THE CULTURE OF AINU BEAR SACRIFICE:IYOMANTE

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THE BEAR CULT AMONG ABORIGINAL PEOPLE OF HOKKAIDO

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Every single day brings new concerns to the animal lovers worldwide because in the book of religions and bizarre cults, the sacrifice of animals is placed very high. The tragedy of such a primitive human behaviour, justified with cultural and traditional customs, is nothing but a big embarassment for all progress of the 21st century.

One community sacrifices owls, other kills goats. Then, there are those who eat dogs and those who hunt innocent dolphins. Some prey on animals for their own Gods, some chase after them for their own profit. The world is a butchery hidden behind the fake religions promises and manipulated population who has no free thoughts. At the end of the day, we can’t blame the isolated tribes and indigenous groups that practice their own rituals when we can’t control our own  urban’s backward animal cruelty.

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Have you ever heard, among numerous scary cults, for the bear cult? People who worship bears but at the same time, they kill them for a mercy of imagined forces.The life must be enough twisted when we discover the areas where the sense of modernity has never covered the taste of primitive and animal desires.I am not labeling the ancient native people like shameless and bestial in their own believes but I would like to invite the human race on attention to share and spread the educational enlightenment.

Mircea Eliade, the expert for the world’s religions writes about the Ainu people like about specific bear-hunters people who live in northern Japan, Hokkaido, and in the Kurile Islands but they are descendants of one another ethnic group coming from the central and northern Siberia. There were things that have been changed, but the ritual obsession with bears is the crucial part of the Ainu identity. Actually, the festival of brown bear sacrifice is known as “Iyomante” or “Kamui Omante” that means “to see off” or “to send off”. The whole point is to ensure the bear cub or even two of them for the following bear feast. That usually includes the strong will of hunters to risk their own lives to catch the baby bears and bring it to the community. The small bears are treated with great respect and affection but their destiny is deadly, after two years. The Ainu people love bears and fear sorry for their death but they do not give up on cruel traditional rules.

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Before the feast will be held, there was a call to all to come and join the bear sacrifice. Mr. Eliade has even written the invitation for a feast:“I, so and so, am about to sacrifice the dear little divine thing who resides among the mountains. My friends and masters, come ye to the feast; we will then unite in the great pleasure of sending the god away. Come.” The feast has a typical barbaric design, men sit around the fireplace and women are behind. The beer is served but the real feast is starting after the poor bear is stitched directly into the heart and the bloody ceremony is over. However, the ritual of torturing the bear is enough disturbing and according to the mentioned religion expert, it is overwhelming our sensitivity:“As soon as the poor beast is out or the cage the people who have formed the ring shout and clap their hands while it is being led into their midst, and upon its arrival they take blunt arrows, which they call Hepere-ai, i.e. ‘cub arrows,’ and shoot at it, thus trying to work it up into a passion. The shouting now becomes deafening, and the bear sometimes furious. But the wilder the bear becomes the more delighted do the people get. Should, however, the animal refuse to move, he is brushed down with a stick called Takusa, the tuft on the top of which is made of Arundinaria. When the excited and struggling brute shows signs of exhaustion a stake is driven into the ground in the centre of the ring of people, and to it the bear is tied. This stake is ornamented with inao shavings and leaves of Arundinaria, and is called Tushop-ni, i.e. ‘tree having the rope.'” In one moment of the scary cult rite, the young Ainu men will come forward and start deal with the bear, seize the brute by the ears and fur of the face, pulling at  the animal that opens its mouth and they stick the piece of wood into the poor bear’s jaws. It is more than morbid to imagine what they do to the bear in long period before they finally do not end up its suffering and kill it, under the relief they satisfied God and sent him back.

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According to their believes, God sometimes comes on the Earth as animal , as a bear and head of all, and they must sent him back and they will be awarded. It is almost a paradox that people who consider bear as a kamui-God are doing such a terrible things to that animal, believing that they praising it.

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It is interesting to see the slightly differences between bear worshipping. They sacrifice the masculine bear that means they do not sacrifice the Goddess Bear Mother, the life giver. The Ainu people strongly believe that their Gods see them equal and they love visiting them sometimes and offering them blessings.One thrilling irony of worshipping  the God through the killing of him. The God will not be angry but ready to send blessings from above.

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For the Western world, comforted with monotheistic religions, those kind of cults that openly favorize the sacrifice of majestic animals seem like a punch in the civilization face, the proof that we are far away from the human mankind. I would rather conclude that the high level of technology development and modern and opened believes do not guarantee that the hidden tribes will accept the new age rules. They will indeed oppose to it because no matter who we are and what we are, our Gods will be always different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “THE CULTURE OF AINU BEAR SACRIFICE:IYOMANTE”

  1. Thank you so much, Sarah, for another article that sheds light on cruelty to animals during animal festivals and through animal sacrifices.

    Through some of your informative prior articles, Sarah, I learned about the viscous and cruel festivals in several countries such as Spain, Nepal, and China. A direct apropos of my statement is so well expressed in your current article as follows
    “One community sacrifices owls, other kills goats. Then, there are those who eat dogs and those who hunt innocent dolphins. Some prey on animals for their own Gods, some chase after them for their own profit.”

