Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 505
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 505
 
they may be pleased to exert their power over the waters of heaven for the benefit of their living descendants.
5. Killing the Sacred Bear
 
  DOUBT also hangs at first sight over the meaning of the bear-sacrifice offered by the Aino or Ainu, a primitive people who are found in the Japanese island of Yezo or Yesso, as well as in Saghalien and the southern of the Kurile Islands. It is not quite easy to define the attitude of the Aino towards the bear. On the one hand they give it the name of kamui or “god”; but as they apply the same word to strangers, it may mean no more than a being supposed to be endowed with superhuman, or at all events extraordinary, powers. Again, it is said that “the bear is their chief divinity”; “in the religion of the Aino the bear plays a chief part”; “amongst the animals it is especially the bear which receives an idolatrous veneration”; “they worship it after their fashion”; “there is no doubt that this wild beast inspires more of the feeling which prompts worship than the inanimate forces of nature, and the Aino may be distinguished as bear-worshippers.” Yet, on the other hand, they kill the bear whenever they can; “in bygone years the Ainu considered bear-hunting the most manly and useful way in which a person could possibly spend his time”; “the men spend the autumn, winter, and spring in hunting deer and bears. Part of their tribute or taxes is paid in skins, and they subsist on the dried meat”; bear’s flesh is indeed one of their staple foods; they eat it both fresh and salted; and the skins of bears furnish them with clothing. In fact, the worship of which writers on this subject speak appears to be paid chiefly to the dead animal. Thus, although they kill a bear whenever they can, “in the process of dissecting the carcass they endeavor to conciliate the deity, whose representative they have slain, by making elaborate obeisances and deprecatory salutations”; “when a bear has been killed the Ainu sit down and admire it, make their salaams to it, worship it, and offer presents of inao”; “when a bear is trapped or wounded by an arrow, the hunters go through an apologetic or propitiatory ceremony.” The skulls of slain bears receive a place of honour in their huts, or are set up on sacred posts outside the huts, and are treated with much respect: libations of millet beer, and of sake, an intoxicating liquor, are offered to them; and they are addressed as “divine preservers” or “precious divinities.” The skulls of foxes are also fastened to the sacred posts outside the huts; they are regarded as charms against evil spirits, and are consulted as oracles. Yet it is expressly said, “The live fox is revered just as little as the bear; rather they avoid it as much as possible, considering it a wily animal.” The bear can hardly, therefore, be described as a sacred animal of the Aino, nor yet as a totem; for they do not call themselves bears, and they kill and eat the animal freely. However, they have a legend of a woman who had a son by a bear; and many of them who dwell in the mountains pride themselves on being descended from a bear. Such people are called “Descendants of the bear” (Kimun Kamui sanikiri), and in the pride of their heart they will say, “As

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