Why you should keep the skull of this seabird in your home
"The albatross is an object of worship, and the origin of prayer being said to
him is as follows: Once upon a time, many years ago, a bad disease broke out
among the Ainu, so that many of the people died. At that time there lived a
very good and honorable man whose name was Tokirange. Now, this man had a
wonderful dream, in which he saw a very large house with a multitude of people
assembled in it. In front of the assembly a chief was standing up, who said: 'I
was one day passing through the midst of Ainu-land, not in the least expecting
to meet with anything bad, but in the huts of many of the people I smelled the
fearful odor of a certain bird which comes from the sea, and which is called by
the name albatross. My friends, enter you not into the house where there is the
head of one of these birds, for such houses are not for you to enter.' So spake
"After this the man awoke, and as he wished to know what his dream could mean,
he arose and walked through the whole country. As he looked into the huts he
saw that there were many in which the people kept the head of an albatross as a
fetish, and to which they were in the habit of offering inao [inao are
ceremonial totems made of whittled willow sticks]and drinking sake [the
fermented rice drink of Japan]. He also observed that there was no disease
among those who kept this charm, and that in every hut in which it was not
found there was someone ill. The man therefore went and procured one of the
heads, worshipped it, and scraped some shavings off the skull and beak. He put
the scrapings into a cup, poured hot water upon them, and gave the decoction to
the sick people to drink. All who partook of this remedy were perfectly cured
in a very short time.
"Therefore the head of this bird is kept wrapped up in inao shavings, and when
a person gets sick it is taken out, placed upon a tray and devoutly worshipped.
It is then scraped and the powder given to the patient to swallow in hot water.
Thus, although in the beginning the Ainu did not all know the value of the head
of the albatross, yet after the dream of this man the matter was made known to
everyone. The man himself also knew that the chief he saw and heard speaking in
his dream was no other than the demon of the disease."