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Title: Fetichism in West Africa - Forty Years' Observations of Native Customs and Superstitions
Author: Nassau, Robert Hamill
Language: English
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[Illustration: FETICH MAGICIAN. (With horns, wooden mask, spear, and
sword; dress of leaves of palm and plantain.)]


  _Forty Years' Observation of Native Customs
  and Superstitions_






  _Copyright, 1904_

  Published October, 1904


On the 2d of July, 1861, I sailed from New York City on a little brig, the
"Ocean Eagle," with destination to the island of Corisco, near the
equator, on the West Coast of Africa. My first introduction to the natives
of Africa was a month later, when the vessel stopped at Monrovia, the
capital of the Liberian Republic, to land a portion of its trade goods,
and at other ports of Liberia, Sinoe, and Cape Palmas; thence to Corisco
on September 12.

Corisco is a microcosm, only five miles long by three miles wide; its
surface diversified with every variety of landscape, proportioned to its
size, of hill, prairie, stream, and lake. It is located in the eye of the
elephant-head shaped Bay of Corisco, and from twelve to twenty miles
distant from the mainland. Into the bay flow two large rivers,--the Muni
(the Rio D'Angra of commerce) and the Munda (this latter representing the
elephant's proboscis).

The island, with adjacent mainland, was inhabited by the Benga tribe. It
was the headquarters of the American Presbyterian Mission. On the voyage I
had studied the Benga dialect with my fellow-passenger, the senior member
of the Mission, Rev. James L. Mackey; and was able, on my landing, to
converse so well with the natives that they at once enthusiastically
accepted me as an interested friend. This has ever since been my status
among all other tribes.

I lived four years on the island, as preacher, teacher, and itinerant to
the adjacent mainland, south to the Gabun River and its Mpongwe tribe,
east up the Muni and Munda rivers, and north to the Benito River.

In my study of the natives' language my attention was drawn closely to
their customs; and in my inquiry into their religion I at once saw how it
was bound up in these customs. I met with other white men--traders,
government officials, and even some missionaries--whose interest in
Africa, however deep, was circumscribed by their special work for,
respectively, wealth, power, and Gospel proclamation. They could see in
those customs only "folly," and in the religion only "superstition."

I read many books on other parts of Africa, in which the same customs and
religion prevailed. I did not think it reasonable to dismiss curtly as
absurd the cherished sentiments of so large a portion of the human race. I
asked myself: Is there no logical ground for the existence of these
sentiments, no philosophy behind all these beliefs? I began to search; and
thenceforward for thirty years, wherever I travelled, wherever I was guest
to native chief, wherever I lived, I was always leading the conversation,
in hut or camp, back to a study of the native thought.

I soon found that I gained nothing if I put my questions suddenly or
without mask. The natives generally were aware that white men despised
them and their beliefs, and they were slow to admit me to their thought if
I made a direct advance. But, by chatting as a friend, telling them the
strange and great things of my own country, and first eliciting their
trust in me and interest in my stories, they forgot their reticence, and
responded by telling me of their country. I listened, not critically, but
apparently as a believer; and then they vied with each other in telling me
all they knew and thought.

That has been the history of a thousand social chats,--in canoes by day,
in camp and hut by night, and at all hours in my own house, whose public
room was open at any hour of day or evening for any visitor, petitioner,
or lounger, my attention to whose wants or wishes was rewarded by some
confidence about their habits or doings.

In 1865 I was transferred to Benito, where I remained until the close of
1871. Those years were full of travels afoot or by boat, south the hundred
miles to Gabun, north toward the Batanga region, and east up the Benito
for a hundred miles as a pioneer, to the Balengi and Boheba tribes,--a
distance at that time unprecedented, considering the almost fierce
opposition of the coast people to any white man's going to the local
sources of their trade.

After more than ten uninterrupted years in Africa, I took a furlough of
more than two years in the United States, and returned to my work in 1874.

I responded to a strong demand on the part of the supporters of Foreign
Missions in Africa, that mission operations should no longer be confined
to the coast. Unsuccessful efforts had been made to enter by the Gabun, by
the Muni, and by the Benito.

On the 10th of September, 1874, I entered the Ogowe River, at Nazareth
Bay, one of its several embouchures into the Atlantic, near Cape Lopez, a
degree south of the equator. But little was known of the Ogowe. Du
Chaillu, in his "Equatorial Africa" (1861), barely mentions it, though he
was hunting gorillas and journeying in "Ashango Land," on the sources of
the Ngunye, a large southern affluent of the Ogowe.

A French gunboat a few years before had ascended it for one hundred and
thirty miles to Lembarene, the head of the Ogowe Delta, and had attached
it to France. Two English traders and one German had built trading-houses
at that one-hundred-and-thirty-mile limit, and traversed the river with
small steam launches in their rubber trade. Besides these three, I was the
only other white resident. They were living in the Galwa tribe, cognate in
language with the Mpongwe. I settled at a one-hundred-and-fifty-mile
limit, in the Akele tribe (cognate with the Benga), building my house at a
place called Belambila.

Two years later I abandoned that spot, came down to Lembarene, and built
on Kângwe Hill. There I learned the Mpongwe dialect. I remained there
until 1880, successful with school and church, and travelling by boat and
canoe thousands of miles in the many branches of the Ogowe, through its
Delta, and in the lake country of Lakes Onange and Azyingo. In 1880 I took
a second furlough to the United States, remaining eighteen months, and
returning at the close of 1881.

My prosperous and comfortable station at Kângwe was occupied by a new man,
and I resumed my old _rôle_ of pioneer. I travelled up the Ogowe, one
hundred and fifty miles beyond Lembarene, ascending and descending the
wild waters of its cataracts, and settled at Talaguga, a noted rock near
which was subsequently established the French military post, Njoli, at the
two-hundred-mile limit of the course of the river. There I was alone with
Mrs. Nassau, my nearest white neighbors the two French officers five miles
up river at the post, and my successors at Kângwe, seventy miles down
river. The inhabitants were wild cannibal Fang, just recently emerged from
the interior forest. It was a splendid field for original investigation,
and I applied myself to the Fang dialect.

I remained at Talaguga until 1891, when I took a third furlough to the
United States, and stayed through 1892, during which time the Mission
Board transferred my entire Ogowe work, with its two stations and four
churches and successful schools, to the French Paris Evangelical Society.

In March, 1893, at the request of the Rev. Frank F. Ellinwood, D.D.,
LL.D., I wrote and read, before the American Society of Comparative
Religions, a forty-minute essay on Bantu Theology.

At the wish of that Society I loaned the manuscript to them, for their use
in the Parliament of Religions at the Chicago Exposition; but I carried
the original draft of the essay with me on my return to Africa in August,
1893, where I was located at Libreville, Gabun, the Mission's oldest and
most civilized station. There I found special advantage for my
investigations. Though those educated Mpongwes could tell me little that
was new as to purely unadulterated native thought, they, better than an
ignorant tribe, could and did give me valuable intelligent replies to my
inquiries as to the logical connection between native belief and act, and
the essential meaning of things which I had seen and heard elsewhere. My
ignorant friends at other places had given me a mass of isolated
statements. My Mpongwe friends had studied a little grammar, and were
somewhat trained to analyze. They helped me in the collocation of the
statements and in the deduction of the philosophy behind them. It was
there that I began to put my conclusions in writing.

In 1895 Miss Mary H. Kingsley journeyed in West Africa, sent on a special
mission to investigate the subject of freshwater fishes. She also
gratified her own personal interest in native African religious beliefs by
close inquiries all along the coast.

During her stay at Libreville in the Kongo-Français, May-September, 1895,
my interest, common with hers, in the study of native African thought led
me into frequent and intimate conversations with her on that subject. She
eagerly accepted what information, from my longer residence in Africa, I
was able to impart. I loaned her the essay, with permission to make any
use of it she desired in her proposed book, "Travels in West Africa." When
that graphic story of her African wanderings appeared in 1897, she made
courteous acknowledgment of the use she had made of it in her chapters on

On page 395 of her "Travels in West Africa," referring to my missionary
works, and to some contributions I had made to science, she wrote: "Still
I deeply regret he has not done more for science and geography.... I beg
to state I am not grumbling at him ... but entirely from the justifiable
irritation a student of fetich feels at knowing that there is but one copy
of this collection of materials, and that this copy is in the form of a
human being, and will disappear with him before it is half learned by us,
who cannot do the things he has done."

This suggestion of Miss Kingsley's gave me no new thought; it only
sharpened a desire I had hopelessly cherished for some years. In my many
missionary occupations--translation of the Scriptures, and other duties--I
had never found the strength, when the special missionary daily work was
done, to sit down and put into writing the mass of material I had
collected as to the meaning and uses of fetiches. Nor did I think it right
for me to take time that was paid for by the church in which to compile a
book that would be my own personal pleasure and property.

Impressed with this idea, on my fourth furlough to America in 1899, I
confided my wish to a few personal friends, telling them of my plan, not
indeed ever to give up my life-work in and for Africa, but to resign from
connection with the Board; and, returning to Africa under independent
employ and freed from mission control, but still working under my
Presbytery, have time to gratify my pen.

One of these friends was William Libbey, D. Sc., Professor of Physical
Geography and Director of the E. M. Museum of Geology and Archæology in
Princeton University. Without my knowledge he subsequently mentioned the
subject to his university friend, Rev. A. Woodruff Halsey, D.D., one of
the Secretaries of the Board of Foreign Missions. Dr. Halsey thought my
wish could be gratified without my resigning from the Board's service.

In November, 1899, the following action of the Board was forwarded to me:
"November 20th, 1899. In view of the wide and varied information possessed
by the Rev. Robert H. Nassau, D.D., of the West Africa Mission, regarding
the customs and traditions of the tribes on the West Coast, and the
importance of putting that knowledge into some permanent form, the Board
requested Dr. Nassau to prepare a volume or volumes on the subject; and it
directed the West Africa Mission to assign him, on his return from his
furlough, to such forms of missionary work as will give him the necessary
leisure and opportunity."

On my return to Africa in 1900, I was located at Batanga, one hundred and
seventy miles north of Gabun, and was assigned to the pastorate of the
Batanga Church, the largest of the twelve churches of the Corisco
Presbytery, with itineration to and charge of the sessions of the Kribi
and Uběnji churches.

During intervals of time in the discharge of these pastoral duties my
recreation was the writing and sifting of the multitude of notes I had
collected on native superstition during the previous quarter of a century.
The people of Batanga, though largely emancipated from the fetich
practices of superstition, still believed in its witchcraft aspect. I
began there to arrange the manuscript of this work. There, more than
elsewhere, the natives seemed willing to tell me tales of their folk-lore,
involving fetich beliefs. From them, and also from Mpongwe informants,
were gathered largely the contents of Chapters XVI and XVII.

And now, on this my fifth furlough, the essay on Bantu Theology has grown
to the proportions of this present volume.

The conclusions contained in all these chapters are based on my own
observations and investigations.

Obligation is acknowledged to a number of writers on Africa and others,
quotations from whose books are credited in the body of this work. I quote
them, not as informants of something I did not already know, but as
witnesses to the fact of the universality of the same superstitious ideas
all over Africa.

By the courtesy of the American Geographical Society, Chapters IV, V, X,
and XI have appeared in its Bulletin during the years 1901-1903.

I am especially obligated to Professor Libbey for his sympathetic
encouragement during the writing of my manuscript, and for his judicious
suggestions as to the final form I have given it.


PHILADELPHIA, _March 24, 1904_





     I. The Country                                                      2

    II. The Family                                                       3

          Family Responsibility.--Family Headship.--Marital
          Relations.--Arrangements for Marriage.--Courtship and
          Wedding.--Dissolution of Marriage.--Illegitimate Marital
          Relations.--Domestic Life.

   III. Succession to Property and Authority                            13

    IV. Political Organization                                          13

     V. Servants                                                        14

    VI. Kingship                                                        15

   VII. Fetich Doctors                                                  16

  VIII. Hospitality                                                     17

    IX. Judicial System                                                 17

          Courts.--Punishment.--Blood-Atonement and Fines.--
          Punishable Acts.

     X. Territorial Relations                                           22

          Tenure.--Rights in Movables.

    XI. Exchange Relations                                              23

   XII. Religion                                                        25


  THE IDEA OF GOD--RELIGION                                             26

    Theology, Religion, Creed, Worship.--Source of the Knowledge
    of God; outside of us; comes from God; Evolution of Physical
    Species.--Materialism; Knowledge of God not evolved.--
    Superstition in all Religions.--Dominant in African
    Religion.--No People without a Knowledge of at least the Name
    of God.--Testimony of Travellers and Others.


  POLYTHEISM--IDOLATRY                                                  42

    Religion and Civilization.--Worship of Natural Objects.--
    Polytheism.--Idolatry.--Worship of Ancestors.--Fetichism.


  SPIRITUAL BEINGS IN AFRICAN RELIGION                                  50

     I. Origin                                                          50

          Coterminous with the Creator.--Created.--Spirits of
          Deceased Human Beings; in Unity, Duality, Trinity, or

    II. Number                                                          55

   III. Locality                                                        58

    IV. Characteristics                                                 62



     I. Classes and Functions                                           64


    II. Special Manifestations                                          70

        Human Soul in a Lower Animal; the Leopard Fiend.--Uvengwa,
        Ghost.--Family Guardian-Spirit.


  AMULETS                                                               75


    The Salvation Sought: its Kind, Physical; its Source, Spirits;
    its Reason, Fear.

    The Means used: Prayer, Sacrifices, Charms; Vocal, Ritual,
    Material, Fetiches.

    Articles used in the Fetich.--Mode of Preparation: A Fitness in
    the Quality of the Object for the End desired; Efficiency
    depends on the Localized Spirit; Misuse of the Word "Medicine";
    Native "Doctors"; Connection of Fetich with Witchcraft.


  THE FETICH--A WORSHIP                                                 90

     I. Sacrifice and Offerings                                         91

          Small Votive Gifts.--Consecrated Plants; Idols and Gifts
          of Food.--Blood Sacrifices.--Human Sacrifices.

    II. Prayer                                                          97

   III. The Use of Charms or "Fetiches"                                 99


  THE FETICH--WITCHCRAFT--A WHITE ART--SORCERY                         100

    A passively Defensive Art.--Professedly of the Nature of a
    Medicine.--Distinction between a Fetich Doctor and a Christian
    Physician.--Manner of Performance of the White Art.--The
    Medicinal Herbs used sometimes Valuable.--Strength of Native
    Faith in the System.



    Distinction as to the Object aimed at in the White Art and in
    the Black Art.--Black Art actively Offensive.--The Black Art
    distinctively "Witchcraft."--Witchcraft Executions; claimed
    to be Judicial Acts.--Hoodoo Worship.--Christian Faith and
    Fetich Faith Compared.--Deception by Fetich Magicians.--
    Clairvoyance.--Demoniacal Possession.


  FETICHISM--A GOVERNMENT                                              138

    Egbo, Ukuku, Yasi, and other Societies.--Their Power either
    to protect or oppress.--Contest with Ukuku at Benita, and
    with Yasi on the Ogowe.


  THE FETICH--ITS RELATION TO THE FAMILY                               156

    The Family the Unit in the African Community.--Respect for
    the Aged.--Worship of Ancestors.--Family Fetiches; Yâkâ,
    Ekongi, Mbati.


  THE NEEDS OF LIFE                                                    172

    Hunting.--Journeying.--Warring.--Trading; Okundu and


  THE FETICH--SUPERSTITION IN CUSTOMS                                  191

    Rules of Pregnancy.--Omens on Journeys.--Leopard Fiends.--
    Luck.--Twins.--Customs of Speech.--Oaths.--Totem Worship.--
    Taboo; Orunda.--Baptism.--Spitting.--Notice of Children.


  AND FUNERALS                                                         215

    Sickness, Death, Burial, Modes of Burial.--Mourning,
    Treatment of Widows.--Witchcraft Investigations.--Places of
    Burial.--Cannibalism--Family Quarrel as to Precedence in the
    Burying.--Custom of "Lifting Up" of Mourners.--Ukuku Dance
    for Amusement.--Destination of the Dead.--Transmigration.


  FETICHISM--SOME OF ITS PRACTICAL EFFECTS                             239

    Depopulation.--Cannibalism.--Secret Societies (Ukuku, Yasi,
    Mwetyi, Bweti, Indâ, Njěmbě).--Poisoning for Revenge.--
    Distrust.--Jugglery.--Treatment of Lunatics.--The American
    Negro Hoodoo.--Folk-Lore.


  TALES OF FETICH BASED ON FACT                                        277

     I. A Witch Sweetheart                                             278

    II. A Jealous Wife                                                 281

   III. Witchcraft Mothers                                             284

    IV. The Wizard House-Breaker                                       287

     V. The Wizard Murderer                                            289

    VI. The Wizard and his Invisible Dog                               293

   VII. Spirit-Dancing                                                 295

  VIII. Asiki, or the Little Beings                                    299

    IX. Okove                                                          302

     X. The Family Idols (Okâsi, Barbarity, The Right of Sanctuary)    308

    XI. Unago and Ekela (A Proverb)                                    318

   XII. Malanda--An Initiation into a Family Guardian-Spirit Company   320

  XIII. Three-Things Came Back too Late                                326


  FETICH IN FOLK-LORE                                                  330

     I. Queen Ngwe-nkonde and her Manja                                332

    II. The Beautiful Daughter                                         337

   III. The Husband that Came from an Animal                           346

    IV. The Fairy Wife                                                 351

     V. The Thieves and their Enchanted House                          358

    VI. Banga-of-the-five-faces                                        367

   VII. The Two Brothers                                               372

  VIII. Jěki and his Ozâzi                                             378

  GLOSSARY                                                             387


  Fetich Magician                                           _Frontispiece_

                                                               Facing Page

  Native King in the Niger Delta                                        16

  English Trading-House--Gabun                                          24

  Fetich Doctor                                                         86

  Elephants' Tusks and Palm-leaf Thatch. Two Hundred Miles
  up the Ogowe River                                                   148

  War Canoe.--Calabar, West Africa                                     174

  Natives Trading in Plantains and Bamboo Building
  Materials.--Gabun                                                    182

  Travelling by Canoe.--Ogowe River                                    198

  A Civilized Family.--Gabun                                           236

  Njěmbě. Female Secret Society.--Mpongwe, Gabun                       254

  Ekope of the Ivanga Dance.--Gabun                                    296

  A Street in Libreville, Gabun                                        300

  Map of the West African Coast                                          1




That stream of the Negro race which is known ethnologically as "Bantu,"
occupies all of the southern portion of the African continent below the
fourth degree of north latitude. It is divided into a multitude of tribes,
each with its own peculiar dialect. All these dialects are cognate in
their grammar. Some of them vary only slightly in their vocabulary. In
others the vocabulary is so distinctly different that it is not understood
by tribes only one hundred miles apart, while that of others a thousand
miles away may be intelligible.

