104 THE BELIEFS AND RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES
how tKey spin, for she is a spinner herself. On the ridge of a silver mountain in the sky she spins her threads with a golden wheel. During her week, from Christmas-eve to the new year in winter, and from the day of Semik (the seventh Thursday after Easter) to the following Thursday in summer, Mordvin women do not spin. To do so would be a great sin ; and they believe that wearing clothes con- taining threads spun on those days brings much misfortune to the wearer. The cobwebs that float about on a clear autumn day are the weaving of the goddess.
Of domestic creatures, hens are her favourites, on account of their productiveness. Hens and eggs are therefore offered to her. The eggs offered on the day of Semik are stained reddish yellow with cloves of garlic. Such eggs are termed golden. They are carefully kept; and in case of fire are thrown into the flames to check the blaze and to turn the wind. They are placed on trees in the forest, where beehives are kept, that the bees may be more productive, and chickens are fed with them, accompanying the action with a prayer to the goddess, that they may become good layers of eggs when full- grown. These eggs are also eaten by barren women, and by those whose children have died young. If a plague has broken out among the cattle or other domestic animals, especially if the sheep die, such eggs are broken and scattered about the cow-houses, and the cattle are smoked with the burnt egg-shells and cloves of garlic.
The Mordvins relate the following legend :
At the beginning of the world, Ange Patyai said to all the women and female creatures that they ought to bring forth offspring every day. They would not, however, agree to this, saying that it would be very irksome and painful. The hen alone agreed, and therefore became the favourite creature of the goddess. Another bird also con- sented, and was also on the point of becoming her favourite ; but, subsequently, it got weary of the trouble of daily laying eggs. This was the cuckoo, which was intended to be a domestic creature. The goddess then became angry, drove it away from human habitations into the woods, and did not allow it to make its own nest any more, but ordered it to lay its eggs in a strange nest. As a sign of the