
but probably the proportion would be about the same as in the
Burma Rifles. There are also Karens in the Military Police."


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