Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 603
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 603
 
to maidenhood she asked the old woman, “Where do you go so often?” “My child,” said the old dame, “there is a bright world. In that bright world your father and mother live, and all sorts of people live there. That is where I go.” The maiden said, “Good mother, I will tell nobody, but show me that bright world.” So the old woman took the girl out of the iron house. But when she saw the bright world, the girl tottered and fainted; and the eye of God fell upon her, and she conceived. Her angry father put her in a golden chest and sent her floating away (fairy gold can float in fairyland) over the wide sea. The shower of gold in the Greek story, and the eye of God in the Kirghiz legend, probably stand for sunlight and the sun. The idea that women may be impregnated by the sun is not uncommon in legends, and there are even traces of it in marriage customs.
4. Reasons for the Seclusion of Girls at Puberty
 
  THE MOTIVE for the restraints so commonly imposed on girls at puberty is the deeply engrained dread which primitive man universally entertains of menstruous blood. He fears it at all times but especially on its first appearance; hence the restrictions under which women lie at their first menstruation are usually more stringent than those which they have to observe at any subsequent recurrence of the mysterious flow. Some evidence of the fear and of the customs based on it has been cited in an earlier part of this work; but as the terror, for it is nothing less, which the phenomenon periodically strikes into the mind of the savage has deeply influenced his life and institutions, it may be well to illustrate the subject with some further examples.
  Thus in the Encounter Bay tribe of South Australia there is, or used to be, a “superstition which obliges a woman to separate herself from the camp at the time of her monthly illness, when if a young man or boy should approach, she calls out, and he immediately makes a circuit to avoid her. If she is neglectful upon this point, she exposes herself to scolding, and sometimes to severe beating by her husband or nearest relation, because the boys are told from their infancy, that if they see the blood they will early become grey-headed, and their strength will fail prematurely.” The Dieri of Central Australia believe that if women at these times were to eat fish or bathe in a river, the fish would all die and the water would dry up. The Arunta of the same region forbid menstruous women to gather the irriakura bulbs, which form a staple article of diet for both men and women. They think that were a woman to break this rule, the supply of bulbs would fail.
  In some Australian tribes the seclusion of menstruous women was even more rigid, and was enforced by severer penalties than a scolding or a beating. Thus “there is a regulation relating to camps in the Wakelbura tribe which forbids the women coming into the encampment by the same path as the men. Any violation of this rule would in a large camp be punished with death. The reason for this is the dread with which they regard the menstrual period of women. During such a time, a woman is kept entirely away from

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