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Albatross Albatross
Ainu Legends

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 the chief.

"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."

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