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Pomo Bear Doctors, by S.A. Barrett, [1917], at


Since custom prescribed that every person leaving a village told where he was going and the purpose of his mission, it was difficult for a bear doctor to get away, undetected, for the pursuit of his nefarious practices. All his preparations must, therefore, be made in perfect secrecy. Very frequently he gave as an excuse for his absence that he intended to go in search of manzanita berries or hunting in some distant locality, sometimes announcing a stay of several days. Since he was forbidden to partake of food or water on the morning of the

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day he wore the bear costume, he usually ate and drank heartily the night before, and repaired to his hiding place before daybreak. To lend color to his excuses, he usually brought home some game or berries. As a rule these were not handled at all while wearing the bear suit, although apparently it was believed that no penalty was attached to doing so.

Whenever possible a bear doctor found some natural cave or secluded spot in a deep canon, or in the most rugged mountains. If necessary, he dug a cavern, as related in the foregoing myth, taking care to scatter the fresh earth about in such a manner that it would not be detected. Such a place of seclusion was called yēlimo, būrakal yēlīmo, or kabē ga.

Near by a level "practice" ground, called cīyō xe gai, literally "bear dance place," was prepared, where, the weather permitting, the bear doctor performed the ceremonies connected with donning his suit. In bad weather these rites were performed in the sheltered cavern. This practice ground was simply a level place in the bottom of a canon near the cavern. It was an elliptical clearing about twenty feet long by ten to fifteen feet wide. No trail led to it, the bear doctor and his assistant exercising the greatest care to obscure as much as possible every evidence of their movements, not even a broken twig being left about as a clue.

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