Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 605
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 605
 
of the Lebanon think that menstruous women are the cause or many misfortunes; their shadow causes flowers to wither and trees to perish, it even arrests the movements of serpents; if one of them mounts a horse, the animal might die or at least be disabled for a long time.
  The Guayquiries of the Orinoco believe that when a woman has her courses, everything upon which she steps will die, and that if a man treads on the place where she has passed, his legs will immediately swell up. Among the Bri-bri Indians of Costa Rica a married woman at her periods uses for plates only banana leaves, which, when she has done with them, she throws away in a sequestered spot; for should a cow find and eat them, the animal would waste away and perish. Also she drinks only out of a special vessel, because any person who should afterwards drink out of the same vessel would infallibly pine away and die.
  Among most tribes of North American Indians the custom was that women in their courses retired from the camp or the village and lived during the time of their uncleanness in special huts or shelters which were appropriated to their use. There they dwelt apart, eating and sleeping by themselves, warming themselves at their own fires, and strictly abstaining from all communications with men, who shunned them just as if they were stricken with the plague.
  Thus, to take examples, the Creek and kindred Indians of the United States compelled women at menstruation to live in separate huts at some distance from the village. There the women had to stay, at the risk of being surprised and cut off by enemies. It was thought “a most horrid and dangerous pollution” to go near the women at such times; and the danger extended to enemies who, if they slew the women, had to cleanse themselves from the pollution by means of certain sacred herbs and roots. The Stseelis Indians of British Columbia imagined that if a menstruous woman were to step over a bundle of arrows, the arrows would thereby be rendered useless and might even cause the death of their owner; and similarly that if she passed in front of a hunter who carried a gun, the weapon would never shoot straight again. Among the Chippeways and other Indians of the Hudson Bay Territory, menstruous women are excluded from the camp, and take up their abode in huts of branches. They wear long hoods, which effectually conceal the head and breast. They may not touch the household furniture nor any objects used by men; for their touch “is supposed to defile them, so that their subsequent use would be followed by certain mischief or misfortune,” such as disease or death. They must drink out of a swan’s bone. They may not walk on the common paths nor cross the tracks of animals. They “are never permitted to walk on the ice of rivers or lakes, or near the part where the men are hunting beaver, or where a fishing-net is set, for fear of averting their success. They are also prohibited at those times from partaking of the head of any animal, and even from walking in or crossing the track where the head of a deer, moose, beaver, and many other animals

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