In their migrations the tribes have been like a river, with its windings,
currents swift or slow; there have been even, in places, back currents;
and elsewhere quiet, almost stagnant pools. But they all--from the Divala
at Kamerun on the West Coast across to the Kiswahile at Zanzibar on the
East, and from Buganda by the Victoria Nyanza at the north down to Zulu in
the south at the Cape--have a uniformity in language, tribal organization,
family customs, judicial rules and regulations, marriage ceremonies,
funeral rites, and religious beliefs and practice. Dissimilarities have
crept in with mixture among themselves by intermarriage, the example of
foreigners, with some forms of foreign civilization and education,
degradation by foreign vice, elevation by Christianity, and compulsion by
foreign governments.

As a description of Bantu sociology, I give the following outline which
was offered some years ago, in reply to inquiries sent to members of the
Gabun and Corisco Mission living at Batanga, by the German Government, in
its laudable effort to adapt, as far as consistent with justice and
humanity, its Kamerun territorial government to the then existing tribal
regulations and customs of the tribes living in the Batanga region. This
information was obtained by various persons from several sources, but
especially from prominent native chiefs, all of them men of intelligence.

In their general features these statements were largely true also for all
the other tribes in the Equatorial Coast region, and for most of the
interior Bantu tribes now pressing down to the Coast. They were more
distinctly descriptive of Batanga and the entire interior at the time of
their formulation. But in the ten years that have since passed, a stranger
would find that some of them are no longer exact. Foreign authority has
removed or changed or sapped the foundations of many native customs and
regulations, while it has not fully brought in the civilization of
Christianity. The result in some places, in this period of transition, has
been almost anarchy,--making a despotism, as under Belgian misrule in the
so-called Kongo "Free" State; or commercial ruin, as under French monopoly
in their Kongo-Français; and general confusion, under German hands, due to
the arbitrary acts of local officials and their brutal black soldiery.


The coast between 5° and 4° N. Lat. is called "Kamerun." This is not a
native word: it was formerly spelled by ships' captains in their trade
"Cameroons." Its origin is uncertain. It is thought that it came from the
name of the Portuguese explorer Diego Cam. The tribes in that region are
the Divala, Isubu, Balimba, and other lesser ones.

The coast from 4° to 3° N. Lat. has also a foreign name, "Batanga." I do
not know its origin.

The coast from 3° to 2° N. Lat. is called, by both natives and foreigners,
"Benita"; at 1° N., by foreigners, "Corisco," and by natives, "Benga." The
name "Corisco" was given by Spaniards to an island in the Bay of Benga
because of the brilliant coruscations of lightning so persistent in that
locality. The Benga dialect is taken as the type of all the many dialects
used from Corisco north to Benita, Bata, Batanga, and Kamerun.

From 1° N. to 3° S. is known as the "Gabun country," with the Mpongwe
dialect, typical of its many congeners, the Orungu, Nkâmi (miscalled
"Camma"), Galwa, and others.

From 3° S. to the Kongo River, at 6° S., the Loango tribe and dialect
called "Fyât" are typical; and the Kongo River represents still another
current of tribe and dialect.

In the interior, subtending the entire coast-line as above mentioned, are
the several clans of the great Fang tribe, making a fifth distinctly
different type, known by the names "Osheba," "Bulu," "Mabeya," and others.
The name "Fang" is spelled variously: by the traveller Du Chaillu, "Fañ";
by the French traveller, Count de Brazza, "Pahouin"; by their Benga
neighbors, "Pangwe"; and by the Mpongwe, "Mpañwe." These tribes all have
traditions of their having come from the far Northeast.

Before foreign slave-trade was introduced, and subsequently the ivory,
rubber, palm-oil, and mahogany trades, the occupations of the natives were
hunting, fishing, and agriculture. They subsisted on wild meats, fish,
forest fruits and nuts, and the cultivated plantains, cassava, maize,
ground-nuts, yams, eddoes, sweet potatoes, and a few other vegetables.


The family is the unit in native sociology. There is the narrow circle of
relationship expressed by the word "ijawe," plural "majawe" (a derivative
of the verb "jaka" = to beget), which includes those of the immediate
family, both on the father's as well as on the mother's side (_i. e._,
blood-relatives). The wider circle expressed by the word "ikaka" (pl.
"makaka") includes those who are blood-relatives, together with those
united to them by marriage.

In giving illustrative native words I shall use the Benga dialect as
typical. All the tribes have words indicating the relationships of father,
mother, brother, sister. A nephew, while calling his own father "paia,"
calls an uncle who is older than himself "paia-utodu"; one younger than
himself he calls "paia-nděmbě." His own mother he calls "ina," and
his aunts "ina-utodu" and "ina-nděmbě," respectively, for one who is
older or younger than himself.

A cousin is called "mwana-paia-utodu," or "-nděmbě," as the case may
be, according to age. These same designations are used for both the
father's and the mother's side. A cousin's consanguinity is considered
almost the same as that of brother or sister. They cannot marry. Indeed,
all lines of consanguinity are carried farther, in prohibition of
marriage, than in civilized countries.

1. _Family Responsibility._ Each family is held by the community
responsible for the misdeeds of its members. However unworthy a man may
be, his "people" are to stand by him, defend him, and even claim as right
his acts, however unjust. He may demand their help, however guilty he may
be. Even if his offence be so great that his own people have to
acknowledge his guilt, they cannot abjure their responsibility. Even if he
be worthy of death, and a ransom is called for, they must pay it: not only
his rich relatives, but all who are at all able must help.

There is a narrower family relationship, that of the household, or "diyâ"
(the hearth, or fireplace; derivative of the verb "diyaka" = to live).
There are a great many of these. Their habitations are built in one
street, long or short, according to the size of the man's family.

In polygamy each wife has a separate house, or at least a separate room.
_Her_ children's home is in that house. Each woman rules her own house and

One of these women is called the "head-wife" ("konde"--queen). Usually
she is the first wife. But the man is at liberty to displace her and put a
younger one in her place.

The position of head-wife carries with it no special privileges except
that she superintends; but she is not herself excused from work. In the
community she is given more respect if the husband happens to be among the
"headmen" or chiefs.

Each wife is supplied by the husband, but does not personally own her own
house, kitchen utensils, and garden tools. She makes her own garden or
"plantation" ("mwanga").

There is no community in ownership of a plantation. Each one chooses a
spot for himself. Nor is there land tenure. Any man can go to any place
not already occupied, and choose a site on which to build, or to make a
garden; and he keeps it as long as he or some member of his family
occupies it.

2. _Family Headship._ It descends to a son; if there be none, to a
brother; or, if he be dead, to that brother's son; in default of these, to
a sister's son. This headship carries with it, for a man, such authority
that, should he kill his wife, he may not be killed; though her relatives,
if they be influential, may demand some restitution.

If an ordinary man kills another man, he may himself be killed. For a debt
he may give away a daughter or wife, but he may not give away a son or a
brother. A father rules all his children, male and female, until his

If adult members of a family are dissatisfied with family arrangements,
they can remove and build elsewhere; but they cannot thereby entirely
separate themselves from rule by, and responsibility to and for the

A troublesome man cannot be expelled from the family village. A woman can
be, but only by her husband, for such offences as stealing, adultery,
quarrelling; in which case the dowry money paid by him to her relatives
must be returned to him, or another woman given in her place.

3. _Marital Relations._ Marriages are made not only between members of the
same tribe but between different tribes. Formerly it was not considered
proper that a man of a coast tribe should marry a woman from an interior
tribe. The coast tribes regarded themselves as more enlightened than those
of the interior, and were disposed to look down upon them. But now men
marry women not only of their own tribe but of all inferior tribes.

Polygamy is common, almost universal. A man's addition to the number of
his wives is limited only by his ability to pay their dowry price.

He may cohabit with a woman without paying dowry for her; but their
relation is not regarded as a marriage ("diba"), and this woman is
disrespected as a harlot ("evove").

There are few men with only one wife. In some cases their monogamy is
their voluntary choice; in most cases (where there is not Christian
principle) it is due to poverty. A polygamist arranges his marital duties
to his several wives according to his choice; but the division having been
made, each wife jealously guards her own claim on his attentions. A
disregard of them leads to many a family quarrel.[1]

If a man die, his brothers may marry any or all of the widows; or, if
there be no brothers, a son inherits, and may marry any or all of the
widows except his own mother.

It is preferred that widows shall be retained in the family circle because
of the dowry money that was paid for them, which is considered as a
permanent investment.

Ante-ceremonial sexual trials (the ancient German "bundling") are not
recognized as according to rule; but the custom is very common. If not
followed by regular marriage ceremony, it is judged as adultery.

While a man may go to any tribe to seek a wife, he does not settle in the
woman's tribe; she comes to him, and enters into his family.

4. _Arrangements for Marriage._ On entering into marriage a man depends on
only the male members of his family to assist him. If the woman is of
adult age, he is first to try to obtain her consent. But that is not
final; it may be either overridden or compelled by her father. The
fathers of the two parties are the ultimate judges; the marriage cannot
take place without their consent, after the preliminary wooing. The final
compact is by dowry money, the most of which must be paid in advance. It
is the custom which has come down from old time. It is now slightly
changing under education, enlightenment, and foreign law. The amount of
the dowry is not prescribed by any law. Custom alters the amount,
according to the social status of the two families and the pecuniary
ability of the bridegroom.

The highest price is paid for a virgin; the next, for a woman who has been
put away by some other man; the lowest price for widows. It is paid in
instalments, but is supposed to be completed in one or two years after the

But the purchase of the woman by dowry does not extinguish all claim on
her by her family. If she is maltreated, she may be taken back by them, in
which case the man's dowry money is to be returned to him. Not only the
woman's father, but her other relatives, have a claim to a share in the
dowry paid for her. Her brothers, sisters, and cousins may ask gifts from
the would-be husband.

If a husband die, the widow becomes the property of his family; she does
not inherit, by right, any of his goods because she herself, as a widow,
is property. Sometimes she is given something, but only as a favor.

If she runs away or escapes, her father or her family must return either
her or the dowry paid for her.

On the death of a woman after her marriage, a part of the money received
for her is returned to the husband as compensation for his loss on his
investment. If she has borne no children, nothing is given or restored to
the husband.

If a woman deserts her husband, her family is required to pay back the
dowry. If the man himself sends her away, the dowry may be repaid on his
demand and after a public discussion.

There is no escape from marriage for a woman during her life except by
repayment of the money received for her.

Two men may exchange wives thus: each puts away his wife, sending her back
to her people and receiving in return the money paid for her. With this
money in hand each buys again the wife the other has put away; and all
parties are satisfied.

A father can force his daughter to marry against her will; but such
marriages are troublesome, and generally end in the man putting the woman

A daughter may be betrothed by her parents at any time, even at birth. The
marriage formerly did not take place until she was a woman grown of twenty
years; now they are married at fifteen or sixteen, or earlier.

Marriage within any degree of consanguinity is forbidden. Marriage of
cousins is impossible. Disparity of age is no hindrance to marriage: an
old man may take a young virgin, and a young man may take an old woman.

There are no bars of caste nor rank, except the social eminence derived
from wealth or free birth.

Only women are barred from marrying an inferior. That inferiority is not a
personal one. No personal worth can make a man of an inferior tribe equal
to the meanest member of a superior tribe.

All coast tribes reckon themselves superior to any interior tribe; and, of
the coast tribes, a superiority is claimed for those who have the largest
foreign commerce and the greatest number of white residents.

A man may marry any woman of any inferior tribe, the idea being that he
thus elevates her; but it is almost unheard of that a woman shall marry
beneath her.

As a result of this iron rule, women of the Mpongwe and a few other small
"superior" coast tribes being barred from many men of their own tribe by
lines of consanguinity, and unable to marry beneath themselves, expect to
and do make their marriage alliances with the white traders and foreign
government officials. Their civilization has made them attractive, and
they are sought for by white men from far distant points.

Younger sons and daughters must not be married before the older ones.[2]

5. _Courtship and Wedding._ The routine varies greatly according to tribe;
and in any tribe, according to the man's self-respect and regard for
conventionalities. A proper outline is: First, the man goes to the father
empty-handed to ask his consent. The second visit he goes with gifts, and
the father calls in the other members of the family to witness the gifts.
On the third visit he goes with liquor (formerly the native palm wine, now
the foreign trade gin or rum), and pays an instalment on the dowry; on the
fourth visit with his parents, and gives presents to the woman herself. On
a fifth occasion the mother of the woman makes a feast for the mother and
friends of the groom. At this feast the host and hostess do not eat, but
they join in the drinking. Finally, the man goes with gifts and takes the
woman. Her father makes return gifts as a farewell to his daughter.

On her arrival at the man's village they are met with rejoicing, and a
dance called "nkânjâ"; but there is no further ceremony, and she is his

For three months she should not be required to do any hard work, the man
providing her with food and dress. Then she will begin the usual woman's
work, in the making of a garden and carrying of burdens.

Weddings may be made in any season of the year. Formerly the dry season,
or the latter part of the rainy, was preferred because of the
plentifulness of fish at these periods, and the weather being better for
outdoor sports and plays.

The man is expected to visit his wife's family often, and to eat with
them. Her mother feasts him, and he calls her parents to eat at his house.

6. _Dissolution of Marriage._ By death of the husband. Formerly, in many
tribes one or more of the widows were put to death, either that the dead
might not be without companionship in the spirit world, or as a punishment
for not having cared better for him in the preservation of his life.

Formerly the women mourned for six months; now the mourning (_i. e._, the
public wailing) is reduced to one month. But signs of mourning are
retained for many months in dark, old, or scanty dress, and an absence of

The mourning of both men and women begins before the sick have actually
died. The men cease after the burial, but the women continue.

All the dead man's property goes to his male relatives. On the death of a
wife the husband is expected to make a gift to pacify her relatives.
Formerly the corpse was not allowed to be buried until this gift was made.
The demand was made by the father, saying, "Our child died in your hands;
give us!" Now they make a more quiet request, and wait a week before doing
so. Something must be given, even if the husband had already paid her
dowry in full.

Marriage can be dissolved by divorce at almost any time, and for almost
any reason, by the man,--by a woman rarely. The usual reasons for divorce
are unfaithfulness, quarrelling, disobedience, and sometimes chronic
sickness. There are many other more private reasons. In being thus put
away the woman has no property rights; she is given nothing more than what
the man may allow as a favor. If the woman has children, she has no claim
on them; they belong to the father. But if she has daughters who are
married, she can ask for part of the money which the husband received for
them. The man and the divorced woman are then each free to marry any other

7. _Illegitimate Marital Relations._ These are very common, but they are
not sanctioned as proper. The husband demands a fine for his wife's
infidelity from the co-respondent. Cohabitation with the expected husband
previous to the marriage ceremonies is common; but it is not sanctioned,
and therefore is secret.

The husband of a woman who is mother of a child begotten by another man
takes it as his own. If it be a girl, he (and not the real father) is the
person who gives her in marriage and retains the dowry.

8. _Domestic Life._ No special feast is made for the birth of either a son
or a daughter, but there is rejoicing. During the woman's pregnancy both
she and her husband have to observe a variety of prohibitions as to what
they may eat or what they may do. They cohabit up to the time of the
child's birth; but after that not for a long period, formerly three years.
Now it is reduced to one and a half years, or less. This custom is one of
the reasons assigned by men for the alleged necessity of a plurality of

During the confinement and for a short time after the birth, the wife
remains in the husband's house, and is then taken by her parents to their

Deformed and defective children are kept with kindness as others; but
monstrosities are destroyed. Formerly in all tribes twins were regarded as
monstrosities and were therefore killed,--still the custom in some tribes.
In the more civilized tribes they are now valued, but special fetich
ceremonies for them are considered necessary.

In the former destruction of twins there were tribes that killed only one
of them. If they were male and female, the father would wish to save the
boy and the mother the girl; but the father ruled. A motherless new-born
infant is not deserted; it is suckled by some other woman.

A portion of the wearing apparel and other goods are placed in the coffin
with the corpse. The greater part of a man's goods are taken by his male
relatives. Formerly nothing was given to his widow; now she receives a
small part. And the paternal relatives of the dead man give something to
his maternal relatives.

The corpse is buried in various ways,--on an elevated scaffold, on the
surface of the ground, or in a shallow grave, rarely cremated. Formerly
the burial could be delayed by a claim for settlement of a debt, but this
does not now occur.

No coast tribe eats human flesh. The Fang and other interior tribes eat
any corpse, regardless of the cause of death. Families hesitate to eat
their own dead, but they sell or exchange them for the dead of other

The name given a child is according to family wish. There is no law.
Parents like to have their own names transmitted; but all sorts of reasons
prevail for giving common names, or for making a new one, or for selecting
the name of a great person or of some natural object. A child born at
midday may be called "Joba" (sun), or, at the full moon, "Ngândê" (moon).
A mother who had borne nine children, all of whom had died, on bearing a
tenth, and hopeless of its surviving, named it "Botombaka" (passing away).

Circumcision is practised universally by all these tribes. An
uncircumcised native is not considered to be a man in the full sense of
the word,--fit for fighting, working, marrying, and inheriting. He is
regarded as nothing by both men and women, is slandered, abused, insulted,
ostracized, and not allowed to marry.

The operation is not performed in infancy, but is delayed till the tenth
year, or even later. The native doctor holds cayenne pepper in his mouth,
and, on completing the operation, spits the pepper upon the wound. Then
seizing a sword, he brandishes it with a shout as a signal to the
spectators that the act is completed. Then the crowd of men and women join
in singing and dancing, and compliment the lad on being now "a real man."

As natives have no records of births, they cannot exactly tell the ages of
their children, or the time when a youth is fit to marry or assume other
manly rights; but by the eighteenth or nineteenth year he is regarded with
the respect due a man. He can marry even as early as fifteen or sixteen.

There are no tests to which he is subjected as proof of his manhood.

A woman may speak in a court of trial, for defence of herself or friends.
She may also be summoned as a witness, but she has no political rights.

Aged persons are not put to death, to escape the care of them; they are
reasonably well provided for.


Only men inherit. The children of sisters do not inherit unless all the
children of the brothers are dead.

Slaves do not inherit.

"Chieftains" (those chosen to rule) and "kings" (those chosen to the
office) inherit more than their brothers, even though the ruling one be
the younger.

A woman does not inherit at any time or under any circumstances, nor hold
property in her own right, even if she has produced it by her own labor.

There is no supremacy in regard to age in the division of property. The
things to be inherited are women (the widows), goods, house, and slaves.
An equal division, as far as it is possible, is made of all these.

The dead man's debts are to be paid by the heirs out of their inheritance,
each one paying his part. There is no written will, but it is common for a
man to announce his intention as to the division while still living.


The coast tribes and some of the interior have so-called "kings," who are
chosen by their tribe to that office.

There are family cliques for the accomplishment of a desired end, but
these are overruled by the tribal king.

There are headmen in each village with local authority; but they too are
subject to the king, they having authority only in their own village.

Quarrels and discussions, called "palavers," are very common. (A palaver
need not necessarily be a quarrel; the word is derived from a Portuguese
verb = "to speak." It comes from the old days of slavery; it was the
"council" held between native chiefs and white slave traders, in the
purchase of a cargo of slaves.)

The headmen settle disputes about marriage, property rights, murders, war,
thefts, and so forth. Their decisions may be appealed from to a chief, or
carried further to the king, whose decision is final. Any one, young and
old, male and female, may be present during a discussion. Usually only
chosen persons do the speaking.

Instead of a question being referred to a chief or king, a committee of
wise men is sometimes chosen for the occasion. Public assemblages are
gathered by messengers sent out to summon the people. The meeting is
presided over by the king.


The domestic servants are slaves. Prisoners of war are also made to do
service; but on the making of peace male prisoners are returned to their
tribe; the female prisoners are retained and married. Slaves were bought
from interior tribes. If a male child was born to slave parents, he was
considered free and could marry into the tribe. If the slave mother died,
the widower could marry into the tribe. If the slave father died, the
widow was married by some man of the family who owned him. There are no
slaves bought or sold now, but there is a system of "pawns,"--children or
women given as a pledge for a debt and never redeemed. Their position is
inferior, and they are servants, but not slaves.

Also, if a prominent person (_e. g._, a headman) is killed in war, the
people who killed him are to give a daughter to his family, who may marry
her to any one they please.

A pawn may be sent away by the holder to some other place, but he cannot
be sold or killed; but the holder may beat him if he be obstreperous.

During slavery days anything earned by a slave was taken to his master,
who would allow him a share; also, at other times, the master would give
the slave gifts. The slave could do paid labor for foreigners or other
strangers, and was not necessarily punished if he did not share his wages
with the master, but he would at least be rebuked for the omission. Women
ruled their female slaves. For a slave's minor offences, such as stealing,
the master was held responsible; for grave offences, such as murder, the
slave himself was killed.

Certain liberty was allowed a slave; he could attend the village or tribal
palavers and take part in the discussion. If a slave was unjustly treated
by some other person, his owner could call a council and have the matter
talked over, and the slave could be allowed to plead his case.

A slave man could hold property of his own; and if he were a worthy,
sensible person, he could inherit.

In a slave's marriage of a woman the custom of gifts, feasts, and so forth
was the same as for a free man.

If ill treated, he could run away to another tribe (not to any one of his
own tribe), and would there be harbored, but still as a slave, and would
not be given up to his former owner. A slave could become free only by his
master setting him free; he could not redeem himself.


Kingship has connected with it the great honor that a son may inherit it
if he is the right kind of man; but it is possible for him to be set aside
and another chosen. A son may lose his place by foolishness and

Attempts to rule independently of the king are sometimes made by cliques
composed of three or four young persons of the same age, who make laws or
customs peculiar to themselves. There is no national recognition of them,
nor are they given any special privilege.

Kings have very little power over the fines or property of others. These
are held, each man for himself; nor have they the right of taxation; but
they have power to declare war, acting in concert with their people in
declaring it and waging it. They administer justice as magistrates, decide
palavers according to the unwritten law of custom, summon offenders, and
inflict the punishment due.

Their dwellings differ but little from those of other persons of like
wealth and personal ability.

When a palaver is called, the king sits as ruler of the meeting and does
most of the talking. He provides food for those who come from a distance.

A king may be blamed if a war he has declared ends disastrously. While a
king's son expects to inherit the title and power, there is no invariable
rule of succession; he cannot take the position by force. He must be
chosen; but the choice is limited to the members of one family, in which
it is hereditary.

If the chosen person be a minor, another is selected (but of the same
family) to act as regent. The "incompetency" which could bar a man from
kingship, even though in regular succession, would be lack of stamina in
his character. The king-elect must make a feast, to which he is to call
all the people to eat, drink, and play for twenty days.

There are no higher state forms among the coast tribes, as in civilized
lands; no union among tribes; no feudal power nor vassals; no monarchy,
nothing absolute; no taxation, no monopoly. Some of the interior tribes
formerly had tributes and kingly monopoly of certain products.


They still exist, but it can scarcely be said that they are a class. They
have no organization; they have honor only in their own districts, unless
they be called specially to minister in another place. They have power to
condemn to death on charge of causing sickness. In their ceremonies they
send the people to sing, dance, play, and beat drums, and they spot their
bodies with their "medicines." Any one may choose the profession for
himself; fetich doctors demand large pay for their services.



A stranger is entertained hospitably. He is provided with a house and food
for two weeks, or as much longer as he may wish to stay. On departing he
is given a present. His host and the village headman are bound to protect
him from any prosecution while he is their guest, even if he be really


Such a _system_ does not exist. Whatever rules there are are handed down
as tradition, by word of mouth. There are persons who are familiar with
these old sayings, proverbs, examples, and customs, and these are asked to
be present in the trial of disputed matters.

1. _Courts._ In the righting of any wrong the head of the family is to
take the first step. If the offenders fail to satisfy him, he appeals to
the king, who then calls all the people, rehearses the matter to them, and
the majority of their votes is accepted by the king as the decision. The
offenders will not dare to resist.

There is no regular court-house. In almost all villages there is a public
shed, or "palaver-house," which is the town-hall, or public reception
room. But a council may be held anywhere,--in the king's house, in the
house of one of the litigants, on the beach, or under a large shady tree.

The council is held at any time of day,--not at night. There are no
regular advocates; any litigant may state his own case, or have any one
else do it for him. There are no fees, except to the king for his
summoning of the case. There is sometimes betting on the result; though no
stakes are deposited, the bets are paid. There is not much form of court
procedure. All the people of a village or district, even women and
children, according to the importance of the case, assemble. While women
are generally not allowed to argue in the case, yet their shouts of
approval or protest have influence in the decision, and encourage the
parties by outspoken sympathy.

If an accused person does not come voluntarily to court, the king's
servants are sent to bring him. In the court the accused does not need to
have some one plead for him, he speaks for himself. Accusers speak first,
then the accused; the accusers reply, the accused answers; and the king
and his aged counsellors decide. Witnesses are called from other places.
As there is no writing among untaught tribes, the depositions are by word
of mouth.

Formerly the accused was subjected to the poison ordeal; indeed, the
accuser also had to take the poison draught as a proof of his sincerity,
and that his charge was not a libel. But this custom is no longer
practised on the coast.

There is no substitution of any kind, except in rare cases. A guilty
person must bear his own punishment in some way.

Oaths are common, and are used freely and voluntarily in the course of the
discussion. A man who utters false testimony or bears false witness is
expected to be thrust out of the assembly, but it is not always done.

When an oath is required, there is no escape from it; he who refuses to
swear is considered guilty. Sometimes, under bravado, he will demand to be
given "mbwaye" (the poison test), hoping that his demand will not be
complied with. When the test is produced, he may seek to escape it by
refusing that particular kind and demanding another not readily
obtainable. But his attempt at evasion is generally regarded as a sign of

In court, parties are not obstinate in their opinion; they ask for and
take advice from others.

2. _Punishment._ If it be capital, the accusers are the executioners.
Death is by various modes,--formerly very cruel, _e. g._, burning,
roasting, torturing, amputation by piecemeal; now it is generally by gun,
dagger, club, or drowning. For a debt that a creditor is seeking to
recover, securities may be accepted. But if the accused then runs away,
the person giving the security is tried and punished.

A creditor does not usually attach the property of the debtor, though
often, in the interior tribes, a woman is seized as hostage. If a long
time elapses in deciding the matter, the debtor may be held as prisoner
until the debt is paid. Formerly it was very common for the debtor's
family's property, or even their persons, to be seized as security; and it
still is common for a person of the debtor's tribe to be caught by the
creditor's tribe, and detained until he is redeemed by his own people.

The king of the prisoner's tribe is called to help release him. If the
king himself become a captive, his people combine to collect goods for the
payment, and meanwhile give other persons in his place to secure his
immediate release. Sometimes differences are settled in a fight, by a
hand-to-hand encounter.

3. _Blood Atonement and Fines._ Revenge, especially for bloodshed, is
everywhere practised. It is a duty belonging first to the "ijawe"
(blood-relative), next to the "ikaka" (family), next to the "etomba"

The murdered man's own family take the lead,--in case of a wife, her
husband and his family, and the wife's family; sometimes the whole
"ikaka"; finally, the "etomba."

A master seeks revenge for his slave or other servants. Formerly it was
indifferent who was killed in revenge, so that it be some member of the
murderer's tribe. Naturally that tribe sought to retaliate, and the feud
was carried back and forth, and would be finally settled only when an
equal number had been killed on each side,--a person for a person: a woman
for a man, or _vice versa_; a child for a man or woman, or _vice versa_. A
woman (wife of the man killed) does not take the lead in the revenge; his
family must take the lead, her family must join in. They would be despised
and cursed if they did not do so. The woman herself does not take part in
this killing for revenge.

The avenger of blood may not demit his duty until some member of the other
tribe has been killed. If a thief has been killed for his theft, blood may
be taken for his death. But when that one other life is taken, the matter
is considered settled; it is not carried on as a feud.

For a life taken by accident, a life is not required; but some penalty
must be paid, _e. g._, a woman may be given as a wife. But, practically,
in former times it was not admitted that "accidents" occurred; any
misfortune was adjudged a fault.

Formerly even the plea of self-defence was not accepted. Even idiotic or
otherwise irresponsible persons were held responsible, though sometimes
they were ransomed by payment of a woman and goods.

At present blood is not always required, but formerly no money would have
been accepted as a sufficient penalty. A man would have been despised for
accepting it. There was no way of settlement except by bloodshed,--a life
for a life,--except that, for the life of a woman, a woman and goods of a
certain amount and kind might be accepted. When a woman was thus given for
a murdered one, the living woman must not be old, but one capable of
bearing children. Among the acceptable goods were sheep, goats, and

A wound or a broken limb is paid for in goods. These must come not solely
from him who caused the injury; his family, as fellow offenders, must
assist in paying.

The man who obtains the woman who is given for a woman killed, retains
with her also part of the goods given with her, and part he shares with
the family of the murdered one. If, in giving a woman for a murdered one,
the offending family is unable to furnish also the required goods, they
must sell another of their women in order to obtain those goods. The point
is that they must give a woman _and_ goods; _two_ women will not suffice.

The ceremonies in settlement of a blood-feud are as follows: The woman is
paid in presence of both parties; then the goods are given, counted, and
received. Then both parties retire. In the course of a week the parties
receiving the woman and the goods call the other party, and produce a goat
and kill it in their presence. It is divided equally, and given half to
each party; and the feud is settled, as by a covenant of peace, over the
divided goat (Gen. xv. 10). The woman thus given in settlement will be
married to some one.

The customs in her marriage are the same as for any other woman.
Subsequently those who paid her as a fine may come and ask a portion of
goods for her as a wife. Not that they have any claim on her as their
daughter; but the man who has married her will give the goods they ask
for, under the common belief that, unless he does so, the children born by
her will die early, or at least will not come to years of maturity.

All misdeeds and offences, even capital ones, may be condoned by a fine in
goods, excepting only the murder of a man. This murderer must forfeit his
life. These fines are paid with foreign goods, each offence having its own
regulation price as a punishment.

In general, the punishment for an injury is the same, whether the injured
one be rich or poor. A man's "majawe" are held responsible if he refuses
to make restitution. If they also refuse, the offended party await a
suitable opportunity, and then seize some one and hold him as a hostage
until he is redeemed, for the price of the original offence, every mite of
it being then exacted.

There is no right of asylum to any offender within the limit of his own
tribe. In case of a man visiting, for any reason whatever, in the limits
of another tribe one of whose members is a fugitive from justice into the
limits of the visitor's tribe, this visitor may be seized, and his
countrymen asked to extradite the criminal staying in their midst.

Corporal punishment is administered publicly, the townspeople being called
to witness it, so as to operate on their fears and cause them to dread the
doing of deeds which may bring on them such a penalty.

4. _Punishable Acts._ A person is punishable only for an injury committed
intentionally, not by accident.

For damages by cattle, the animal may be killed if the damage be
considerable. The injured party may keep and eat the carcass, and the
owner cannot recover for it. In this respect animals are treated as human
beings, their lives being forfeit; and the owner's majawe are held
responsible along with him.

Punishments are rated according to the degree of the crime, in the order
theft, adultery, rape, murder. Insults are not punishable by law; the
insulted insults in return. If a fight results, and wounds are made during
the fight, no fine is required.

Kidnapping, incest, and abortion are not known.

Under the slight duty owed to kings, treason can scarcely be said to
exist. Its equivalent, the betrayal of tribal interests, is publicly
rebuked, and a curse laid on the offender. If he be a servant, he is
beaten and sent away.

The disturber of the peace of a wedding is expected to express regret, but
no calamity will follow because of the disturbance. The offence is not


The tribes have fixed settlements wherever foreign governments have not
taken possession. Each man may choose for a garden a place that has not
been already occupied. The land is common property for the tribe. But each
ijawe may choose a separate place for itself.

No man of a tribe has any claim on the soil other than is common to any
other man of that tribe. He has, however, a claim greater than any

1. _Tenure._ Land is held as common property; it is not bought or sold to
a fellow-tribeman. It may be bought from the confines of another tribe,
and it is sold to foreigners. A hunter is free to go anywhere, even into
the territory of an adjacent tribe. If he kills game there, he does not
have to divide. Bee trees and honey are free to any one. The sea is free
for fishing only to the coast tribes.

Every woman has a separate garden; even the wives of polygamists do not
have gardens in common.

Soil is free. A family, however, may settle in a limited district, and
claim it as theirs as long as they live there; or, leaving it temporarily,
if they return after a reasonable time, they may still claim it. They
temporarily mark their places by trees or stones, as boundary lines. But
there is nothing permanent. They prove their right to it by residing on it
or making a garden from time to time. But their claim may be lost if the
entire family leave it and go elsewhere. Such a place being vacated, and
some one else wishing to occupy it, permission may be granted on formal
application to the king. But if an occupant has deserted a place, and no
one else has applied for it, he can resume it as his even after the lapse
of years.

Dwellers on any ground have right to all the trees of fruitage on it, _e.
g._, palm-nuts, and other natural wild edible nuts. Wells are never dug.
People depend on springs and streams. Springs are free, even though they
be on land claimed by others.

A man assists his wife in the clearing of the forest for a garden plot;
but she and her servants attend to the planting, weeding, and other
working of the garden itself.

2. _Rights in Movables._ The tenant dweller on any particular lot of
ground owns everything on it, except the ground itself. If a foreigner buy
a piece of ground, he may or may not buy the houses, and so forth,
according to agreement. The movables on any ground are houses, trees, and
any vegetables planted.


There is no coin or metal currency, except among the coast tribes, where
foreign governments have introduced it. Foreign trade-goods are everywhere
the medium of purchase and exchange. But there is a sort of currency, in
the shape of iron spear-heads and other forms resembling miniature
hatchets, a certain number of which are given by interior tribes in the
purchase of a wife. They are used only for this purpose, and are exchanged
by the parties themselves for the foreign goods required in the dowry.

They are manufactured by any village blacksmith from imported iron. They
are not received or recognized by white traders.

Formerly cowry shells were used, even by foreign traders, as a currency;
and they are still so used in the Sudan. But in all coast tribes purchase
and sale are effected by foreign-made calico prints, pottery, cutlery,
guns, powder, rum, and a great variety of other goods.

The natural products of the country--ivory, rubber, palm-oil,
dyewoods--and many other native unmanufactured articles are exchanged for
these goods. The natural products belong to the men. If a woman should
find ivory, she cannot sell it; it belongs to her husband to barter it.

Contracts are confirmed in various ways in different tribes. A common mode
is to eat and drink together, as a sign that the bargain is closed; and it
will not be broken. A contract cannot be broken after the price is agreed
upon, even if only a part of the price is paid; the remainder is to be
paid in instalments.

If one overreaches another in a trade, he must take back the imperfect
article or add to it. This is true, according to native law, among
themselves. Any amount of overreaching and deception is practised toward
foreigners in a trade, or to members of another tribe; and many foreigners
are just as guilty in their dealings with the natives.

Loans of trade-goods are constantly made, but the taking of interest
therefor is not known. If a borrowed article, such as a canoe, is broken
or lost, a new canoe must be given in its place. If the canoe is only
injured and had been in want of repair, the borrower, on returning it,
must repair it and also pay some goods. One going as surety for goods is
held responsible.

Pawning of goods is commonly practised everywhere.

People are generous in making gifts to friends, or donations to the needy;
but if a man who has been helped in time of distress subsequently
increases in wealth, the one who helped him may demand a return of the
original gift.



Religion is intimately mixed with every one of these aforementioned
sociological aspects of family, rights of property, authority, tribal
organization, judicial trials, punishments, intertribal relations, and

Mr. R. E. Dennett, residing in Loango, has made a careful and philosophic
investigation into the religious ideas of the Ba-Vili or Fyât nation and
adjacent tribes bordering on the Kongo. The result of his research shows
that the native tribal government and religious and social life are
inseparably united. He claims to have discovered a complex system of
"numbers" and "powers" showing the Loango people to be more highly
organized politically than are the equatorial tribes, and revealing a very
curious co-relation of those "numbers," governing the physical, rational,
and moral natures, with conscience and with God.

Some traces of the "numbers with meanings" are found in Yoruba, where, as
described by Mr. Dennett, the division of the months of the year, the
names of lower animals typical of the senses, and the powers of earth that
speak to us represent religious ideas and relations. They err, therefore,
who, as superficial observers, would brush away all these native views as
mere superstition. They are more than mere superstition; though indeed
very superstitious, they point to God.

The particular exponent of religious worship, the fetich, governs the
arrangements of all such relations. It will be discussed as to its origin
and the details of its use in the subsequent chapters.



Missionary Paul of Tarsus, in the polite exordium of his great address to
the Athenian philosophers on Mars Hill, courteously tells them that he
believes them to be a very "religious" people,--indeed, too much so in
their broad-church willingness to give room for an altar to the worship of
any new immanence of God; and then, with equal courtesy, he tells them
that, with all their civilization, with all their eminence in art and
philosophy, they were ignorant of the true character of a greater than any
deity in their pantheon.

Modern missionaries, also, in studying the beliefs and forms of worship of
the heathen nations among whom they dwell, while they may be shocked at
the immoralities, cruelties, or absurdities of the special cult they are
investigating, have to acknowledge that its followers, in their practice
of it, exhibit a devotion, a persistence, and a faithfulness worthy of
Christian martyrs. They are _very_ "religious." Verily, if the obtaining
of heaven and final salvation rested only on sincerity of belief and
consistency of practice, the multitudinous followers of the so-called
false religions would have an assurance greater than that of many
professors of what is known as Christianity, and much of the occupation of
the Christian missionary would be gone.

I say _much_; but not all, by any means. For the feeling with which I was
impressed on my very first contact with the miseries of the sociology of
heathenism, entirely aside from its theology and any question of salvation
in a future life, has steadily deepened into the conviction that, even if
I were not a Christian, I still ought to, and would, do and bear and
suffer whatever God has called or allowed me to suffer or bear or do since
1861 in my proclamation of His gospel, simply for the sake of the
elevation of heathen during their present earthly life from the wrongs
sanctioned by or growing out of their religion. Distinctly is it true that
"Godliness is profitable unto all things," not only for the life "which is
to come," but also for "the life that now is." Those in Christian lands
who have no sympathy for, or who refuse to take any interest in, what are
known as "Foreign Missions," err egregiously in their failure to recognize
the indisputable fact that they themselves are debtors for their
possession of protected life, true liberty, and unoppressed pursuit of
personal happiness, not to civilization as such, but to the form of
religious belief called Christianity, which made that civilization
possible. And by just so much as divine law has ordained us each our
brother's keeper, we are bound to share the blessings of the gospel with
those whom God has made of one blood with us in the brotherhood of

A pursuit of this line of thought would lead me into an argument for the
duty of foreign missions. That is not the direct object of these pages.
True, I pray that, as a result of any reader's following me in this study
of African superstition, his desire will be deepened to give to Africa the
pure truth in place of its falsity. But the special object of my pen, in
following a certain thread of truth, is to show how degradingly false is
that falsity, in its lapse from God, even though I accord it the name of

For my present purpose it is sufficiently accurate to define theology as
that department of knowledge which takes cognizance of God,--His being,
His character, and His relation to His Cosmos. Whenever any intelligent
unit in that Cosmos looks up to Him as something greater than itself,
under what Schleiermacher describes as "a sense of infinite dependence,"
and utters its need, it has expressed its religion. It may be weak,
superstitious, and mixed with untruth; nevertheless, it is religion.

When a study of God and the thoughts concerning Him crystallize into a
formula of words expressing a certain belief, it is definitely a creed.
When, under a human necessity, a creed clothes itself in certain rites,
ceremonies, and formulas of practice, it is a worship. That worship may be
fearful in its cruelty or ridiculous in its frivolity; nevertheless, it is
a worship. Worship is essential to the vitality of religion; without it
religion is simply a theory.

Theology differentiates itself from other departments of knowledge, as to
its source and its effects. For instance, in the study of geography, as to
its effects, it is comparatively a matter of indifference whether we
believe that the earth is flat or globular, like Booker T. Washington's
teacher who in his district school was prepared to teach either,
"according to the preference of a majority of his patrons"; or, in
astronomy, whether we believe that the sun is the stationary centre of our
planetary system, or whether, with the late Rev. John Jasper, we assert
that the sun "do move" around our earth.

But in theology it matters enormously for this present life, whether we
believe the supreme object of our worship to be Moloch, and infinitely for
our future life, whether Jesus be to us the Son of God.

As to the source of theological knowledge, all our other knowledge is
evolved, systematized, and developed by patient experiment and
investigation. The results of any particular branch of human knowledge are
cumulative, and are enlarged and perfected from generation to generation.
But the source of our knowledge of God is not in us, any more than our
spiritual life had its source in ourselves. It came _ab extra_. God
breathed into the earthly form of Adam the breath of life, and he became a
living creature, essentially and radically different from the beasts over
which he was given dominion. Knowledge of God was thus an original,
donated, component part of us. It grew under revelations made during the
angelic communications before the Fall. Revelation was continued by the
Logos along thousands of years, until that Logos himself became flesh and
dwelt among us in visible form in His written word, and by His Comforter,
who still reveals to us.

I do not feel it necessary here to discuss, or even to express an opinion
as to the evolution of the physical species. I know, simply because God
says so,--and am satisfied with this knowledge,--that "in the beginning
God created." As to _when_ that "beginning" was, there may be respectable
difference of opinion; for it is only a human opinion that asserts _when_.
Assertion may have apparently very reliable data; but these data often are
like the bits of glass, factors in the geometric figures of a
kaleidoscope, whose next turn in scientific discovery dislocates and
relocates in an apparently reliable proof of the existence of another

As to _what_ it was that God created in that beginning, there may be also
respectable difference of opinion. Whether, like Minerva, full armed from
the head of Jove, Adam sprang into his perfect physical, mental, and moral
manhood on the sixth of consecutive days of twenty-four solar hours each;
or whether, created a weakling, he slowly grew up to perfect development;
or whether life began only in protoplasm, and gradually differentiated
itself into the forms of beasts, and finally into that of man,--back of
all was a great First Cause that "created" in the "beginning." It is all a
subject fearfully wonderful.

"My substance was not hid from Thee when I was made in secret, and
curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my
substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy book all my members were
written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none
of them."

But all such assertion, discussion, and attempt at proof I allow only to
what is physical and finite, and is therefore a legitimate subject of
assertion on merely physical data; for I do not desire to discuss, beyond
simple mention, the Spencerian doctrine of evolution, that materialism
which would make thought and soul only successions in a series (even if
the highest and best) of evoluted developments. To account for the
religious nature in man by evolution I regard as a thing that cannot be
done. It is a tenable position held by evolutionists such as Dana,
Winchell, and the late Professor Le Conte of California, that "at the
creation of man the divine fiat asserted itself, and 'breathed into man
the breath of life, and man became a living soul.' Immortality cannot be
evolved out of mortality. If Spencerian evolution is true, either
everything is immortal or nothing is immortal; man and vermin in this
hypothesis go together."

Man's soul came to him direct from God, a part of His own infinite life,
in His "image," and like Him in His holiness. Man's thoughts of God were
holy. The expression of them in words and acts was his practical religion,
the visible, audible link that "bound" (ligated) him to God. In this there
could be no evolution, unless that, in the many forms and ceremonies used
in the expression of religious thought (which ceremonies constitute
worship), there could be, and were, variation, change, development, or

Therefore I cannot accept the conclusions of those who in their study of
ethnology claim to find that the religious beliefs of the world, and even
the very idea of a Supreme Being, have been evolved by man himself _ab
intra_. They claim that this evolution has been by primitive man, from low
forms of beliefs in spiritual beings, through polytheism and idolatry, up
to the conception of monotheism and its belief in the one living God. This
process they claim to be able to follow on lines racial and national,
under the civilizations of Chaldee, Greek, Roman, Teutonic, and other

"Until some human being can be found with a conception of spiritual
existences without his having received instruction on that point from
those who went before him, the claim ... that primitive man ever obtained
his spiritual knowledge or his spiritual conceptions from within himself
alone, or without an external revelation to him, is an unscientific
assumption in the investigation of the origin of religions in the

The rather I find, in my own ethnological observations during these more
than forty years in direct contact with aboriginal peoples, that the
initial starting-point of man's knowledge of God was by revelation from
Jehovah himself. This knowledge was to be conserved by man's conscience,
God's implanted witness,--a witness that can be coerced into silence, that
may be nursed into forgetfulness, that may be perverted by abuse, that may
be covered up by superimposed falsities, that may be discolored by the
blackness of foul degradation, but which can never be utterly destroyed;
which on occasions, like the Titans, arouses itself with volcanic force;
which at God's final bar is to be His sufficient proof for the verities
and responsibilities of at least natural religion ("natural" religion, a
recognition of certain attributes of God as revealed in the works of
nature). This knowledge of God, a treasure hid in earthen vessels, rightly
used and cherished, was to grow and develop under subsequent divine
revelation, so that man might become more and more like his divine
original; or, if abused, neglected, or perverted, it would carry him even
farther away from God.

"Not alone those who insist on the belief that there was a gradual
development of the race from a barbarous beginning, but also those who
believe that man started on a higher plane, and in his degradation
retained vestiges of God's original revelation to him, are finding profit
in the study of primitive myths, and of aboriginal rites and ceremonies
all the world over."[4]

I do not impeach the sincerity of those students of primitive thought who
teach that man in his religious beliefs has reached his present monotheism
by progressive growths from polytheism, or that he has attained his
present conception of the very existence of a Supreme Being by a gradual
emergence from a state of ignorance in which even the idea of such a being
did not exist; but I do discount the competency of many of the witnesses
on whose testimony they base their conclusions.

Whatever may be proved in a complete investigation by science into the
arcana of nature,--of archæology and other channels of research,--a
reverent comparison of these results of finite intelligence will find them
not inconsistent with the statements of God's infinite Word. Indeed, that
Word was not written to make any definite statement on astronomy or
geology, or any other human science. The only science of the Bible is that
of man's relation to his divine Father; its only history a history of
redemption, as promised to Eve and her seed, the Jewish nation, and as
fulfilled in the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Apparent conflicts of the
Bible with science are not always real; too often a claim is set up, based
on a single observation, perhaps hastily made, and not verified by a
comparison of the variable factors in that observation.

I suppose that it is true that in the theology of even the worst forms of
religion there is more or less truth, and almost equally true that in the
theology of the best forms there may be somewhat of superstition. This is
so because, as I believe, all religions had but one source, and that a
pure one. From it have grown perversions varying in their proportion of
truth and error.

In this study of the African theologic ideas I shall endeavor to separate
these two--the false and the true--into two divisions: First, Beliefs in
God more or less true, which have had their birth in tradition of some
divine revelation, which find at least faint echoes in human conscience,
and which among exalted nations would be formulated into confessions,
creeds, and articles of faith. Second, Animism or beliefs in vague
spiritual beings, which, being almost pure superstitions, cannot, from
their very nature, be accurately formulated, they being the outgrowth of
every individual's imagination, and varying with all the variances of
time, place, and human thought.

Eliminating from any theology its superstitious element, we shall find
the highest and truest religion. But if you eliminate from the theology of
the Bantu African its superstition, you will have very little left; for,
among the religions of the world, it comes nearest to being purely a
superstition. So nearly is this true that travellers and other superficial
observers and theorists have asserted that the religious beliefs of some
degraded tribes were _simply_ superstitions, destitute of reference to any
superior being.

I can readily see how the reports of some travellers--even of those who
had no prejudice against the Negro, the precepts of the Bible, or
missionary work--could be made in apparent sincerity, when they state that
native Africans have confessed of themselves that they had no idea of
God's existence; also, their belief that some pygmy and other tribes were
too destitute of intelligence to possess that idea,--that it either must
be given them _ab extra_ by the possessors of a superior civilization, or
must be developed by themselves as they rise in civilization.

The difficulty about the testimony of these witnesses in this matter is
that, being passers-by in time, they were unable--by reason of lack of
ability to converse fluently, or absence of a reliable interpreter, or of
being out of touch with native mode of thought or speech--to make their
questionings intelligible.

On the heathen side, also, the obsequious natives, unaccustomed to
analytic thought, will answer vaguely on the spur of the moment, and often
as far as possible in the line of what they suppose will best please the
questioner. All native statements must be discounted, must be sifted.

I am aware that some missionaries are quoted as having said or written
that the people among whom they were laboring "had no idea of God." Even
Robert Moffat is reported to have held this opinion. If so, it must have
been in the earlier days of his ministry, under his first shock at the
depth of native degradation, before he had become fluent in the native
language, and before he had found out all the secrets of that difficult
problem, an African's native thought. Such an unqualified phrase could be
uttered by a missionary in an hour of depression, in the presence of some
great demonstration of heathen wickedness, and in an effort to describe
how very far the heathen was from God. That the heathen had no _correct_
idea of God is often true.

Arnot, who among modern African missionaries has lived most closely and
intimately with the rudest tribes in their veriest hovels, writes:[5] "Man
is a very fragile being, and he is fully conscious that he requires
supernatural or divine aid. Apart from the distinct revelation given by
God in the first chapter of Romans, there is much to prove that the
heathen African is a man to whom the living God has aforetime revealed
himself. But he had sought after things of his own imagination and things
of darkness to satisfy those convictions and fears which lurk in his
breast, and which have not been planted there by the Evil One, but by God.
Refusing to acknowledge God,[6] they have become haters of God.[7] The
preaching of the gospel to them, however, is not a mere beating of the
air; there is a peg in the wall upon which something can be hung and
remain. Often a few young men have received the message with laughter and
ridicule, but I have afterwards heard them discuss my words amongst
themselves very gravely. I heard one man say to a neighbor, 'Monare's
words pierce the heart.' Another remarked that the story of Christ's death
was very beautiful, but that he knew it was not meant for him; he was a
'makala' (slave), and such a sacrifice was only for white men and

Lionel Declè,[8] who certainly is not prejudiced toward missionaries or
the Negro, writes of the Barotse tribe in South Africa and their worship
of ancestors: "They believe in a Supreme Being, Niambe, who is supposed to
come and take away the spiritual part of the dead." This name "Niambe,"
for the Deity, is almost exactly the same as "Anyambe," in Benga, two
thousand miles distant.

Illustrative of traveller Declè's haste or inexactitude in the use of
language, he apparently contradicts himself on page 153, in speaking of a
tribe, the Matabele, adjacent to the Barotse: "The idea of a Supreme Being
is utterly foreign, and cannot be appreciated by the native mind. They
have a vague idea of a number of evil spirits always ready to do harm, and
chief among these are the spirits of their ancestors; but they do not pray
to them to ask for their help if they wish to enter on any undertaking.
They merely offer sacrifices to appease them when some evil has befallen
the family."

Perhaps he and other cursory travellers, in making such hasty assertions,
mean that the native has no idea of the true character of God; in that
they would be correct.

The accounts which some travellers have given of tribes without religion I
either set down to misunderstanding, or consider them to be insufficient
to invalidate the assertion that religion is a universal feature of savage

However degraded, every people have a religion. But they are children,
babes in the woods, lost in the forest of ignorance, dense and more
morally malarious than Stanley's forest of Urěga. In their
helplessness, under a feeling of their "infinite dependence," they cry out
in the night of their orphanage, "Help us, O Paia Njambe!" Their
forefathers wandered so far from him that only a name is left by which to
describe the All-Father, whose true character has been utterly
forgotten,--so forgotten that they rarely worship him, but have given such
honor and reverence as they do render literally to the supposed spiritual
residents in stocks and stones. "Lo! this only have I found, that God hath
made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions."

Offering in the following pages a formulation of African superstitious
beliefs and practice, I premise that I have gathered them from a very
large number of native witnesses, very few of whom presented to me all
the same ideas. Any one else, inquiring of other natives in other places,
would not find, as held by every one of them, all that I have recorded;
but parts of all these separate ideas will be found held by separate
individuals everywhere.

After more than forty years' residence among these tribes, fluently using
their language, conversant with their customs, dwelling intimately in
their huts, associating with them in the varied relations of teacher,
pastor, friend, master, fellow-traveller, and guest, and, in my special
office as missionary, searching after their religious thought (and
therefore being allowed a deeper entrance into the arcana of their soul
than would be accorded to a passing explorer), I am able unhesitatingly to
say that among all the multitude of degraded ones with whom I have met, I
have seen or heard of none whose religious thought was only a

Standing in the village street, surrounded by a company whom their chief
has courteously summoned at my request, when I say to him, "I have come to
speak to your people," I do not need to begin by telling them that there
is a God. Looking on that motley assemblage of villagers,--the bold, gaunt
cannibal with his armament of gun, spear, and dagger; the artisan with
rude adze in hand, or hands soiled at the antique bellows of the village
smithy; women who have hasted from their kitchen fire with hands white
with the manioc dough or still grasping the partly scaled fish; and
children checked in their play with tiny bow and arrow or startled from
their dusty street pursuit of dog or goat,--I have yet to be asked, "Who
is God?"

Under the slightly varying form of Anyambe, Anyambie, Njambi, Nzambi,
Anzam, Nyam, or, in other parts, Ukuku, Suku, and so forth, they know of a
Being superior to themselves, of whom they themselves inform me that he is
the _Maker_ and _Father_. The divine and human relations of these two
names at once give me ground on which to stand in beginning my address.

If suddenly they should be asked the flat question, "Do you know
Anyambe?" they would probably tell any white visitor, trader, traveller,
or even missionary, under a feeling of their general ignorance and the
white man's superior knowledge, "No! What do _we_ know? You are white
people and are spirits; you come from Njambi's town, and know all about
him!" (This will help to explain, what is probably true, that some natives
have sometimes made the thoughtless admission that they "know nothing
about a God.") I reply, "No, I am not a spirit; and, while I do indeed
know about Anyambe, _I_ did not call him by that name. It's your own word.
Where did you get it?" "Our forefathers told us that name. Njambi is the
One-who-made-us. He is our Father." Pursuing the conversation, they will
interestedly and voluntarily say, "He made these trees, that mountain,
this river, these goats and chickens, and us people."

That typical conversation I have had hundreds of times, under an immense
variety of circumstances, with the most varied audiences, and before
extremes of ignorance, savagery, and uncivilization, utterly barring out
the admission of a probability that the tribe, audience, or individual in
question had obtained a previous knowledge of the name by hearsay from
adjacent more enlightened tribes. For the _name_ of that Great Being was
everywhere and in every tribe before any of them had become enlightened;
varied in form in each tribe by the dialectic difference belonging to
their own, and not imported from others,--for, where tribes are hundreds
of miles apart or their dialects greatly differ, the variation in the name
is great, _e. g._, "Suku," of the Bihe country, south of the Kongo River
and in the interior back of Angola, and "Nzam" of the cannibal Fang, north
of the equator.

But while it is therefore undeniable that a knowledge of this Great Being
exists among the natives, and that the belief is held that he is a
superior and even a supreme being, that supremacy is not so great as what
we ascribe to Jehovah. Nevertheless, I believe that the knowledge of their
Anzam or Anyambe has come down--clouded though it be and fearfully
obscured and marred, but still a revelation--from Jehovah Himself. Most of
the same virtues which we in our enlightened Christianity commend, and
many of the vices which we denounce, they respectively commend and
denounce. No one of them praises to me theft or falsehood or murder. They
speak of certain virtues as "good," and of other things which are "bad,"
though, just as do the depraved of Christian lands, they follow the vices
they condemn. True, certain evils they do defend, _e. g._ (as did some of
our New England ancestors) witchcraft executions, justifying them as
judicial acts; and polygamy, considering it (as our civilized Mormons) a
desirable social institution (but, unlike the Mormons, not claiming for it
the sanction of religion); and slavery, regarded (as only a generation ago
in the United States) as necessary for a certain kind of property. But
theft, falsehood, and some other sins, when committed by others, their own
consciences condemn,--closely covered up and blunted as those consciences
may be,--thus witnessing with and for God.

