Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 512
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 512
 
till they are full-grown. A thick layer of fat on the captive bear gives the signal for the festival, which is always held in winter, generally in December but sometimes in January or February. At the festival witnessed by the Russian travellers, which lasted a good many days, three bears were killed and eaten. More than once the animals were led about in procession and compelled to enter every house in the village, where they were fed as a mark of honour, and to show that they were welcome guests. But before the beasts set out on this round of visits, the Gilyaks played at skipping-rope in presence, and perhaps, as L. von Schrenck inclined to believe, in honour of the animals. The night before they were killed, the three bears were led by moonlight a long way on the ice of the frozen river. That night no one in the village might sleep. Next day, after the animals had been again led down the steep bank to the river, and conducted thrice round the hole in the ice from which the women of the village drew their water, they were taken to an appointed place not far from the village, and shot to death with arrows. The place of sacrifice or execution was marked as holy by being surrounded with whittled sticks, from the tops of which shavings hung in curls. Such sticks are with the Gilyaks, as with the Aino, the regular symbols that accompany all religious ceremonies.
  When the house has been arranged and decorated for their reception, the skins of the bears, with their heads attached to them, are brought into it, not, however, by the door, but through a window, and then hung on a sort of scaffold opposite the hearth on which the flesh is to be cooked. The boiling of the bears’ flesh among the Gilyaks is done only by the oldest men, whose high privilege it is; women and children, young men and boys have no part in it. The task is performed slowly and deliberately, with a certain solemnity. On the occasion described by the Russian travellers the kettle was first of all surrounded with a thick wreath of shavings, and then filled with snow, for the use of water to cook bear’s flesh is forbidden. Meanwhile a large wooden trough, richly adorned with arabesques and carvings of all sorts, was hung immediately under the snouts of the bears; on one side of the trough was carved in relief a bear, on the other side a toad. When the carcases were being cut up, each leg was laid on the ground in front of the bears, as if to ask their leave, before being placed in the kettle; and the boiled flesh was fished out of the kettle with an iron hook, and set in the trough before the bears, in order that they might be the first to taste of their own flesh. As fast, too, as the fat was cut in strips it was hung up in front of the bears, and afterwards laid in a small wooden trough on the ground before them. Last of all the inner organs of the beasts were cut up and placed in small vessels. At the same time the women made bandages out of parti-coloured rags, and after sunset these bandages were tied round the bears’ snouts just below the eyes “in order to dry the tears that flowed from them.”
  As soon as the ceremony of wiping away poor bruin’s tears had

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