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people, and their present separation appears to be due to the inroad of the Ahoms, a Shan tribe from the upper course of the Iravvadi, who invaded Assam and gave their name to the province in the thirteenth century.
The tribal religion is of the animistic type, earth, air, and sky being in their belief peopled by a host of invisible spiritual beings, known as Modai, possessing powers and faculties superior to those of man, and almost invariably malignant. Neither ancestor worship nor the cult of the forces of nature prevails to any important extent. Their deities fall into two classes, — household and village gods, one revered by the family, and the other by the collective tribe. The leader of the first group is Bathau, whose symbol is the tree Euphorbia sj>knde?is, often to be seen in the homestead surrounded by a bamboo fence. Next to him comes the familiar figure of the Mother Goddess, his consort, Mainao, guardian of the rice fields. Many of the present village deities have been directly imported from Hinduism ; the three great annual festivals are, however, not connected with their worship, but with the ingathering of the three annual crops of rice. Offerings to these deities are infrequently made, and generally only when some disaster menaces the community.
Little of the tribal folklore has been collected. They specially reverence water, particularly flowing water, and one of their legends connects the union of the primal pair with a visit to a tank, and attributes the respect for water to the kindness of the fishes, who conferred a boon upon the god Sri, who, with a change of sex, is a direct importation of the Hindu goddess of luck. Their myth of thunder tells how a maiden unwilling to marry flew away into the sky ; the voice of her rejected suitor, as he shouts to recall her, makes the thunder, and her fiery glance, as she looks back on him, is the lightning. To the small collection of tales made by Mr. Endle, his editor, Mr. Anderson, adds three : one of the simpleton who changes his betrothed wife for an ox, the ox for a goat, the goat for a bundle of bananas, and these as payment for learning the art of snapping his fingers ; the second that of the monkey and the hare, in which the former meets his end when he puts his head into the tiger's mouth; the third a variant of the Swan Maiden cycle, where the youth burns