While all this is true, their knowledge of God is almost simply a theory.
It is an accepted belief, but it does not often influence their life. "God
is not in all their thought." In practice they give Him no worship. God is
simply "counted out."

Resuming my street-preaching conversation: Immediately after the admission
by the audience of their knowledge of Anzam as the Creator and Father, I
say, "Why then do you not obey this Father's commands, who tells you to do
so and so? Why do you disobey his prohibitions, who forbids you to do so
and so? Why do you not worship him?" Promptly they reply: "Yes, he made
us; but, having made us, he abandoned us, does not care for us; he is far
from us. Why should we care for him? He does not help nor harm us. It is
the spirits who can harm us whom we fear and worship, and for whom we

Another witness on this subject is the Rev. Dr. J. L. Wilson.[9] Speaking
of Africa and its Negro inhabitants, he says: "The belief in one great
Supreme Being is universal. Nor is this idea held imperfectly or obscurely
developed in their minds. The impression is so deeply engraved upon their
moral and mental nature that any system of atheism strikes them as too
absurd and preposterous to require a denial. Everything which transpires
in the natural world beyond the power of man or of spirits, who are
supposed to occupy a place somewhat higher than man, is at once and
spontaneously ascribed to the agency of God. All the tribes in the country
with which the writer has become acquainted (and they are not few) have a
name for God; and many of them have two or more, significant of His
character as a Maker, Preserver, and Benefactor. (In the Grebo country
Nyiswa is the common name for God; but He is sometimes called Geyi,
indicative of His character as Maker. In Ashanti He has two names: _viz._,
Yankumpon, which signifies 'My Great Friend,' and Yemi, 'My Maker.') The
people, however, have no correct idea of the character or attributes of
the Deity. Destitute of (a written) revelation, and without any other
means of forming a correct conception of His moral nature, they naturally
reason up from their own natures, and, in consequence, think of Him as a
being like themselves.

"Nor have they any correct notion of the control which God exercises over
the affairs of the world. The prevailing notion seems to be that God,
after having made the world and filled it with inhabitants, retired to
some remote corner of the universe, and has allowed the affairs of the
world to come under the control of evil spirits; and hence the only
religious worship that is ever performed is directed to these spirits, the
object of which is to court their favor, or ward off the evil effects of
their displeasure.

"On some rare occasions, as at the ratification of an important treaty, or
when a man is condemned to drink the 'red-water ordeal,' the name of God
is solemnly invoked; and, what is worthy of note, is invoked _three times_
with marked precision. Whether this involves the idea of a Trinity we
shall not pretend to decide; but the fact itself is worthy of record. Many
of the tribes speak of the 'Son of God.' The Grebos call him 'Greh,' and
the Amina people, according to Pritchard, call him 'Sankombum.'"

The following testimony I gather from conversations with the late Rev.
Ibia j'Ikěngě, a native minister and member of the Presbytery of
Corisco, who himself was born in heathenism. He stated:

That his forefathers believed in many inferior agencies who are under the
control of a Superior Being; that they were therefore primitive
monotheists. Under great emergencies they looked beyond the lower beings,
and asked help of that Superior; before doing so, they prayed to him,
imploring him as Father to help;

That the people of this country believed God made the world and everything
in it; but he did not know whether they had had any ideas about creation
from dust of the ground or in God's likeness;

That they believed in the existence, in the first times, of a great man,
who had simply to speak, and all things were made by the word of his
power. As to man's creation, a legend states it thus: Two eggs fell from
on high. On striking the ground and breaking, one became a man and the
other a woman. (Apparently there is no memory of any legend indicating the
name, character, or work of the Holy Spirit.)

That there is a legend of a great chief of a village who always warned
people not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree. Finally, he himself ate
of it and died;

That there was no legend, but, among a few persons, a vague tradition of a
once happy period, and of a coming time of good; but he knew of nothing
corresponding to the story of Cain and Abel;

That there is a fable that a woman brought to the people of her village
the fruit of a forbidden tree. In order to hide it she swallowed it; and
she became possessed of an evil spirit, which was the beginning of
witchcraft; That there was some tradition of a Deluge (he was not aware
of any about the Dispersion at the Tower of Babel);

That all men believed they were sinners, but that they knew of no remedy
for sin;

That sacrifices are made constantly, their object being to appease the
spirits and avert their anger;

That many of the tribes are, and probably all, before they emerged on the
seacoast, were cannibal (of the origin of cannibalism he did not know, but
he was certain it had no religious idea associated with it[10]);

That there was a legend that a "Son" of God, by name Ilongo ja Anyambe,
was to come and deliver mankind from trouble and give them happiness; but
as he had not as yet come, the heathen were no longer expecting him;

That there was a division of time, six months, making an "upuma," or
_year_, and a rest day, which came two days after the new moon, and was
called Buhwa bwa Mandanda,--it was a day for dancing and feasting;

That the dead were usually buried; but persons held in superstitious
reverence, as twins, Udinge, etc., were not buried, but left at the foot
of a ceiba, or silk-cotton tree, or other sacred tree;

That burial-places are regarded with a mixed feeling of reverence and awe;

That the immortality of the soul is believed in, but that there is no
tradition of the resurrection of the body;

That they believe God gave law to mankind, and that, for those who keep
this law, there is reserved in the future a "good place," and for the bad
a "bad place," but no definite ideas about what that "good" or that "bad"
will be, or as to the locality of those places;

That they believe in a distinction of spirits,--that some are _demons_, as
in the old days of demoniacal possession, this distinction following the
Jewish idea of diaboloi and daimonai.



Civilization and religion do not necessarily move with equal pace.
Whatever is really best in the ethics of civilization is derived from
religion. If civilization falls backward, religion probably has already
weakened or will also fall. The converse is not necessarily true. Religion
may halt or even retrograde, while civilization steps on brilliantly, as
it did in Greece with her Parthenon, and in Rome the while that religion
added to the number of idols in the pantheon. Egypt, too, had her men
learned in astronomy, who built splendid palaces and hundred-pillared
Thebes the while they were worshipping Osiris. The dwellers before the
Deluge had carried their civilization to a knowledge of arts now lost,
while their wickedness and utter wanderings from God's worship caused the
earth to cry out for a cleansing Flood.

Whatever therefore may be true in the history of civilization--whether man
was gifted, _ab initio_, with a large measure of useful knowledge which he
had simply easily to put into practice; or whether, as a savage, primitive
man had slowly and painfully to find out under pressure the use of fire,
clothing, weapons of defence and offence, tools, and other necessary
articles and arts--is not important here to be discussed. From whatever
point of vantage, high or low, Adam's sons started, we know that they had
at least tools for agriculture[11] and for the building of houses;[12] and
that a few generations later, their knowledge of arts had grown from
those which aided in the acquisition of the bare necessaries of life into
the aesthetics of music and metallic ornamentation.[13]

But religion did not wait that length of time for its growth. To the
original pair in Eden, Jehovah had given a knowledge of Himself. They felt
His character, they were told His will; and when they had disobeyed that
will, they were given a promise of salvation, and were instructed in
certain given rites of worship, _e. g._, offerings and sacrifice. They
knew[14] the significance of atoning blood, and the difference between a
simple thank-offering and a sin-offering. All this knowledge of religion
was not a possession which man had attained by slow degrees. He started
with it in full possession, while yet he was clothed only in the skins of
beasts,[15] and before he knew how to make musical instruments or to
fashion brass and iron. His religion was in advance of his civilization.
Subsequently his civilization pushed ahead.

What were the gradual steps before the Deluge, in the divergence of man's
worship of God, is not difficult to imagine if we look at the history of
the Chaldees, of the Hittites, and of the Jews themselves. Subsequent to
the Deluge, from the grateful sacrifice of the seventh animal by Noah, to
Abraham's typical offering of Isaac, it is not a very far cry to the
butchery of Jephthah's daughter or the immolations to Moloch. A
well-intended Ed[16] may readily become a schismatic Mecca. An altar of
Dan is soon furnished with its golden calf.

With this as a starting-point, _viz._, that the knowledge of himself was
directly imparted to man by Jehovah, and that certain forms of worship
were originally directed and sanctioned by Him, I wish in subsequent pages
to follow that line of light through the labyrinths of man's wandering
from monotheism into polytheism, idolatry, and even into crass fetichism.

Abstract faith is difficult. It is so much easier to believe what we see,
to have faith assisted by sight. Even such faith is not without its
blessing, but "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have
believed."[17] Memory is assisted by visible signs; whence the art of
writing,--in its usefulness so far beyond the Indian's wampum belts.
Merely oral law is apt to be forgotten, or its requisitions and
prohibitions become hazy.

As the years passed by, and nations, after the dispersion from the tower
on the plain of Shinar, diverged more and more, not only in speech and
writing but also in customs, their religious thought began to vary from
the simple standard of Adam and Noah. Between those small beginnings of
variation and the gulf-like depth of the fetich, there are three
successive steps.

First, retaining the name of and belief in and worship of Jehovah, mankind
added something else. They associated with Jehovah certain natural
objects. This, it is readily conceivable, they could do without feeling
that they were dishonoring Him. They could not see Him; in their
expression of their wants in prayer they were speaking into vague space
and heard no audible response. The strain on simple unassisted faith was
heavy. The senses asked for something on which they could lean. Very
reasonable, therefore, it was for the pious thought, in speaking to the
Great Invisible, to associate closely with His name the great natural
objects in which His character was revealed or illustrated the,--sun,
shining in strength and beneficently giving life to plants and the comfort
of its warmth to all creation; the moon, benefiting in a similar though
less prominent way; the sky, from which spake the thunder; the mountain,
towering in its solemn majesty; the sea, spread out in its inscrutable
immensity. All these illustrating some of Jehovah's attributes,--His
power, goodness, infinity,--without impropriety associated themselves in
man's thought of God, were named along with His name, and were looked upon
with some of the same reverence which was accorded to Him. In all this
there was no conscious departure from the worship of the one living and
true God. The position to which these great natural objects were gradually
elevated relatively to God, in the thought of the worshipper, was not as
yet blasphemous, or in any intentional way derogatory to Him. But the evil
in this elevation of nature into prominence with God was that there was no
limit to the number of objects or the degree of their elevation. From the
dignified use of sun, moon, sky, and sea, by unconscious degradations
animals became the objects of worship--the bull, the serpent, and the cat
(each illustrative of some attribute), and thence finally objects that
were frivolous, ridiculous, or disgusting, which nevertheless were each
the exponent of some principle. Even the indecencies of Phallic worship
had found their dignified beginning in an attempt to honor the great
principle of life in nature's procreative processes.

But there came a time, in the multiplying of the objects illustrative of
God's attributes, when they, by their very numbers, minimized divine
dignity. Their constant, visible, tangible presence to the senses began
not simply passively to represent God, but actively to personify Him, and
Jehovah was subdivided. He was still the great God; but these others were
given not only a name, but a personality which shadowed Him and dishonored
Him, by admitting them to fellowship with Him, and regarding Him as no
longer alone the great I Am. Though supreme, His supremacy was not
exclusive; it was comparative. He was over others, who also were gods,
with whom He shared His power, and to whom was to be given somewhat of His
worship. He was not indeed denied, but He was dishonored. He became only
one of the many gods along with Baal and Ashtaroth. But the worship of Him
was not abandoned. He was worshipped along with these others, as One among
many. And finally polytheism had become the belief of the world, except of
the many scattered small communities which, with their priests of the Most
High God, like Melchisedek and Job, held the true light from extinction.
"Jehovah" became a name for the Deity of a nation; each nation, while
reverencing its own god, not denying power to that of another nation.
Man's little thought was trying to localize the Deity in its own small
tribal limits.

Philistia worshipped its Dagon, but it feared and made trespass offerings
to Jehovah of the Ark of Israel's Covenant.[18]

Nebuchadnezzar, startled by a vision of a Son of God in the flame of his
fiery furnace, in an hour of repentance could decree that the God of
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego should not be spoken against.[19] This was
the second step in religion's retrograde movement. The personified natural
objects were actually worshipped. No longer considered simply as
_representatives_ of God, they were actually given a part of God's place,
and were worshipped as God. The prayer was not, "Jehovah, hear us, for the
sake of Baal, through whom we plead!" nor "O Baal, present our petition to
Jehovah!" but, flatly and directly, "O Baal, hear us!"

Having reached in their religious thought this position of a belief in
many gods, it was a natural and logical result that worship was to be
rendered to them all. The sacrifices that had been offered to Jehovah
alone were divided for service to other gods. But it was the same
religious sentiment, in both monotheist and polytheist, that prompted the
rendering of prayer, sacrifice, and other service. The same sense of an
"infinite dependence" that had led arms of weak faith to lay hold for help
on that which was nearest and most obvious, operated with the heathen who
had wandered from God, in his petition to his many gods, just as it had
operated originally with the worshipper of the true God. The sentiment was
right, the principle was good; only, its application was wrong,--sometimes
fearfully wrong. Man's religious nature is a force. There are other forces
in nature that belong to other domains than religion. They are good forces
if well applied; they become engines of destruction if misapplied or
applied in excess.

In all history no misapplied force has wrought more fearful evil than the
religious. It made holy even the atrocities of the Inquisition; it
ordained a Te Deum for the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day.

Similarly mankind found not only justification but propriety in the human
sacrifices to Moloch, and in the holocausts of the Aztec civilization. If
in giving a gift of thanks, tribute, admiration, or fear to a human
friend, ruler, or employer, we choose that which is good and best in our
own eyes, so as to win the favor of the being to whom it is given, much
more would we strive to please the god in whose power lies our life,
health, and prosperity. It was a logical result, therefore, in choosing
for sacrifice on great emergencies, to select the best-beloved child.
Moloch would be pleased and propitiated by such a valuable gift. The more
that the human love was renounced in the agony of the parents' view of
their child's dying struggle, the more favorable would be the response to
the worshipper. Under this misapplied religious force an Iphigenia is
logical, and the Hindu infant cast to Gunga's wave a fitting offering in
the agonized mother's eyes. But how fearfully mistaken! The religion that
recognizes and directs such abuse is a "false religion," as compared with
Christianity; not in the sense that it has nothing good in it, but in the
falsity of the objects of its worship and in the cruelty of the rites
employed in that worship. In the genera of the sciences there is only one
species of religion, but that one species has many varieties. In this
sense Calvin is correct if, in speaking of the "immense welter of errors"
in which the whole world outside of Christianity is immersed, "he regards
his own religion as the true one and all the others were false." The
function of a comparative study of religions is to point out the
connecting line of truth running through the mass of error. Back of all
the cruelty and error and falsity in polytheism lie the proper sense of
need, the natural feeling of helplessness in the great emergencies of
life, and the commendable desire to honor the Being known under different
names as Jehovah, Moloch, Jupiter, Allah, Budh, Brahm, Odin, or Anyambe;
to which Being His children all over the world looked up as the
All-Father. But the _descensus Averni_ from the One living and true God
soon multiplied gods, dividing among many the attributes that had been
centred in the One, and finally carried man's religious thought so far
from God that only His name was retained, while the trust which had
belonged to Him alone was scattered over a multitude of objects that were
not even dignified with the name "gods." Worship of ancestors was
established. Great human benefactors, heroic human beings, were deified
and canonized. The whole air of the world became peopled with spiritual
influences; literally "stocks and stones" became animated with demons of
varying power and disposition; and fetichism erected itself as a kind of

I see nothing to justify the theory of Menzies[20] that primitive man or
the untutored African of to-day, in worshipping a tree, a snake, or an
idol, originally worshipped those very objects themselves, and that the
suggestion that they represented, or were even the dwelling-place of, some
spiritual Being is an after-thought up to which he has grown in the lapse
of the ages. The rather I see every reason to believe that the thought of
the Being or Beings as an object of worship has come down by tradition and
from direct original revelation of Jehovah Himself. The assumption of a
visible, tangible object to represent or personify that Being is the
after-thought that human ingenuity has added. The civilized Romanist
claims that he does not worship the actual sign of the cross, but the
Christ who was crucified on it; similarly, the Dahomian, in his worship of
a snake.

Rev. J. L. Wilson, D.D.,[21] says of the condition of Dahomy fifty years
ago, that in Africa "there is no place where there is more intense
heathenism; and to mention no other feature in their superstitious
practices, the worship of snakes at this place [Whydah] fully illustrates
this remark. A house in the middle of the town is provided for the
exclusive use of these reptiles, and they may be seen here at any time in
very great numbers. They are fed, and more care is taken of them than of
the human inhabitants of the place. If they are seen straying away, they
must be brought back; and at the sight of them the people prostrate
themselves on the ground and do them all possible reverence. To kill or
injure one of them is to incur the penalty of death. On certain occasions
they are taken out by the priests or doctors, and paraded about the
streets, the bearers allowing them to coil themselves around their arms,
necks, and bodies. They are also employed to detect persons who have been
guilty of witchcraft. If, in the hands of the priest, they bite the
suspected person, it is sure evidence of his guilt; and no doubt the
serpent is trained to do the will of his keeper in all such cases. Images,
usually called 'gregrees,' of the most uncouth shape and form, may be seen
in all parts of the town, and are worshipped by all classes of persons.
Perhaps there is no place in Africa where idolatry is more openly
practised, or where the people have sunk into deeper pagan darkness."

Also, of the people on the southwest coast at Loango: "The people of
Loango are more addicted to idol worship than any other people on the
whole coast. They have a great many carved images which they set up in
their fetich houses and in their private dwellings, and which they
worship; but whether these images represent their forefathers, as is the
case among the Mpongwe (at Gabun), is not certainly known."[22]

Having thus followed the religious thought of mankind in its divagation
from monotheistic worship of the true God, down through polytheism and
idolatrous sacrifices, to the worship of ancestors, we have reached a
third stage, where the worship of God is not only divided between Him and
other objects, but, a step beyond, God Himself is quietly disregarded, and
the worship due Him is transferred to a multitude of spiritual agencies
under His power, but uncontrolled by it.

The details of this stage in the religious worship known as fetichism will
be considered in the following chapters.



The belief in spiritual beings opens an immense vista of the purely
superstitious side of the theology of Bantu African religion.

All the air and the future is peopled with a large and indefinite company
of these beings. The attitude of the Creator (Anyambě) toward the human
race and the lower animals being that of indifference or of positive
severity in having allowed evils to exist, and His indifference making Him
almost inexorable, cause effort in the line of worship to be therefore
directed only to those spirits who, though they are all probably
malevolent, may be influenced and made benevolent.


The native thought in regard to the origin of spirits is vague;
necessarily so. An unwritten belief that is not based upon revelation from
a superior source nor on an induction from actual experience and
observation, but that is added to and varied by every individual's fancy,
can be expressed in definite words only after inquiry among many as to
their ideas on the subject. These, I find, coincide on a few lines; just
as the consensus of opinion on any subject in any community will find
itself running in certain channels, influenced by the utterances of the
stronger or wiser leaders.

