Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 502
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 502
 
tree is an annual ceremony. As soon as the ceremony is over, all children born within the past year are carried out and their hands made to touch the tail of the serpent’s skin. The latter custom is clearly a way of placing the infants under the protection of the tribal god. Similarly in Senegambia a python is expected to visit every child of the Python clan within eight days after birth; and the Psylli, a Snake clan of ancient Africa, used to expose their infants to snakes in the belief that the snakes would not harm true-born children of the clan.
4. Killing the Sacred Turtles
 
  IN THE CALIFORNIAN, Egyptian, and Fernando Po customs the worship of the animal seems to have no relation to agriculture, and may therefore be presumed to date from the hunting or pastoral stage of society. The same may be said of the following custom, though the Zuni Indians of New Mexico, who practise it, are now settled in walled villages or towns of a peculiar type, and practise agriculture and the arts of pottery and weaving. But the Zuni custom is marked by certain features which appear to place it in a somewhat different class from the preceding cases. It may be well therefore to describe it at full length in the words of an eye-witness.
   “With midsummer the heat became intense. My brother [i.e. adopted Indian brother] and I sat, day after day, in the cool under-rooms of our house,—the latter [sic] busy with his quaint forge and crude appliances, working Mexican coins over into bangles, girdles, ear-rings, buttons, and what not, for savage ornament. Though his tools were wonderfully rude, the work he turned out by dint of combined patience and ingenuity was remarkably beautiful. One day as I sat watching him, a procession of fifty men went hastily down the hill, and off westward over the plain. They were solemnly led by a painted and shell-bedecked priest, and followed by the torch-bearing Shu-lu-wit-si or God of Fire. After they had vanished, I asked old brother what it all meant.
   “‘They are going,’ said he, ‘to the city of Ka-ka and the home of our others.’
   “Four days after, towards sunset, costumed and masked in the beautiful paraphernalia of the Ka-k’ok-shi, or ‘Good Dance,’ they returned in file up the same pathway, each bearing in his arms a basket filled with living, squirming turtles, which he regarded and carried as tenderly as a mother would her infant. Some of the wretched reptiles were carefully wrapped in soft blankets, their heads and forefeet protruding,—and, mounted on the backs of the plume-bedecked pilgrims, made ludicrous but solemn caricatures of little children in the same position. While I was at supper upstairs that evening, the governor’s brother-in-law came in. He was welcomed by the family as if a messenger from heaven. He bore in his tremulous fingers one of the much abused and rebellious turtles. Paint still adhered to his hands and bare feet, which led me to infer that he had formed one of the sacred embassy.
   “‘So you went to Ka-thlu-el-lon, did you?’ I asked.

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