Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/100

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libations of saké) at the time of worship. Miss Bird (volume ii, p. 86) gives an illustration of them and calls them "Aino gods." I think this is a mistake, just as it would be a mistake to call the images, relics, etc., in a Romish church "gods" in the sense of being possessed of absolute power in themselves. One large inao is always placed at the eastern end of the hut for the sun-god, and many of them are hung all round the inside of the hut; generally one or more are stuck into the fireplace; and there is always at least one at every spring of water. At least one will be placed at the head of a man's grave; and several will be stuck into the ground at the rude wicket on which are impaled the skulls of bears—these animals occupying a somewhat anomalous place in Ainu philosophy; at one time feared and worshiped, at another killed and eaten.

Although the Ainu ideas of a future existence are very hazy, yet they consider that the spirits of men are well-disposed toward the living, and may be relied upon to bring good fortune to the village and the inhabitants thereof; hence they have no fear of the spirits of men; but it is very different with those of old women. They are considered to be very malignant—witches, in fact—who are seeking some means of working mischief. Formerly this prejudice was more deeply rooted than at present, and, in order to prevent the spirits of old women bewitching the place and the people, their houses were burned down as soon as ever the corpse was taken away for burial. This was done in order that the spirit might have no abiding-place, and, while engaged in hunting for its home, would be diverted from its malicious plans. This notion corresponds with the superstitions of barbarous nations in other parts of the world.

There does not seem to have ever been any superstition connected with the fireplace, as to the manner of procuring the flame when first kindling a fire in a new house, nor as to the necessity of always keeping the fire alight to ward off misfortune. Charcoal is not used, and as the wood is generally in small pieces, the fire is easily extinguished, but this does not bring any bad luck. The use of the Japanese hibachi (brazier) and small fire-pots is becoming popular, but this is such a purely exotic custom as not to deserve mention. Formerly the Ainu used the fire-drill, in all essentials similar to that of the Esquimaux of North America; but for many years matches (at first imported from America and Europe, but now manufactured in enormous quantities in Japan) have been so cheap that even the Ainu can use them.

The Ainu bear-feast has been so often described, and the prominent features thereof so well portrayed by others, that I will not attempt to do more than mention one or two points which have not, I think, been given already, only repeating that the