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Women, dogs, and spiritual beliefs

Excerpted from "What Do Dogs Know?":

Women, dogs, and spiritual beliefs all mix in a strange custom found in Central India among certain of the Gond peoples. This leads to a ritual that actually accepts the marriage of a human being to a dog. The Gond are aboriginal tribes, that still speak fairly a obscure set of unwritten languages. Their life style, while not truly nomadic, tends not to have permanent settlements and villages are periodically moved to various sites on land communally owned by their clan. Their beliefs place them outside of the Hindu caste system. They do not acknowledge the superiority of Brahmans and don't feel bound by many Hindu rules. Especially in the highlands of Bastar, their style of agriculture is quite traditional, involving slash and burn operations. Because they are continually clearing wild land, the Gond often encounter wild animals, and these encounters can be fatal to humans armed only with digging sticks or hoes. The Gond of Bastar believe that if a woman's husband has been killed by a wild animal, especially a tiger, it is necessary for her to marry a dog, before she can take another husband.

The Gond believe that the dead husband's spirit now inhabits the tiger or other beast that killed him and this spirit will then cause that same beast to kill any new man that the woman marries. To solve this problem the widow first must ceremonially marry a dog. The dead husband's spirit can then satisfy his jealousy be killing the dog, and he will not threaten the life of the new human husband. While this seems like a good outcome for the woman, I think that dogs know that a simple divorce would be a better end of their marriage than one the Gond envisions for them.

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