1. It appears, therefore, that some of the spirits seem to have been
conterminous with the life of Paia-Njambi in the eternities. An eternity
past, impossible as it is for any one to comprehend, is yet a thing
thinkable even with the Bantu African, for he has words to express
it,--"pěkě-na-jome," ever-and-beyond, "tamba-na-ngâmâ,"

Away back in that unknown time existed Paia-Njambi. Whence or how, is not
asked by the natives; nor have I had any attempt even of a reply to my own
inquiries. He simply existed. They are not sufficiently absurd to say that
He created Himself. To do that He would need to antedate Himself. I have
met none who thought sufficiently on the subject to worry their minds, as
we in our civilization often do, in effort to go back and back to the
unthinkable point in time past when God was not. Indeed so little is the
native mind in the habit of any such research that I can readily perceive
how their "We don't know" could easily be misunderstood by a foreign
traveller, scientist, or even missionary, as a confession that "they did
not know God,"--a statement which is true, but not the equivalent of, or
synonymous with, that traveller's assertion that the native _had no idea
of a God_. The native thought, wiser than ours, simply and unreasoningly
says, "He is, He was." Conterminous with Him in origin there may have been
some other spirits. This has been said to me by a very few persons with
some hesitation. But if those spirits were indeed equal in existence with
Njambi, they were in no respect equal to Him in character or power, and
had no hand in the creation of other beings. In the Mpongwe tribe at Gabun
one writer, Rev. J. L. Wilson, D.D., fifty years ago, thought the belief
existed that "next to God in the government of the world are two spirits,
one of whom, Onyambe, is hateful and wicked. The people seldom speak of
Onyambe, and always evince displeasure when the name is mentioned in their
presence. His influence over the affairs of men, in their estimation, does
not amount to much; and the probability is that they have no very definite
notions about the real character of this spirit." His character would be
indicated by his name, O-nya-mbe (He-who-is-bad). This name has sometimes
been used by missionaries to translate our word "devil." Perhaps the idea
of the word itself came from long-ago contact of this coast tribe with

2. A second and more recognized source of supply to the company of spirits
is original creation by Njambi. While this origin is named by some, I have
not found it believed in to any very great extent. Even those whom I did
find believing it had very vague ideas as to the mode or object of their
creation. Of the Creation of mankind, and even of the Fall, almost all of
the tribes have legends, more or less distinct, and with a modicum of
truth, doubtless derived from traditions coinciding with the Mosaic
history; but of a previous creation of purely spiritual beings I have
found no legend nor well-defined story. If such specially created spirits
exist at all, their relation to Njambi is of a very shadowy kind; they
are, indeed, inferior to Him, and are in theory under His government in
the same sense that human beings are. But Njambi, in His far-off
indifference in actual practice, does not interfere with or control them
or their actions. They are part of the motley inhabitants of "Njambi's
Town," the place of the Great Unknown, as also are all the other living
beasts and beings of creation. They also have their separate habitat, and
pursue their own devices, generally malevolent, with the children of men.

3. But the general consensus of opinion is that the world of spirits is
peopled by the souls of dead human beings. This presupposes a belief in a
future life, the existence of which in the native mind some travellers
have doubted. I have never met that doubt from the native himself. While I
do not impute to the travellers referred to any desire, in their efforts
at describing the low grade of intelligence or religious belief of certain
tribes, to misrepresent, I fully believe they were mistaken, their mistake
arising from misunderstanding. It is not probable that they met, in the
course of their few years, what I have not met with in a lifetime. It is
probable that natives had expressed to them a doubt, or even ignorance, of
a general resurrection, and may have said to them, as a few have said to
me, "No, we do not live again; we are like goats and dogs and
chickens,--when we die that is the end of us." Such a statement is indeed
a denial of the resurrection of the body, but it is not a denial of a
continued existence of the soul in another life. The very people who made
the above declaration to me preserved their family fetich, made sacrifices
to the spirits of their ancestors, and appealed to them for aid in their
family undertakings. The few who have expressed a belief in transmigration
did not consider that the residence of a human spirit in the body of a
beast was a permanent state; it was a temporary condition, assumed by the
spirit voluntarily for its own pleasure or convenience, and terminable at
its own will, precisely as human spirits during their mortal life are,
everywhere and by all, believed capable of temporarily deserting their own
human body and controlling the actions of a beast. This belief in
transmigration, though not general, has been found among individuals in
almost all tribes.

It being thus generally accepted that all departed human souls become
spirits of that future that is all around us, there is still a difference
in the testimony of intelligent witnesses as to who and what, or even how
many, of these souls are in one human being. (1) Ordinarily, the native
will say in effect, "I am one, and my soul is also myself. When I die, it
goes out somewhere else." (2) Others will say, "I have two things,--one is
the thing that becomes a spirit when I die, the other is the spirit of the
body and dies with it." (This "other" may be only a personification of
what we specify as the animal life.) But it has frequently occurred that
even intelligent natives, standing by me at the side of a dying person,
have said to me, "He is dead." The patient was indeed unconscious, lying
stiff, not seeing, speaking, eating, or apparently feeling; yet there was
a slight heart-beat. I would point out to the relatives these evidences of
life. But they said: "No, he is dead. His spirit is gone, he does not see
nor hear nor feel; that slight movement is only the spirit of the body
shaking itself. It is not a person, it is not our relative; _he_ is dead."
And they began to prepare the body for burial. A man actually came to me
on Corisco Island, in 1863, asking me for medicine with which to kill or
quiet the body-spirit of his mother, whose motions were troubling him by
preventing the funeral arrangements. I was shocked at what I thought his
attempt at matricide, but subsequently found that he really did believe
that his mother was dead and her real soul gone.

Such attempt to distinguish between soul-life and body-life has not
infrequently led to premature burial. The supposed corpse has sometimes
risen to consciousness on the way to the grave. A long-protracted sickness
of some not very valuable member of the village has wearied the
attendants; they decide that the body, though mumbling inarticulate words
and aimlessly fingering with its arms, is no longer occupied by its
personal soul; _that_ has emerged. "He is dead"; and they proceed to bury
him alive. Yet they deny that they have done so. They insist that _he_ was
not alive; only his body was "moving." Proof of premature burial has been
found by discoveries made in the practice of a custom which is observed
when a village has been afflicted with various troubles after the death of
one of its members. The villagers, after ineffectual efforts to drive away
the evil influences that are supposed to cause these troubles, decide that
the spirit of some dead relative is dissatisfied about something, and
order the grave to be opened and the bones rearranged or even thrown into
the river or sea. On opening the grave, corpses that had been buried in a
recumbent position have been found in a sitting position. It is possible
for one thus prematurely buried to change posture in a dying struggle;
for, mostly, heathen graves are shallow, and are hastily and not always
completely filled in.

(3) Another set of witnesses will say that, besides the personal soul and
the soul of the body, there is a third entity in the human unit, namely, a
dream-soul. That it is which leaves the body on occasions during sleep,
and, wandering off, delights itself by visiting strange lands and strange
scenes. On its return to the body its union with the material blunts its
perceptions, and the person, in his efforts to remember or tell what he
has seen, relates only the vagaries of a dream,--a psychological view
which, under the manipulation of a ready pen, could give play to fantasies
pretty, romantic, not unreasonable, and not impossible.

Some who are only dualists, nevertheless, believe in the wanderings of
this so-called dream-soul, but say that it is the personal soul itself
that has gone out and has returned. Both dualists and trinitarians add
that sometimes in its wanderings this soul loses its way and cannot find
its body, its material home; should it never return, the person will
sicken and die.

(4) A fourth entity is vaguely spoken of by some as a component part of
the human personality, by others as separate but closely associated from
birth to death, and called the life-spirit. Some speak of it as a
civilized person speaks of a guardian angel. Regarded in that light, it
should not be considered as one of the several _kinds_ of souls, but as
one of the various _classes_ of spirits (which will be discussed in a
subsequent chapter). To it worship is rendered by its possessor as to
other spirits,--a worship, however, different from that which is performed
for what are known and used as "familiar spirits." Others speak of the
vague life-spirit as the "heart." The organ of our anatomy which we
designate by that name, they call by a word which variously means "heart"
or "feelings," much like our old English "bowels," the same word being
employed equally to designate a physical organ and a mental state.
Considering the organic heart as the seat (or a seat) of life, the natives
believe that by witchcraft a person in health can be deprived of his
life-soul, or "heart"; that he will then sicken; that the wizard or witch
feasts in his or her magic orgy on this "heart," and that the person will
die if that heart is not returned to him.


But whatever this human soul may be, whether existing in unity, duality,
trinity, or quadruplicity, all agree in believing that it adds itself, on
the death of the body, as another to the multitudinous company of the
spirit-world. That world is all around us, and does not differ much in its
wants and characteristics from this earthly life, except that it is free
from some of the limitations to which material bodies are subject. In that
spirit-world they require the same food as when on earth, but consume only
its essence; the visible substance remains. They are possessed of all
their human passions, both bad and good. Men expect to have their wives
with them in that future, but I have never heard the idea even named, that
there is procreation by spirits in that after-world. Not having believed
during this life in a system of reward and punishment, they have no belief
in heaven or hell. All the dead go to Njambi's Town, and live in that new
life together, good and bad, as they lived together on earth. The "hell"
spoken of by some of my informants, I believe, is not a native thought; it
was probably engrafted on the coast tribes by the Portuguese Roman
Catholic missionaries of three hundred years ago.

If therefore the spirits consist almost entirely of the souls of departed
human beings, how immense their number! Equal in number with all the dead
that have passed from this life in the ages gone by, excepting those who
have gone permanently into the bodies of new human beings. That form of
metempsychosis is believed in. Occasional instances of belief of
transmigration into the body of a lower animal do not necessarily include
the idea of a permanent residence there, or that the departed soul has
lost its personality as a human being and has become the soul of a beast.

But the idea of reappearance in the body of a newly born child was
formerly believed in, especially in regard to white people. Thirty years
ago I wrote:[23] "Down the swift current of the Benita, as of other rivers
on the coast, are swept floating islands of interlaced rushes, tangled
vines, and water-lilies that, clinging to some projecting log from the
marshy bank, had gathered the sand and mud of successive freshets, and
gave a precarious footing for the pandanus, whose wiry roots bound all in
one compact mass. Then some flood had torn that mass away, and the
pandanus still waving its long, bayonet-like leaves, convolvuli still
climbing and blooming, and birds still nesting trustfully, the floating
island glided past native eyes down the stream, out over the bar, and on
toward the horizon of broad ocean. What beyond? Native superstition said
that at the bottom of the 'great sea' was 'whiteman's land'; that thither
some of their own departed friends found their happy future, exchanging a
dusky skin for a white one; that there white man's magic skill at will
created the beads, and cloth, and endless wealth that came from that
unknown land in ships, in whose masts and rigging and sails were
recognized the transformed trees and vines and leaves of those floating
islands. When on the 12th of July, 1866, a few with bated breath came to
look on my little new-born Paull, the only white child most of the
community had seen, and the first born in that Benita region, the old
people said, 'Now our hopes are dead. Dying, we had hoped to become like
you; but verily ye are born as we.'"

Not long after I had arrived at Corisco Island in 1861 I observed among
the many people who came to see the new missionary one man who quietly and
unobtrusively but very steadily was gazing at me. After a while he
mustered courage and addressed me: "Are you not my brother,--my brother
who died at such a time, and went to White Man's Land?" I was at that time
new to the superstitions of the country; his meaning had to be explained
to me. His thought of relationship was not an impossible one, for many of
the Bantu Negroes have somewhat Caucasian-like features. I have often seen
men and women at the sight of whom I was surprised, and I would remark to
a fellow-missionary: "How much this person reminds me of So-and-so in
America!" This recognition of resemblance of features to white persons
living in America was the third step in my acquaintance with native faces.
At first, all Negro faces looked alike. Presently I learned differences;
and when I had reached the third step, I felt that my acquaintance with
African features was complete.


The locality of these spirits is not only vaguely in the surrounding air;
they are also localized in prominent natural objects,--caves, enormous
rocks, hollow trees, dark forests,--in this respect reminding one of
classic fauns and dryads. While all have the ability to move from place to
place, some especially belong to certain localities which are spoken of as
having, as the case might be, "good" or "bad" spirits. It is possible for
a human soul (as already mentioned in this chapter) to inhabit the body of
a beast. A man whose plantation was being devastated near Benita by an
elephant told me, in 1867, he did not dare to shoot it, because the spirit
of his lately deceased father had passed into it. Also a common
objurgation of an obstreperous child or animal is, "O na nyemba!" (Thou
hast a witch.)

Their habitats may be either natural or acquired. Natural ones are, for
the spirits of the dead, in a very special sense, the villages where they
had dwelt during the lifetime of the body; but the presence of the spirits
of the dead is not desired. It is one of the pitiable effects of African
superstition that its subjects look with fear and dread on what the
denizens of civilization look with love and tender regret. We in our
Christian civilization cling to the lifeless forms of our dead; and when
necessity compels us to bury them from our sight, we bid memory call up
every lineament of face and tone of voice, and are pleased to think that
sometimes they are near us. But it is a frequent native practice that on
the occasion of a death, even while a portion of the family are wailing
and to all appearances passionately mourning the loss of their relative,
others are firing guns, blowing trumpets, beating drums, shouting and
yelling, in order to drive away from the village the recently disembodied
spirit. On consideration, it can be seen that these two diverse
demonstrations are sincere, consistent, and, to the natives, reasonable.
With natural affection they mourn the absence of a tangible _person_ who,
as a member of their family, was helpful and even kind; while they fear
the independent existence of the invisible thing, whose union with the
physical body they fail to recognize as having been a factor in that
helpfulness and kindness. This departed spirit, joining the company of
other departed spirits, will indeed become an object of worship,--a
worship of principally a deprecatory nature; but its continued presence
and immediate contact with its former routine are not desired. In
Mashonaland the native fears death by accident or human enmity. "But a
greater dread than this is of a visitation of evil by the spirit of a
departed friend or relative whom he may have slighted while living."

A village in Nazareth Bay, the embouchure of one of the mouths of the
Ogowe River, is called "Abun-awiri" ("awiri," plural of "ombwiri," a
certain class of spirits, and "abuna," abundance).

Large, prominent trees are inhabited by spirits. Many trees in the
equatorial West African forest throw out from their trunks, at from ten to
sixteen feet from the ground, solid buttresses continuous with the body of
the tree itself, only a few inches in thickness, but in width at the base
of the tree from four to six feet. These buttresses are projected toward
several opposite points of the compass, as if to resist the force of
sudden wind-storms. They are a noticeable forest feature and are commonly
seen in the silk-cotton trees. The recesses between them are actually used
as lairs by small wild animals. They are supposedly also a favorite home
of the spirits.

Caverns and large rocks have their special spirit inhabitants. At Gabun,
and also on Corisco Island, geological breaks in the horizontal strata of
rock were filled by narrow vertical strata of limestone, between which
water action has worn away the softer rock, leaving the limestone walls
isolated, with a narrow ravine between them. These ravines were formerly
reverenced as the abodes of spirits.

When I made a tour in 1882, surveying for a second Ogowe Station, I came
some seventy miles up river from my well-established first station,
Kângwe, at Lambarene, to an enormous rock, a granite boulder, lying in the
bed of the river. The adjacent hillsides on either bank of the river were
almost impassable, being covered with boulders of all sizes, and a heavy
forest growing in among and even on them. This great rock had evidently in
the long past become detached by torrential streams that scored the
mountainside in the heavy rainy season and had plunged to its present
position. The swift river current swirled and dashed against the huge
obstruction to navigation, making the ascent of the river at that point
particularly difficult. Superstition suggested that the spirits of the
rock did not wish boats or canoes to pass their abode. Nevertheless,
necessities of trade compelled; and crews in passing made an ejaculatory
prayer, or doffed their head coverings, in respect, but with the fear that
the "ascent" in that part of the journey might be for "woe," whence they
called the rock "Itala-ja-maguga," which, contracted to "Talaguga," I gave
as a name to my new station, erected in 1882 in the vicinity of the rock.
During my eight subsequent years at the station I did, indeed, meet with
some "woe," but also much weal. And the missionary work of Talaguga,
carried on since 1892 by the hands of the Société Évangelique de Paris,
has met with signal success.

Capes, promontories, and other prominent points of land are favorite
dwelling-places of the spirits. The Ogowe River, some one hundred and
forty miles from its mouth, receives on its left bank a large affluent,
the Ngunye, coming from the south. The low point of land at the junction
of the two rivers was sacred. The riverine tribes themselves would pass it
in canoes, respectfully removing their head coverings; but passage was
forbidden to coast tribes and other foreigners. Portuguese slave-traders
might come to the point; but, stopping there, they could trade beyond only
through the hands of the local tribe (evidently superstition had been
invoked to protect a trade monopoly). A certain trader, Mr. R. B. N.
Walker, agent for the English firm of Hatton & Cookson, headquarters at
Libreville, Gabun, in extending his commercial interests some forty years
ago, made an overland journey from the Gabun River, emerging on the Ogowe,
on its right bank, _above_ that sacred point. Ranoke, chief of the Inenga
tribe, a few miles below, seized him, his porters, and his goods, and kept
them prisoners for several months. Mr. Walker succeeded in bribing a
native to carry a letter to the French Commandant at Libreville, who was
pleased to send a gunboat to the rescue. Incidentally it furnished a good
opportunity to demonstrate France's somewhat shadowy claim to the Ogowe.
After the rescue a company from the gunboat proceeded to the Point and
lunched there, thus effectually desecrating it. Mr. Walker made peace with
his late captor, and established a trading-station at the Inenga village,
Lambarene. For years afterward, natives still looked upon that Point with
respect. My own crew in 1874 sometimes doffed their hats; but before I
left the Ogowe in 1891, a younger generation had grown up that was willing
to camp and eat and sleep there with me, on my boat journeys.

Graveyards, of course, are homes of spirits, and therefore are much
dreaded. The tribes, especially of the interior, differ very much as to
burial customs. Some bury only their chiefs and other prominent men,
casting away corpses of slaves or of the poor into the rivers, or out on
the open ground, perhaps covering them with a bundle of sticks; even when
graves are dug they are shallow. Some tribes fearlessly bury their dead
under the clay floors of their houses, or a few yards distant in the
kitchen-garden generally adjoining. But, by most tribes who do bury at
all, there are chosen as cemeteries dark, tangled stretches of forest,
along river banks on ground that is apt to be inundated or whose soil is
not good for plantation purposes. I had often observed, in my earlier
African years, such stretches of forest along the river, and wondered why
the people did not use them for cultivation, being conveniently near to
some village, while they would go a much longer distance to make their
plantations. The explanation was that these were graveyards. Such
stretches would extend sometimes for a mile or two. Often my hungry meal
hour on a journey happened to coincide with our passing just such a piece
of forest, and the crew would refuse to stop, keeping themselves and
myself hungry till we could arrive at more open forest.

