From: Jerome Blondel <>
Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2001 16:33:57 +0000

More thoughts on idols
(that was long ago)

Peter Metcalfe
>Yes. By promising to follow a code of behaviour or promising
>to sacrifice to the idol, you are sacrificing some of your
>free action (and hence yourself) and thus providing the Idol
>with divine food (cf Sacrifices in Thunder Rebels p61 &#8211; dunno
>what the French page number is).

Given that the sacrifice seems to be the deity's gift (a bull, some milk, some oil..) i think the free action you sacrifice is related to the magic the idol gives you. Simply said, a hunter who swears not to hunt the Blue Bird would receive magic from his idol that helps him hunt the Brown Bird (which may happen to be more tasty btw). The hunter would rationalize this by saying the Blue Bird is the godling's prerogative/ friend/ manifestation/ or anything else that does the trick.

It's the idol who casts the magic, not the owner. I think it's the idol who "shares the self" (the term used in Thunder Rebels). That's because the Masloians are so afraid of meddling with supernatural entities.

Animals, sometimes humans, are sacrificed to collective idols (or not), who do magic (probably more potent) for the benefit of the community (or individual) who provided the sacrifice. The sacrifice must be of their kin/ field/ etc. When they catch a stranger they want to sacrifice (most common in Kimos), they feast with him first, in order to make sure he's kin.

This is all in all similar to an animist's summoning the spirit from his fetish. I like the idea that's been formulated here a few days ago, that the Maslo folk forcefully switched from animism to theism. (Extatic idolatry clearly still exists too!)

What happens when a priest creates a new idol? They probably have to "invite" the deity into the idol. The medium for this could be a sacrifice. Or maybe the priest's own body (vestigial "sacred chieftain"?). Thus priests are even more superstitious than common folk, and spend much time keeping the demons of Debadai asleep. If one should wake when they're channelling a godling into an idol, the demon could possess their body and they'd become an evil witch. There are many tales of vengeful magicians who channeled evil demons into idols to curse their enemies.

How to protect oneself against demons? They must be kept "asleep". For this, idols are made and regularly sacrificed to that embody the most recent ancestors, who always face demons during their afterlife journey. Usually it's not combat, just frightening off or evading the demon with a trick. All demons have a weak spot they fear may be found and used against them. For example a type of banshee looks like a beautiful woman with flowing tresses who flies by night, alights on trees and sticks her long nails in the belly of pregnant women to kill the children. But in the nape of her neck is a hole, which she is terrified may be found by the "smooth-scaled climbing perch". Therefore the priests make protective idols in the shape of that fish. If they didn't, the banshee would wake up and cause much sorrow (and thanks to that malay myth of the banshee).


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