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    Abstract

    Skin of Rebirth DR. MAURICE CANNEY has collected a number of examples of the magical significance of animal skins among modern primitive peoples and compares it with belief current in ancient Egypt (Man, July 1939). Among the Bantus, children before reaching the age of circumcision had to go through a ceremony, the name of which means “to be born again”. The child was invested in part of the skin and skin of the big stomach of a male sheep which had been killed by the father. It then had to go and lie on a bed by its mother and cry like a new-born infant. In funeral ceremonies of the elders, burial was not complete without a skin of a sheep or a bullock if the family could afford it. The corpse was laid out in the prenatal position and the skin, hair upward, laid upon it. Among the Ila-speaking peoples a corpse was first put in three dry skins. A great slaughter of beasts took place at a funeral. Five large oxen were called the wrapping-up cattle, because their skins were laid in the bottom of the grave, and wrapped around the corpse arranged in the prenatal position. Among the Lango it is noted that the corpse was carried to the grave in the sleeping hide of the deceased, and it was buried with him. Over the grave a sheep was killed for the funeral meal. The skin of this was worn afterwards on the head of the nearest relative. This evidence suggests the survival of an idea prevalent in ancient Egypt. In the legend of the Wandering of Isis in the Delta the goddess said to Horus inter alia that he was “the son of him that is in Mesqet” this being the name of the bull's skin, in which the deceased was placed to secure for him the new life. In the Egyptian religion the most important of the rites of initiation was one called the mystery of animal rebirth; and in it as depicted in the Theban tombs a priest is shown in a sleigh crouching under a skin in the position of a fœtus. When he conies forth from the skin, he is supposed to be reborn. Skins have the same significance in belief in India.

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    Research Items. Nature 144, 335–336 (1939). https://doi.org/10.1038/144335a0

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