In Eastern Africa it is believed that "the dead in their turn become
spirits under the all-embracing name of Musimo. The Wanyamwezi hold their
Musimo in great dread and veneration, as well as the house, hut, or place
where their body has died."[24]

Beyond the regularly recognized habitats of the spirits that may be called
"natural" to them, any other location may be _acquired_ by them
temporarily, for longer or shorter periods, under the power of the
incantations of the native doctor (uganga). By his magic arts any spirit
may be localized in any object whatever, however small or insignificant;
and, while thus limited, is under the control of the doctor and
subservient to the wishes of the possessor or wearer of the material
object in which it is thus confined. This constitutes a "fetich," which
will be more fully discussed in another chapter.


The characteristics of these spirits are much the same as those they
possessed before they were disembodied. They have most of the evil human
passions, _e. g._, anger and revenge, and therefore may be malevolent. But
they possess also the good feelings of generosity and gratitude; they are
therefore within reach of influence, and may be benevolent. Their possible
malevolence is to be deprecated, their anger placated, their aid enlisted.

Illustration of malevolence in their character has already been seen in
the dread connected with deaths and funerals. The similar dread of
graveyards in our civilized countries may rest on the fear inspired by
what is mysterious or by those who have passed to the unknown, simply
because it and they are unknown. But, to superstitious Africa, that
unknown is a certainty, in that it is a source of evil; the spirit of the
departed has all the capacity for evil it possessed while embodied, with
the additional capacity that its exemption from some of the limitations of
time and space increases its facilities for action. Being unseen, it can
act at immensely greater advantage for accomplishing a given purpose.
Natives dying have gone into the other world retaining an acute memory of
some wrong inflicted on them by fellow-villagers, and have openly said,
"From that other world I will come back and avenge myself on you!"

In any contest of a human being against these spirits of evil he knows
always that whatever influence he may obtain over them by the doctor's
magic aid, or whatever limitations may thus be put on them, they can
never, as in the case of a human enemy, be killed. The spirits can never

Sometimes the word "dead" is used of a fetich amulet that has been
inhabited by a spirit conjured into it by a native doctor. The phrase does
not mean that its spirit is actually dead, but that it has fled from
inside of the fetich, and still lives elsewhere. Then the native doctor,
to explain to his patient or client the inefficacy of the charm, says that
the cause of the spirit's escape and flight is that the wearer has failed
to observe all the directions which had been given, and the spirit was
displeased. The dead amulet is, nevertheless, available for sale to the
curio-hunting foreigner.



Inequalities among the spirits themselves, though they are so great,
indicate no more than simple differentiations of character or work. Yet so
radical are these varieties, and so distinct the names applied to them,
that I am compelled to recognize a division into classes.


1. _Inina, or Ilina._ A human embodied soul is spoken of and fully
believed in by all the tribes. It is known in the Mpongwe tribes of the
Gabun country as "inina" (plural, "anina"); in the adjacent Benga tribe,
as "ilina" (plural, "malina"); in the great interior Fang tribes, as

This animating soul, whether it be only one, or whether it appear in two,
three, or even four forms, is practically the same, that talks, hears, and
feels, that sometimes goes out of the body in a dream, and that exists as
a spirit after the death of the body. That it has its own especial
materiality seems to be indicated by the fact that in the Fang, Bakěle,
and other tribes the same word "nsisim" means not only soul but also
shadow. The shadow of a tree or any other inanimate object and of the
human body as cast by the sun is "nsisim."

In my first explorations up the Ogowe River, in 1874, as in my village
preaching I necessarily and constantly spoke of our soul, its sins, its
capacity for suffering or happiness, and its relation to its divine Maker,
I was often at a loss how to make my thoughtless audience understand or
appreciate that the nsisim of which I was speaking was not the nsisim cast
by the sun as a darkish line on the ground near their bodies. Even to
those who understood me, it was not an impossible thought that that dark
narrow belt on the ground was in some way a part of, or a mode of
manifestation of, that other thing, the nsisim, which they admitted was
the source of the body's animation. So far defined was that thought with
some of them that they said it was a possible thing for a human being to
have his nsisim stolen or otherwise lost, and still exist in a diseased
and dying state; in which case his body would not cast a shadow. Von
Chamisso's story of Peter Schlemehl, "the man who lost his shadow," in

So few are the special activities by which to distinguish anina from other
classes of spirits, that I might doubt whether they should properly be
considered as distinct, were it not true that the anina are all of them
embodied spirits; none of them are of other origin. As disembodied
spirits, retaining memory of their former human relationships, they have
an interest in human affairs, and especially in the affairs of the family
of which they were lately members.

2. _Ibambo_ (Mpongwe; plural, "abambo"). There are vague beings, "abambo,"
which may well be described by our word "ghosts." Where they come from is
not certainly known, or what locality they inhabit, except that they
belong to the world of spirits. Why they become visible is also unknown.
They are not called for, they are only occasionally worshipped; their
epiphany is dreaded, not reverenced.

"The term 'abambo' is in the plural form, and may therefore be regarded as
forming a class of spirits instead of a single individual. They are the
spirits of dead men; but whether they are positively good or positively
evil, to be loved or to be hated, or to be courted or avoided, are points
which no native of the country can answer satisfactorily. Abambo are the
spirits of the ancestors of the people of a tribe or race, as
distinguished from the spirits of strangers. These are the spirits with
which men are possessed, and there is no end to the ceremonies used to
deliver them from their power."[25]

The ibambo may appear anywhere and at any time and to anybody, but it has
no message. It rarely speaks. Its most common effect on human lives is to
frighten. It flits; it does not remain in one spot, to speak or to be
spoken to. Indistinctly seen, its appearances are reported as occurring
mostly in dark places, in shadows, in twilight, and on dark nights. The
most common apparitions are on lonely paths in the forest by night.

To all intents and purposes these abambo are what superstitious fears in
our civilization call "ghosts." The timid dweller in civilization can no
more tell us what that ghost is than can the ignorant African. It is as
difficult in the one case as in the other to argue against the unreal and
unknown. What the frightened eye or ear believes it saw or heard, it
persists in believing against all proof. Nor will ridicule make the belief
less strong. However, the intelligent child in civilization, under the
hand of a judicious parent or other friend, and relying on love as an
expounder, can be led to understand by daylight, that the white bark of a
tree trunk shimmering in uncertain moonlight, or a white garment flapping
in the wind, or a white animal grazing in the meadow, was the ghost whose
waving form had scared him the night before. His superstition is not so
ingrained by daily exercise but that reason and love can divest him of it.
But to the denizen of Fetich-land superstition is religion; the night
terror which he is sure he saw is too real a thing in his life to be
identified by day as only a harmless white-barked tree or quartz rock.

3. A third class of spirits is represented by the name _Ombwiri_. The
"ombwiri" (Mpongwe; plural, "awiri") is certainly somewhat local, and in
this respect might be regarded as akin to the ancient fauns and dryads,
with a suggestion of a likeness to the spirits resident in the dense oak
groves and the massive stones of the Druid Circle. But the awiri are more
than dryads. They are not confined to their local rock, tree, bold
promontory, or point of land, trespass on which by human beings they
resent. The traveller must go by silently, or with some cabalistic
invocation, with bowed or bared head, and with some offering,--anything,
even a pebble. On the beach, as I bend to pass beneath an enormous tree
fallen across the pathway, I observe the upper side of the log covered
with votive offerings,--pebbles, shells, leaves, etc.,--laid there by
travellers as they stooped to pass under. Such votive collections may be
seen on many spots along the forest paths, deposited there by the natives
as an invocation of a blessing on their journey.

"The derivation of the word 'Ombwiri' is not known. As it is used in the
plural as well as in the singular form, it no doubt represents a class or
family of spirits. He is regarded as a tutelar or guardian spirit. Almost
every man has his own ombwiri, for which he provides a small house near
his own. All the harm that he has escaped in this world, and all the good
secured, are ascribed to the kindly offices of this guardian spirit.
Ombwiri is also regarded as the author of everything in the world which is
marvellous or mysterious. Any remarkable feature in the physical aspect of
the country, any notable phenomenon in the heavens, or extraordinary
events in the affairs of men are ascribed to Ombwiri. His favorite places
of abode are the summits of high mountains, deep caverns, large rocks, and
the base of very large forest trees. And while the people attach no
malignity to his character, they carefully guard against all unnecessary
familiarity in their intercourse with him, and never pass a place where he
is supposed to dwell except in silence. He is the only one of all the
spirits recognized by the people that has no priesthood; his intercourse
with men being direct and immediate."[26]

These spirits are sometimes spoken of with the nkinda and olâgâ (Mpongwe;
plural, "ilâgâ"). They all come from the spirits of the dead. These
several names indicate a difference as to kind or class of spirit, and a
difference in the work or functions they are called upon to exercise. The
ilâgâ are spirits of strangers, and have come from a distance.

While the ombwiri is indeed feared, it is with a respectful reverence,
different from the dread of an ibambo. Ombwiri is fine and admirable in
aspect, but is very rarely seen; it is white, like a white person. Souls
of distinguished chiefs and other great men turn to awiri. The fear with
which the native regards massive rocks and large trees--the ombwiri
homes--need not be felt by white people, who are themselves considered
awiri, without its being clearly understood whether their bodies are
inhabited by the departed spirits of the Negro dead, or whether some came
from other sources.

The awiri are generally favorably disposed, especially to their former
human relatives; but it is necessary to gratify them with religious
services constituting an ancestral worship. While some of them reside in
great rocks or trees, others dwell in rivers, lakes, and seas.

Awiri, if they love a person and desire to favor him or her, have the
special power to grant a gift desired by most Africans, _viz._, the birth
of children. The awiri live mostly in the region of their own former human
tribe. It is possible, however, for them to go everywhere; but they
usually remain within their old tribal limits. If, however, a tribe should
remove or become extinct, their awiri would still remain in that region,
and would affiliate with the new people who might come to occupy the
deserted village sites.

Awiri have a period of inactivity, the cold dry season of four months (in
western Equatorial Africa), May to September. At that time they become
very small, inactive, and almost lifeless (a condition of hibernation,
somewhat like that of bears; or of inertia, as when a snake casts its

4. There is another class of spirits called _Sinkinda_ (singular,
"nkinda"), some of whom are the spirits of people who in the ordinary
stations of life were "common," or not distinguished for greatness or
goodness. Others of these sinkinda are of uncertain origin, perhaps demons
whom Njambi had created, but to whom He had never given bodily existence.

Almost all sinkinda are evilly disposed. They come to the villages on
visits to warm themselves by the kitchen fires or out of curiosity to see
what is going on, and sometimes, temporarily, to enter into the bodies of
the living, especially of their own family. The entrance of a nkinda into
a human body always sickens the person. It may enter any one, even a
child. If many of them enter a man's body, he becomes crazy.

Sometimes the nkinda, when asked who he is, says: "I am a spirit of a
member of your own family, and I have come to live with you. I am tired of
living in the forest with cold and hunger. I wish to stay with you."

Often when people are sick with fever or cold, the diagnosis is made that
some nkinda has come on a visit. If it is of the same family as those whom
it is visiting, it comes and goes from time to time, to please itself; but
it is never, like an uvengwa, visible.

Sometimes these sinkinda are called "ivâvi" (sing. "ovâvi," messenger).
They come from far and bring news, _e. g._, "An epidemic of disease is
coming," or "A ship is coming with wealth." Sometimes the news thus
brought proves true. (Is this our modern spiritualism?) In such cases the
coming of the nkinda is regarded as a blessing, in that it warns the
living of evil or brings them wealth. The information is always carried by
the mouth of some living member of the family. If these sinkinda are asked
by a non-possessed member of the family, "Where do you live?" the reply
is, "Nowhere in particular. But at evenings we gather about your town, to
see you and join in your dances and songs. We see you, though you do not
see us."

5. _Mondi._ There are beings, "myondi" (Benga; singular, "mondi"), who are
agents in causing sickness or in either aiding or hindering human plans.
These spirits are much the same as those of the fourth class, except that
in power they seem to be more independent than other spirits. But they are
not always simply passive in the hands of the doctor; they are often
active on their own account, or at their own pleasure, generally to
injure. They are worshipped almost always in a deprecatory way. They often
take violent possession of human bodies; and for their expulsion it is
that ilâgâ, sinkinda, and awiri are invoked. They are invoked especially
at the new moons, but also at other times, particularly in sickness. The
native oganga decides whether or no they be myondi that are afflicting the
patient. When the diagnosis has been made, and myondi declared to be
present in the patient's body, the indication is that they are to be

A slight doubt must be admitted in regard to these myondi, whether they
really do constitute a distinct class, or whether any spirit of any class
may not become a myondi. The name in that case would be given them, not as
a class, but as producers of certain effects, at certain times and under
certain circumstances.

The powers and functions of the several classes of spirits do not seem to
be distinctly defined. Certainly they do not confine themselves either to
their recognized locality or to the usually understood function pertaining
to their class. These powers and functions shade into each other, or may
be assumed by members of almost any class. But it is clearly believed that
spirits, even of the same class, differ in power. Some are strong, others
are weak. They are limited as to the nature of their powers; no spirit can
do all things. A spirit's efficiency runs only on a certain line or lines.
All of them can be influenced and made subservient to human wishes by a
variety of incantations.

There are other names which, while they belong to spirits, apparently
indicate only peculiarities in spiritual manifestations, and not
representatives of a class.

1. There may enter into any animal's body (generally a leopard's) some
spirit, or, temporarily, even the soul of a living human being. The animal
then, guided by human intelligence and will, exercises its strength for
the purposes of the temporary human possessor. Many murders are said to be
committed in this way, after the manner of the mythical German wehr-wolf
or the French loup-garou.

This belief in demoniacal possession of a lower animal must not be
confounded with the equally believed transmigration of souls. The former
is widespread over at least a third of the African continent. In
Mashona-land "they believe that at times both living and dead persons can
change themselves into animals, either to execute some vengeance, or to
procure something they wish for; thus, a man will change himself into a
hyena or a lion to steal a sheep and make a good meal off it; into a
serpent to avenge himself on some enemy. At other times, if they see a
serpent, it is one of the Matotela tribe or slave tribe, which has thus
transformed himself to take some vengeance on the Barotse."[27]

2. Another manifestation is that of the uvengwa. It is claimed to be not
simply spiritual, but tangible. It is the self-resurrected spirit and body
of a dead human being. It is an object of dread, and is never worshipped
in any manner whatever. Why it appears is not known. Perhaps it shows
itself only in a restless, unquiet, or dissatisfied feeling. It is white
in color, but the body is variously changed from the likeness of the
original human body. Some say that it has only one eye, placed in the
centre of the forehead. Some say that its feet are webbed like an aquatic
bird. It does not speak; it only wanders, looking as if with curiosity.

My little cottage at Batanga is a mile and a half from the three chief
dwellings of the station. One afternoon in 1902 I went to the station,
leaving my cook and his wife in charge of the cottage. When I returned
late at night, he asserted that an uvengwa had come there. A few yards in
front of the door of the house is a mango tree with its very dense dark
foliage. The trunk is divided a few feet from the ground. The light from
the open door streamed into a part of the front yard, leaving the tree
trunk in dark shadow. The woman going out of the door had started back,
screaming to her husband that she saw an uvengwa standing in the crotch of
the tree and peering around one of the branches. The husband went to the
door. He asserted to me that he also had seen the form. In their terror,
neither of them made any investigation. Possibly a chalk-whitened thief
had taken advantage of my absence to prowl about. But the two witnesses
rejected such a suggestion; they were sure it was a visitor from some

3. Other spiritual manifestations are spoken of as the personal
guardian-spirit and the family guardian-spirit. These do not constitute a
separate class, but are the special modes of operation adopted by the
ancestral spirit or spirits in the protection of their family. Its
description belongs properly to a later chapter under the name of the
Family Yâkâ fetich.

The manner of invocation of all these five classes of spirits, in the case
of obscure diseases, is very much the same now as what Dr. Wilson
described fifty years ago. What he saw on the Gabun River tallies with
what I also saw thirty years ago at Benita, and subsequently in the Ogowe.
Even at Gabun, in the present day, though the Mpongwe have been
enlightened, the same ceremonies are kept up by other tribes, the Shekani
and Fang, who have emerged on the coast at Libreville.

"Sick persons, and especially those that are afflicted with nervous
disorders, are supposed to be possessed by one or the other of these
spirits. If the disease assumes a serious form, the patient is taken to a
priest or a priestess, of either of these classes of spirits. Certain
tests are applied, and it is soon ascertained to which class the disease
belongs, and the patient is accordingly turned over to the proper priest.
The ceremonies in the different cases are not materially different; they
are alike, at least, in the employment of an almost endless round of
absurd, unmeaning, and disgusting ceremonies which none but a heathenish
and ignorant priesthood could invent, and none but a poor, ignorant, and
superstitious people could ever tolerate.

"In either case a temporary shanty is erected in the middle of the street
for the occupancy of the patient, the priest, and such persons as are to
take part in the ceremony of exorcism. The time employed in performing the
ceremonies is seldom less than ten or fifteen days. During this period
dancing, drumming, feasting, and drinking are kept up without intermission
day and night, and all at the expense of the nearest relative of the
invalid. The patient, if a female, is decked out in the most fantastic
costume; her face, bosom, arms, and legs are streaked with red and white
chalk, her head adorned with red feathers, and much of the time she
promenades the open space in front of the shanty with a sword in her hand,
which she brandishes in a very menacing way against the bystanders. At the
same time she assumes as much of the maniac in her looks, actions,
gestures, and walk as possible. In many cases this is all mere
affectation, and no one is deceived by it. But there are other cases where
motions seem involuntary and entirely beyond the control of the person;
and when you watch the wild and unnatural stare, the convulsive movements
of the limbs and body, the unnatural posture into which the whole frame is
occasionally thrown, the gnashing of the teeth, and foaming at the mouth,
and supernatural strength that is put forth when any attempt is made at
constraint, you are strongly reminded of cases of real possession recorded
in the New Testament.

"There is no reason to suppose that any real cures are effected by these
prolonged ceremonies. In certain nervous affections the excitement is kept
up until utter exhaustion takes place; and if the patient is kept quiet
afterwards (which is generally the case), she may be restored to better
health after a while; and, no matter how long it may be before she
recovers from this severe tax upon her nerves, the priest claims the
credit of it. In other cases the patient may not have been diseased at
all, and, of course, there was nothing to be recovered from.

