As the sacred rocks are the religious core of the Meat Festival, so the belief in bātsira″pe is the outstanding feature of the Bear Song Dance (naxpitse″ icū+″o disùa). The bātsira″pe is a mysterious animal or part of an animal or inanimate object that dwells within a person's body, emerges on some definite stimulus, and in most cases must be made to go back unless its host, who at once goes into a trance, is to come to grief. Generally he is restored by smoking him with incense. There were exceptional variations: Otter-chief, for instance, could not eat a cherry without going into an ecstatic condition and acting like a bear, yet he did this without exhibiting any part of a bear's body; and I heard of an old woman who on occasion would produce pieces of shell and give them away to the Crow for ear ornaments, without reabsorbing them. But the typical phenomenon was that defined above. It was noted by Maximilian among the Missouri tribes a hundred years ago. He learnt that many Mandan and Hidatsa harbored live animals, that one Indian sometimes felt a buffalo calf kicking around inside of him; and he actually saw a Hidatsa woman "dance a corncob out of herself," which proper treatment caused to go back again.
Precisely how the Crow conceived the phenomenon, I do not know. According to one informant, they did not believe that an entire animal dwelt inside a person's body, but only the part displayed, -- also that in making a tail reenter his body the performer reduced it to a very small size. This sounds like a rationalization and hardly agrees with either Maximilian's Mandan information or other Crow data. Belden, writing in 1875, bases the whole Crow theory of disease on the bātsira″pe concept: all persons, he gathered, have tails in their bodies, and when these "get out of order" their owners get sick; vice versa, any cold, fever, or other affliction comes from an injury to the tail. This is certainly inaccurate (see p. 61), and we shall see that by no means all bātsira″pe are tails. However, Belden's description of what he saw is worth quoting: