Historical Events

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Buliard tests a taboo and coincidence works in the Eskimos' favor: "Well, at any rate," one Eskimo observed, "don't kill a crow. That is certain to bring bad weather."
I killed a crow as soon as I could find one. And did I pick the wrong day! Or the wrong crow! A few hours later an Arctic tornado mowed down every tent in the settlement. The Eskimos smiled knowingly at me, saying nothing, but very much amused and quite superior.

January 1, 1951

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Inuk

Roger Buliard

Religion
Eskimo

In addition to the system of fetishes, there is a multitude of tabus, some general and observed by all, others applying only to particular individuals. Sometimes tabus are handed out as cures for illness, like doctors' prescriptions. (And please don't forget the fee up here either!) Others are peculiar to a class of people. The shamans themselves, for example, are forbidden the best dish on the Eskimo menu--seal liver. Most tabus, though, are thought to apply to the whole Eskimo community, and to the Great Eyebrows too.


"Don't throw rocks down a cliff," they warned me. "This offends the atmosphere, and may cause a storm."


One day, for fun, I rolled some boulders over a cliff and watched the Eskimos as they listened to the great rocks crashing against the foot of the cliff. Nothing happened, no storm, not even a little breeze. There was silence.


"Well, at any rate," one Eskimo observed, "don't kill a crow. That is certain to bring bad weather."


I killed a crow as soon as I could find one. And did I pick the wrong day! Or the wrong crow! A few hours later an Arctic tornado mowed down every tent in the settlement. The Eskimos smiled knowingly at me, saying nothing, but very much amused and quite superior.


Virtue, in the Eskimo's mind, is always rewarded with material success. If a hunter who is usually fortunate returns several times with an empty bag, there is only one conclusion. The scamp has forgotten to wear his amulets, or neglected to observe some tabu. He himself will believe this, and castigate himself, and often become quite frantic in his effort to discover his shortcomings.