Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 222
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 222
 
king of beasts. Nevertheless, all the men who take part in the slaughter are regarded as unclean, and must live by themselves for three days in a hut or tent made specially for them, where they cut up and cook the bear’s carcase. The reindeer which brought in the carcase on a sledge may not be driven by a woman for a whole year; indeed, according to one account, it may not be used by anybody for that period. Before the men go into the tent where they are to be secluded, they strip themselves of the garments they had worn in killing the bear, and their wives spit the red juice of alder bark in their faces. They enter the tent not by the ordinary door but by an opening at the back. When the bear’s flesh has been cooked, a portion of it is sent by the hands of two men to the women, who may not approach the men’s tent while the cooking is going on. The men who convey the flesh to the women pretend to be strangers bringing presents from a foreign land; the women keep up the pretence and promise to tie red threads round the legs of the strangers. The bear’s flesh may not be passed in to the women through the door of their tent, but must be thrust in at a special opening made by lifting up the hem of the tent-cover. When the three days’ seclusion is over and the men are at liberty to return to their wives, they run, one after the other, round the fire, holding the chain by which pots are suspended over it. This is regarded as a form of purification; they may now leave the tent by the ordinary door and rejoin the women. But the leader of the party must still abstain from cohabitation with his wife for two days more.
  Again, the Caffres are said to dread greatly the boa-constrictor or an enormous serpent resembling it; “and being influenced by certain superstitious notions they even fear to kill it. The man who happened to put it to death, whether in self-defence or otherwise, was formerly required to lie in a running stream of water during the day for several weeks together; and no beast whatever was allowed to be slaughtered at the hamlet to which he belonged, until this duty had been fully performed. The body of the snake was then taken and carefully buried in a trench, dug close to the cattle-fold, where its remains, like those of a chief, were henceforward kept perfectly undisturbed. The period of penance, as in the case of mourning for the dead, is now happily reduced to a few days.” In Madras it is considered a great sin to kill a cobra. When this has happened, the people generally burn the body of the serpent, just as they burn the bodies of human beings. The murderer deems himself polluted for three days. On the second day milk is poured on the remains of the cobra. On the third day the guilty wretch is free from pollution.
  In these last cases the animal whose slaughter has to be atoned for is sacred, that is, it is one whose life is commonly spared from motives of superstition. Yet the treatment of the sacrilegious slayer seems to resemble so closely the treatment of hunters and fishermen who have killed animals for food in the ordinary course of business, that the ideas on which both sets of customs are based may be assumed to

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