Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 514
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 514
 
for the consumption of the assembled people a portion is placed in a special vessel and set before the bear’s head: this is called “feeding the head.” After the bear has been killed, dogs are sacrificed in couples of male and female. Before being throttled, they are fed and invited to go to their lord on the highest mountain, to change their skins, and to return next year in the form of bears. The soul of the dead bear departs to the same lord, who is also lord of the primaeval forest; it goes away laden with the offerings that have been made to it, and attended by the souls of the dogs and also by the souls of the sacred whittled sticks, which figure prominently at the festival.
  The Goldi, neighbours of the Gilyaks, treat the bear in much the same way. They hunt and kill it; but sometimes they capture a live bear and keep him in a cage, feeding him well and calling him their son and brother. Then at a great festival he is taken from his cage, paraded about with marked consideration, and afterwards killed and eaten. “The skull, jaw-bones, and ears are then suspended on a tree, as an antidote against evil spirits; but the flesh is eaten and much relished, for they believe that all who partake of it acquire a zest for the chase, and become courageous.”
  The Orotchis, another Tunguzian people of the region of the Amoor, hold bear-festivals of the same general character. Any one who catches a bear cub considers it his bounden duty to rear it in a cage for about three years, in order at the end of that time to kill it publicly and eat the flesh with his friends. The feasts being public, though organised by individuals, the people try to have one in each Orotchi village every year in turn. When the bear is taken out of his cage, he is led about by means of ropes to all the huts, accompanied by people armed with lances, bows, and arrows. At each hut the bear and bear-leaders are treated to something good to eat and drink. This goes on for several days until all the huts, not only in that village but also in the next, have been visited. The days are given up to sport and noisy jollity. Then the bear is tied to a tree or wooden pillar and shot to death by the arrows of the crowd, after which its flesh is roasted and eaten. Among the Orotchis of the Tundja River women take part in the bear-feasts, while among the Orotchis of the River Vi the women will not even touch bear’s flesh.
  In the treatment of the captive bear by these tribes there are features which can hardly be distinguished from worship. Such, for example, are the prayers offered to it both alive and dead; the offerings of food, including portions of its own flesh, laid before the animal’s skull; and the Gilyak custom of leading the living beast to the river in order to ensure a supply of fish, and of conducting him from house to house in order that every family may receive his blessing, just as in Europe a May-tree or a personal representative of the tree-spirit used to be taken from door to door in spring for the sake of diffusing among all and sundry the fresh energies of reviving nature. Again, the solemn participation in his flesh and blood, and particularly the Aino custom of sharing the contents of the cup which had been consecrated by being

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