I shall next discuss a variety of related beliefs concerning child sickness and death, that resemble somewhat the bird sacrifice of section 6. These all involve real or supposed violation of certain animal taboos. Women of child-bearing age do not eat eggs, pigeons, tortoises, and the cephalophine, a small red deer with a tufted forehead. One doesn't eat eggs because « you don't eat the child of another to nourish your own children. » If a woman eats the pigeon her child may sicken and her milk will dry up. This also works in reverse : « If you have a baby and have no milk, you remember that you have eaten the pigeon ». Thus absence of milk implies a forgotten infraction, just as infraction causes absence of milk. To cure this sickness the woman retires to the rear of the women's house where one winnows and where the pigeons feed. She lies on the ground and cries like a pigeon and a man fires a rifle into the ground as if he were shooting a pigeon. Presumably the woman stands up cured. If one has eaten flesh of a tortoise she must put a tortoise bone in the water jar from which the child drinks and washes, to avoid the danger of sickness to the child.
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.