Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/281

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The Scape-Goat in European Folklore. 267

in the middle of the hut and rejoins the remainder of the community. Each man then removes from the toucan as many feathers as there are women and children in his family and fastens them to the top of a stick with resin ; this he plants in the earth near the fire assigned to him, the order of the fires being determined by the seniority of the men. Then, decked out with all his ornaments, necklaces, armlets, etc., each man makes for a fire tended by the oldest woman, who serves out a liquid called bmquilla. They enter the hut and each takes possession of his own fire ; while this is going on the women and children retire to the forest, the only exception being the old woman who takes charge of the toucan, wraps it in leaves (banana) and places it across the threshold to stop the passage for the escaping evil spirit. Meanwhile the men dance, swing their sticks, and shout, till the evil spirit attempts to escape ; but on the threshold the toucan stops it and compels it to enter its body ; if it does this it must remain there as long as the toucan lives. The old woman already mentioned keeps her eye on the toucan, and when it shows signs of uneasiness she concludes that the spirit has entered it, and sets it free. The feather- ornamented sticks with which the men have put the evil spirit to flight are carefully preserved ; the feathers serve to make feather headdresses, and the stick itself is put on the roof.^

I pass over the details of the ceremony, some of which are closely paralleled in the Old World ; but I will digress for a moment and deal with the subsequent use of the magical stick. The wood of it is perhaps sacred ; but it is certain that a part of its cathartic virtue comes from the toucan feathers ; now in another ceremony, that of the initiation of girls, there is carved on a post the grimacing face of the evil spirit, which the flagellation inflicted on the unfortunate young woman is supposed to expel ; in

^ Chaffanjon, Orenoque, p. 202.