    As can be seen, there is nothing to stop “humans” from continuing these atrocities in the name of God and religion !

    In reality, God has never called for such massacres of animals, and neither have religions ! These are nothing but extremely primitive rituals on the part of people who are so credulous as to believe that providing ambrosia to the Gods will pacify their anger !

    And the pertinent quote from your article is “Every single day brings new concerns to the animal lovers worldwide because in the book of religions and bizarre cults, the sacrifice of animals is placed very high. The tragedy of such a primitive human behaviour, justified with cultural and traditional customs, is nothing but a big embarassment for all progress of the 21st century.”

    Before closing, what better argument than your own statement “The world is a butchery hidden behind the fake religions promises and manipulated population who has no free thoughts.”

    You have expressed this behavior so well when you referred to fake religious promises, and manipulated populations who are not free thinkers! In agreement with your statement, the masses are followers, not leaders, and, as such, cannot think for themselves and follow what is dictated to them.

    In closing, I’m using your brilliant statement “At the end of the day, we can’t blame the isolated tribes and indigenous groups that practice their own rituals when we can’t control our own urban’s backward animal cruelty.”

    Isn’t it sad and deplorable that we cannot control our so-called “civilized” animal cruelty?!

    Thank you, Sarah, for bringing awareness as to these incessant cruelties and atrocities committed in the name of Gods and religions !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I lived in Hokkaido for many years and I witnessed the slow death of the Ainu cultural aspects; such as linguistic and artistic features. As Sarah points out in her article, the Ainu both revere and harm the Ussuri brown bear; which is the predominant bear of the region.

    The animal rights activists of Hokkaido encouraged local governments to abolish the Iomante (i.e. bear sacrifice ceremony) in 1955, but the circular notice was abolished in April of 2007, because the Ministry of the Environment of Japan announced that animal ceremonies were generally regarded as an exception of the animal rights law of Japan, in October of 2006.

    Iyomante videos and artifacts are on display at The Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum in Nibutani, Hokkaidō, as well as The Ainu Museum in Shiraoi-cho, Hokkaidō. I have viewed these materials with a heavy heart.

    The animal rights activists try to promote the natural/wild realities of the bears. For example, on Shiretoko Peninsula, Hokkaido, many females with cubs approach fishermen and spend time near people. This unique behaviour was firstly noted in the 1930s, with no casualties or accidents ever recorded. It is speculated that females take cubs and approach fishermen to avoid encountering adult males (often, a male will try to eat the cubs; as is the same with lions).

    In Hokkaido, between 1900-1957, 141 people died from bear attacks, and another 300 were injured. From 1962 to 2008, there were 86 attacks and 33 deaths from bears in Hokkaido. Mainly, this is due to the fact that human urban expansions, etc., continue to encroach upon traditional bear habitats…

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) grades the Ussuri brown bear as Vulnerable (i.e. a threatened species). They were present on Honshu (i.e. the main island of the Nipponese archipelago) during the last glacial period, but were driven to extinction either by competing with Asian black bears and or by habitat loss due to climate change. Illegal hunting and capture has become a very serious contributing factor to the decline in bear numbers, as their body parts are of high economic value in China.

    Five regional sub-populations of Ussuri brown bears are now recognized in Hokkaido. Of these, the small size and isolation of the western Ishikari subpopulation has warranted its listing as an Endangered Species in Japan’s Red Data Book. Also, 90 to 152 brown bears are thought to dwell in the West Ishikari Region and from 84 to 135 in the Teshio-Mashike mountains. Their habitat has been severely limited by human activities; especially forestry practices and road construction. Excessive mass agribusiness is a major factor in limiting their populations, as well.

    There are parallels to the Ainu Iomante in other civilisations, also. For example, the Karhunpeijaiset is a celebration after a bear hunt, in Finland among the Sami people. A bear was never hunted, but was merely brought down. A single man could claim to have hunted and killed a bear, but in a community effort, the bear simply died. The ceremony was always a much more elaborate affair than the most influential member of the community would have merited. In eastern Finland, it would have copious mourners and wailers, and the people would address the bear as a relative or as the son of a god. Its flesh was not eaten (that would have been cannibalism, in their eyes) or, if it was, an elaborate show was made to symbolically render the meat into that of another animal (e.g. venison). The bear’s head was usually mounted on the top of a young tree, or on a pike. Carrion-eaters would then eat it, leaving only the skull, which would then become an object of veneration. A courtyard would be cleared around the skull. Traditionally, only bears were sanctified thus.

    Sometimes, the ceremony was held as a sacred marriage rather than a burial. In such cases, the bear was either propped up inside a frame or strapped to a cross. With all due ceremony, the chosen bride or groom would symbolically marry the bear.

    Nowadays, peijaiset means the festivities ending a successful hunt or hunting season; usually, only for moose and bear. On many occasions, these include making a meal of the latest kill for hunters in the evening. So, even in a First World state like Finland the bear remains a victim of blood sports…

    As Sarah concludes in her article, superior and sophisticated modern society is no guarantee for the universal protection of animals from the worst behaviours of Homo sapiens.

    Liked by 1 person

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