THE SUPERNATURAL WORLD / OF BENIN

If one has been contaminated by the bird or if one's children have died before reaching circumcision age, one asks the owner of the shrine for permission to sacrifice. One pours a mixture of rice or millet paste on the stone and promises that if the child lives, a cock and a hen will be sacrificed in payment. When the would-be sacrifiant speaks, he (or she) addresses the bird directly «who is always with you, wherever you go it is over your head ». One doesn't know how the bird kills children. But many mothers have lost children, made the sacrifice, and subsequently borne living progeny. When the cock and hen are killed, many people gather for dancing and a small feast in the early evening. Anyone who participates in the meal, or eats from the gourd that contained the original libation, is tainted as if they had actually touched the bird. Thus the rite serves as much to contaminate as it does to cleanse. The bird is removed from one head but is given ample occasion to find others.

An identical rite was performed for a husband or wife who had stepped on a certain species of black and red handed caterpillar. The libation and payment were made to a stone, owned by an old woman who has since died. With this woman's death the custom disappeared. One still avoids this little creature although no sacrifice has been made in its behalf by any woman of child bearing age now living at BENIN.

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