中文

The Atayal

A Store of Myths: The Story of the Rainbow Bridge

The Atayal believe that to reach the world of eternal life, people have to cross a bridge called the Rainbow Bridge. It is the only road to Heaven, and no one can cross it without being judged about his or her deeds and thoughts while they were alive.

The Rainbow Bridge is so tall and majestic that it touches the sky, and it shines brightly in the seven colors of the rainbow, reaching across the horizon like a huge bow. But below it lies a deep abyss, through which a roaring and foaming river rapidly runs its course, filled with crocodiles and giant pythons.

At the head of the bridge there is a room where people are judged on their good and bad deeds. Their judges are the souls of all the kind and righteous people who have already passed away from this world.

The judges have a way of telling immediately whether someone is a good or an evil person, be it a man or a woman. Only the good and kind are allowed to pass. If someone is suspected of being evil, the judges will smear ashes on his or her hands. If the ashes stick to the hands, the person is allowed to walk across the Rainbow Bridge all the way to Heaven. But if the ashes come off, then the person is judged to be stubborn and evil and is not allowed to walk across the Rainbow Bridge towards the blessed realm of eternal life. Rather, all those who fail the test have to walk across another bridge, along a path full of thistles and thorns and poisonous plants, and frightful bloodsucking insects. The old members of the tribe who still have facial tattoos believe that the signs and symbols on their faces will serve as a “permit” allowing them to pass the Rainbow Bridge and be united with their ancestors. But many wrinkles have already covered the faces of those remaining with facial tattoos, viewed by ethnologists as “living mythological fossils”. Most of them are already more than a hundred years old, and when they die out, so will the custom of facial tattooing with all its mythological implications.