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The Golden Bough A study of magic and religion

Page: 371

Some light may be thrown on the ambiguous attitude of the Aino to bears by comparing the similar treatment which they accord to other creatures. For example, they regard the eagle-owl as a good deity who by his hooting warns men of threatened evil and defends them against it; hence he is loved, trusted, and devoutly worshipped as a divine mediator between men and the Creator. The various names applied to him are significant both of his divinity and of his mediatorship. Whenever an opportunity offers, one of these divine birds is captured and kept in a cage, where he is greeted with the endearing titles of “Beloved god” and “Dear little divinity.” Nevertheless the time comes when the dear little divinity is throttled and sent away in his capacity of mediator to take a message to the superior gods or to the Creator himself. The following is the form of prayer addressed to the eagle-owl when it is about to be sacrificed: “Beloved deity, we have brought you up because we loved you, and now we are about to send you to your father. We herewith offer you food, inao, wine, and cakes; take them to your parent, and he will be very pleased. When you come to him say, ‘I have lived a long time among the Ainu, where an Ainu father and an Ainu mother reared me. I now come to thee. I have brought a variety of good things. I saw while living in Ainuland a great deal of distress. I observed that some of the people were possessed by demons, some were wounded by wild animals, some were hurt by landslides, others suffered shipwreck, and many were attacked by disease. The people are in great straits. My father, hear me, and hasten to look upon the Ainu and help them.’ If you do this, your father will help us.”

Again, the Aino keep eagles in cages, worship them as divinities, and ask them to defend the people from evil. Yet they offer the bird in sacrifice, and when they are about to do so they pray to him, saying: “O precious divinity, O thou divine bird, pray listen to my words. Thou dost not belong to this world, for thy home is with the Creator and his golden eagles. This being so, I present thee with these inao and cakes and other precious things. Do thou ride upon the inao and ascend to thy home in the glorious heavens. When thou arrivest, assemble the deities of thy own kind together and thank them for us for having governed the world. Do thou come again, I beseech thee, and rule over us. O my precious one, go thou quietly.” Once more, the Aino revere hawks, keep them in cages, and offer them in sacrifice. At the time of killing one of them the following prayer should be addressed to the bird: “O divine hawk, thou art an expert hunter, please cause thy cleverness to descend on me.” If a hawk is well treated in captivity and prayed to after this fashion when he is about to be killed, he will surely send help to the hunter.

Thus the Aino hopes to profit in various ways by slaughtering the creatures, which, nevertheless, he treats as divine. He expects them to carry messages for him to their kindred or to the gods in the upper world; he hopes to partake of their virtues by swallowing parts of their bodies or in other ways; and apparently he looks forward to their bodily resurrection in this world, which will enable him again to catch and kill them, and again to reap all the benefits which he has already derived from their slaughter. For in the prayers addressed to the worshipful bear and the worshipful eagle before they are knocked on the head the creatures are invited to come again, which seems clearly to point to a faith in their future resurrection. If any doubt could exist on this head, it would be dispelled by the evidence of Mr. Batchelor, who tells us that the Aino “are firmly convinced that the spirits of birds and animals killed in hunting or offered in sacrifice come and live again upon the earth clothed with a body; and they believe, further, that they appear here for the special benefit of men, particularly Ainu hunters.” The Aino, Mr. Batchelor tells us, “confessedly slays and eats the beast that another may come in its place and be treated in like manner”; and at the time of sacrificing the creatures “prayers are said to them which form a request that they will come again and furnish viands for another feast, as if it were an honour to them to be thus killed and eaten, and a pleasure as well. Indeed such is the people’s idea.” These last observations, as the context shows, refer especially to the sacrifice of bears.


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