"If it should be a case of undissembled sickness, and the patient become
worse by this unnatural treatment, she is removed, and the ceremonies are
suspended, and it is concluded that it was not a real possession, but
something else. The priests have certain tests by which it is known when
the patient is healed, and the whole transaction is wound up when the
fees are paid. In all cases of this kind it is impossible to say whether
the devil has really been cast out or merely a better understanding
arrived at between him and the person he has been tormenting. The
individual is required to build a little house or temple for the spirit
near his own, to take occasional offerings to him, and pay all due respect
to his character, or to be subject to renewed assaults at any time.
Certain restrictions are imposed upon the person who has recovered from
these satanic influences. He must refrain from certain kinds of food,
avoid certain places of common resort, and perform certain duties; and,
for the neglect of any of these, is sure to be severely scourged by a
return of his malady. Like the Jews, in speaking of the actions of these
demoniacs, they are said to be done by the spirit, and not by the person
who is possessed. If the person performs any unnatural or revolting
act,--as the biting off of the head of a live chicken and sucking its
blood,--it is said that the spirit, not the man, has done it.

"But the views of the great mass of the people on these subjects are
exceedingly vague and indefinite. They attend these ceremonies on account
of the parade and excitement that usually accompany them, but they have no
knowledge of their origin, their true nature, or of their results. Many
submit to the ceremonies because they are persuaded to do so by their
friends, and, no doubt, in many cases in the hope of being freed from some
troublesome malady. But as to the meaning of the ceremonies themselves, or
the real influence which they exert upon their bodily diseases, they
probably have many doubts, and when called upon to give explanation of the
process which they have passed through, they show that they have none but
the most confused ideas."[28]



Even during the while that man was still a monotheist, as seen in a
previous chapter, he had eventually come to the use of idols which he did
not actually worship, by the making of images simply to _represent_ God;
he had not yet become an _idolater_.

Subsequently, in his farther lapse away from God, when he began to render
worship to beings other than God, fashioned images to represent them also,
and actually worshipped them, he became a polytheist and an idolater.

When he had wandered still farther, and God was no longer worshipped, the
knowledge of Him being reduced to a name, a multitude of spiritual beings
were substituted in place of God, and religion was only animism.

Farther on, when it seemed desirable to provide local residence for these
spirits, as had been done for God Himself in temples and costly images,
the material objects used for that residence were no longer matter of
value and choice; anything and any place was sufficient for a spirit's
habitat. Neither dignity, beauty, nor strength was any longer a factor in
the selection. For these objects did not represent the deities in any way
whatever. They were simply local residences. As such, a spirit could live
anywhere and in anything. This is bald fetichism. The thing itself, the
material itself, is not worshipped. The fetich worshipper makes a clear
distinction between the reverence with which he regards a certain material
object and the worship he renders to the spirit for the time being
inhabiting it. For this reason nothing is too mean or too small or too
ridiculous to be considered fit for a spirit's _locum tenens_; for when
for any reason the spirit is supposed to have gone out of that thing and
definitely abandoned it, the thing itself is no longer reverenced, and is
thrown away as useless.

The selection of the article in which the spirit is to reside is made by
the native "uganga" (doctor), who to the Negro stands in the office of a
priest. The ground of selection is generally that of mere convenience. The
ability to conjure a free wandering spirit into the narrow limits of a
small material object, and to compel and subordinate its power to the aid
of some designated person or persons and for a specific purpose, rests
with that uganga.

Over the wide range of many articles used in which to confine spirits,
common and favorite things are the skins and especially the tails of
bush-cats, horns of antelopes, nut-shells, snail-shells, bones of any
animal, but especially human bones; and among the bones are specially
regarded portions of skulls of human beings and teeth and claws of
leopards. But, literally, anything may be chosen,--any stick, any stone,
any rag of cloth. Apparently, there being no limit to the number of
spirits, there is literally no limit to the number and character of the
articles in which they may be localized.

It is not true, as is asserted by some in regard to these African tribes
and their degraded form of religion, that they worship the actual material
objects in which the spirits are supposed to be confined. Low as is
fetichism, it nevertheless has its philosophy, a philosophy that is the
same in kind as that of the higher forms of religion. A similar sense of
need that sends the Christian to his knees before God to ask aid in time
of trouble, and salvation temporal and spiritual, sends the fetich
worshipper to offer his sacrifice and to ejaculate his prayer for help as
he lays hold of his consecrated antelope horn, or as he looks on it with
abiding trust while it is safely tied to his body. His human necessity
drives him to seek assistance.

The difference between his act and the act of the Christian lies in the
kind of salvation he seeks, the being to whom he appeals, and the reason
for his appealing. The reason for his appeal is simply fear; there is no
confession, no love, rarely thanksgiving.

The being to whom he appeals is not God. True, he does not deny that He
is; if asked, he will acknowledge His existence. But that is all. Very
rarely and only in extreme emergencies, does he make an appeal to Him; for
he thinks God so far off, so inaccessible, so indifferent to human woes
and wants, that a petition to Him would be almost in vain. He therefore
turns to some one of the mass of spirits which he believes to be ever near
and observant of human affairs, in which, as former human beings, some of
them once had part.

As to the character of the salvation sought, it is not spiritual; it is a
purely physical salvation. A sense of moral and spiritual need is lost
sight of, although not eliminated. This is an index of the distance the
Negro has travelled away from Jehovah before he finally reached the
position of placing his trust in a fetich. By just so much as he seems to
himself living in a world crowded with unseen but powerful spiritual
beings (with whom what a Christian calls "sin" has no reprehensible moral
quality), by just so much he seems to have lost sight of his own soul and
its moral necessities.

The future is so vague that in the thought of most tribes it contains
neither heaven nor hell; there is no certain reward or rest for goodness,
nor positive punishment for badness. The future life is to each native
largely a reproduction, on shadowy and intangible lines, of the works and
interests and passions of this earthly life. In his present life, with its
savagery and oppression and dominance of selfish greed and right of might,
goodness has no reward. It is badness which in his personal experience
makes the largest gains. From this point of view, while some acts are
indeed called "good" and some "bad" (conscience proving its simple
existence by the use of these words in the record of language), yet
conscience is not much troubled by its possessor's badness. There is
little sense of the sinfulness of sin. There is only fear of possible
human injury by human or subsidized spiritual enemies. This is all the
salvation that is sought.

It is sought by prayer; by sacrifice, and by certain other ceremonies
rendered to the spirit of the fetich or to other non-localized spirits;
and by the use of charms or amulets.

These charms may be vocal, ritual, or material.

(1) The vocal are the utterance of cabalistic words deprecatory of evil or
supplicatory of favor, which are supposed in a vague way to have power
over the local spirits. These words or phrases, though sometimes coined by
a person for himself or herself (and therefore like our slang having a
known meaning), are often archaisms, handed down from ancestors and
believed to possess efficiency, but whose meaning is forgotten. In this
list would be included long incantations by the magic doctors and the
Ibâtâ-blown blessing.

(2) Certain rites or ceremonies are performed for almost every child at
some time during his or her infancy or youth, or subsequently as occasion
may demand, in which a prohibition is laid upon the child in regard to the
eating of some particular article of food or the doing of some special
act. It is difficult to get at the exact object for this "orunda."
Certainly the prohibited food or act is not in itself evil; for all but
the inhibited individual may eat of the food or commit the act as they
please. Most natives blindly follow the "custom" of their ancestors, and
are unable to give me the _raison d'être_ of the rite itself. But I gather
from the testimony of those best able to give a reason that the prohibited
article or act is literally a sacrifice, ordained for the child by its
parents and the magic doctor, as a gift to the governing spirit of its
life. The thing prohibited thus becomes removed from the child's common
use and is made sacred to the spirit. It is therefore a sacrament. Any use
of it by the child will thenceforth be a sacrilege which would draw down
the spirit's wrath in the form of sickness or other evil, and which can be
atoned for only through expensive ceremonies and by gifts to the magician
interceding for the offender.

Anything may be selected for an orunda. I do not know the ground for a
selection. Why one child, perhaps a babe too young to have eaten of the
to-be-prohibited thing, should be debarred forever from eating a chicken,
or the liver or any other particular part, or any portion at all, of a
goat or an ox or any other animal, I do not know. But that orunda is
thenceforth faithfully complied with, even under pangs of hunger. It is
like a Nazarite's vow.

I have a strong suspicion that where the orunda laid on a woman is a
matter of meat, superstition has played into the hands of masculine
selfishness, and denies to women the choice meat in order that men may
have the greater share. My suspicion rests on almost positive evidence in
the case of some prohibitions to the women of the Bulu and other Fang
tribes of the interior.

On a boat journey in the Ogowe River, about 1878, I camped on the edge of
a forest for the noon meal. My crew of four, members of the Galwa and
Nkâmi tribes, had no meat. They needed it, for they had rowed hard and
well. For myself, I had only a small chicken. I was satisfied with a
portion of it, and gave the rest to the crew. It would make at least a
tasty morsel for each, with their manioc bread. Three of them thanked me;
the fourth did not touch his share. I felt slightly vexed, thinking my
favor was not appreciated, and I asked the cause of his apparent
sullenness. He said he did not dare to eat of the fowl, as it was orunda
to him.

On another journey, in 1876, a young man whom I had picked up as extra
hand in my boat's crew, when at the noon mealtime we stopped under the
shade of a spreading tree by the river's bank, instead of respectfully
leaving me alone with my lunch in the boat, and going ashore where the
others were eating, wanted to remain in the boat, his orunda being that
when on a journey by water his food should be eaten only over water.

Two Ogowe chiefs, near whose villages was anchored the small river steamer
"Pioneer," on which I was passenger, in 1875, came aboard, and in
drinking a glass of liquor with the captain, one of them held up a piece
of white cloth before his mouth, in order that strangers' eyes might not
see him swallow. That was his orunda, probably. Perhaps also the hiding of
his drinking may have had reference to the common fear of another's "evil

The other, having taken a mouthful, wet his finger in his mouth, drew the
wet finger across his throat, and then blew on a fetich which he wore as a
ring on a finger of the other hand. I do not know the significance of his
motion across his throat. The blowing was the Ibâtâ-blessing,--an
ejaculatory prayer for a blessing on his plans, probably of trade.

This word "orunda," meaning thus originally _prohibited from_ human use
(like the South Sea "taboo"), grew, under missionary hands, into its
related meaning of _sacred_ to spiritual use. It is the word by which the
Mpongwe Scriptures translate our word "holy." I think it an unfortunate
choice; for the missionary has to stop and explain that orunda, as used
for God, does not mean the orunda used by mankind. In the translation of
the Benga Scriptures the word "holy" was transferred bodily, and we
explain that it means something better than good. To such straits are
translators sometimes reduced in the use of heathen languages!

(3) The charms that are most common are material, the fetich,--so common,
indeed, that by the universality of their use, and the prominence given to
them everywhere, in houses and on the person, they almost monopolize the
religious thought of the Bantu Negro, subordinating other acknowledged
points of his theology, dominating his almost entire religious interest,
and giving the departmental word "fetich" such overwhelming regard that it
has furnished the name distinctive of the native African religious system,
_viz._, fetichism. "Fetich" is an English word of Portuguese origin. "It
is derived from feitico, 'made,' 'artificial' (compare the old English
fetys, used by Chaucer); and this term, used of the charms and amulets
worn in the Roman Catholic religion of the period, was applied, by the
Portuguese sailors of the eighteenth century, to the deities they saw
worshipped by the Negroes of the West Coast of Africa.

"De Brosses, a French savant of the last century, brought the word
'fetichism' into use as a term for the type of religion of the lowest
races. The word has given rise to some confusion, having been applied, by
Comte and other writers, to the worship of the heavenly bodies and of the
great features of Nature. It is best to limit it to the worship of such
natural objects as are reverenced, not for their own power or excellence,
but because they are supposed to be occupied each by a spirit."[29]

The native word on the Liberian coast is "gree-gree"; in the Niger Delta,
"ju-ju"; in the Gabun country, "monda"; among the cannibal Fang, "biañ";
and in other tribes the same respective dialectic by which we translate
"medicine." To a sick native's thought the adjuvant medicinal herb used by
the doctor, and its associated efficiency-giving spirit invoked by that
same doctor, are inseparable. In the heathen Negro's soul the fetich takes
the place, and has the regard, which an idol has with the Hindu and the

"A fetich, strictly speaking, is little else than a charm or amulet, worn
about the person, and set up at some convenient place, for the purpose of
guarding against some apprehended evil or securing some coveted good." In
the Anglo-African parlance of the Coast fetiches are called by various
names, but all signify the same thing. Fetiches may be made of anything of
vegetable, animal, or metallic nature, "and need only to pass through the
consecrating hands of a native priest to receive all the supernatural
powers which they are supposed to possess. It is not always certain that
they possess extraordinary powers. They must be tried and give proof of
their efficiency before they can be implicitly trusted."[30]

A fetich, then, is any material object consecrated by the "oganga," or
magic doctor, with a variety of ceremonies and processes, by virtue of
which some spirit becomes localized in that object, and subject to the
will of the possessor.

Anything that can be conveniently carried on the person may thus be
consecrated,--a stone, chip, rag, string, or bead. Articles most
frequently used are snail-shells, nut-shells, and small horns of gazelles
or goats. These are used probably because of their convenient cavities;
for they are to be filled by the oganga with a variety of substances
depending, in their selection, on the special work to be accomplished by
the fetich. Its value, however, depends not on itself, nor solely on the
character of these substances, but on the skill of the oganga in dealing
with spirits.

There is a relation between these selected substances and the object to be
obtained by the fetich which is to be prepared of them,--for example, to
give the possessor bravery or strength, some part of a leopard or an
elephant; to give cunning, some part of a gazelle; to give wisdom, some
part of a human brain; to give courage, some part of a heart; to give
influence, some part of an eye; and so on for a multitude of qualities.
These substances are supposed to lure some spirit (being in some way
pleasing to it), which thenceforward is satisfied to reside in them and to
aid the possessor in the accomplishment of some one specific wish.

In preparing a fetich the oganga selects substances such as he deems
appropriate to the end in view,--the ashes of certain medicinal plants,
pieces of calcined bones, gums, spices, resins, and even filth, portions
of organs of the bodies of animals, and especially of human beings
(preferably eyes, brain, heart, and gall-bladder), particularly of
ancestors, or men strong or renowned in any way, and very especially of
enemies and of white men. Human eyeballs (particularly of a white person)
are a great prize. New-made graves have been rifled for them.

These are compounded in secret, with the accompaniment of drums, dancing,
invocations, looking into mirrors or limpid water to see faces (human or
spiritual, as may be desired), and are stuffed into the hollow of the
shell or bone, or smeared over the stick or stone.

If it be desired to obtain power over some one else, the oganga must be
given by the applicant, to be mixed in the sacred compound, either crumbs
from the food, or clippings of finger nails or hair, or (most powerful!)
even a drop of blood of the person over whom influence is sought. These
represent the life or body of that person. So fearful are natives of power
being thus obtained over them, that they have their hair cut only by a
friend; and even then they carefully burn it or cast it into a river. If
one accidentally cuts himself, he stamps out what blood has dropped on the
ground, or cuts out from wood the part saturated with blood.

Sitting one day by a village boat-landing in the Benita region, about
1866, while my crew prepared for our journey, I was idly plucking at my
beard, and carelessly flung away a few hairs. Presently I observed that
some children gathered them up. Asking my Christian assistant what that
meant, he told me: "They will have a fetich made with those hairs; when
next you visit this village, they will ask you for some favor, and you
will grant it, by the power they will thus have obtained over you."

The water with which a lover's body (male or female) is washed, is used in
making a philter to be mingled secretly in the drink of the loved one.

While, as I have already stated, it is true that anything portable may be
used either as the receptacle in which the spirit is to be located or as
the substance or "medicine" to be inserted in it, I wish to insist that in
the philosophy of fetich there is always a reason in the selection of all
these articles,--a reason which it is often difficult for a foreigner to
discover,--an apparent fitness for the end in view.

Arnot[31] refers to this: "Africans believe largely in preventive
measures, and their fetich charms are chiefly of that order. In passing
through a country where leopards and lions abound, they carefully provide
themselves with the claws, teeth, lips, and whiskers of those animals, and
hang them around their necks, to secure themselves against being attacked.
For the same purpose the point of an elephant trunk is generally worn by
elephant hunters. The bones from the legs of tortoises are much valued as
anklets, in order to give the wearers endurance, reminding one of the
fable of the tortoise. The lower jaw-bone of the tortoise is worn by
certain tribes as a preventive against toothache. The spine bones of
serpents are strung together with a girdle as a cure for back-ache."

A recent visitor to the Gabun country, in the "Journal of the African
Society," makes this criticism: "When a white man or woman wears some
trinket strung about them, they call it an amulet or charm. They ascribe
to it some virtue, and regard it as a sacred (?) thing; but when an
African native wears one, white men call it 'fetich,' and the wearer a
savage or heathen." This defence of the Negro is gratifying, but the
criticism of the white man is not quite just. There is this radical
difference: to the African the "fetich" is his all, his entire hope for
his physical salvation; he does not reckon on God at all. The civilized
man or woman with a "mascot" is very foolish in his or her belief in luck,
but their mascots never entirely take God's place.

I met at Gabun about 1895 the same criticism from the mouth of a partly
educated Sierra Leone Negro, who, though a professing Christian, evidently
was wearing Christianity hypocritically. His well-educated Mpongwe wife
was a member of my church. It was discovered that she had a certain fetich
suspended in her bedroom. It was necessary to summon her before the church
session; she explained that it was not hers, but her husband's, and
disclaimed belief in it. She was rebuked for allowing it in her room. The
husband, hearing of the rebuke, wrote me an angry letter justifying his
fetich. He said in substance:

"You white people don't know anything about black man's 'fashions.' You
say you trust God for everything, but in your own country you put up an
iron rod over your houses to protect yourselves from death by lightning;
and you trust in it the while that you still believe in God; and you call
it 'electricity' and civilization. And you say it's all right. I call this
thing of mine--this charm--'medicine'; and I hung it over my wife's bed to
keep away death by the arts of those who hate her; and I trust in it while
still believing in God. And you think me a heathen!" It was explained to
him that in the use of the lightning-rod white men reverently recognized
God in His own natural forces, but that his fetich dishonored God, ignored
Him, and was a distinct recognition of a supposed power that was claimed
to be able to act independently of God; that I trusted to the
lightning-rod under God, while he trusted to his fetich outside of God.

For every human passion or desire of every part of our nature, for our
thousand necessities or wishes, a fetich can be made, its operation being
directed to the attainment of one specified wish, and limited in power
only by the possible existence of some more powerful antagonizing spirit.

This, hung on the plantation fence or from the branches of plants in the
garden, is either to prevent theft or to sicken the thief; hung over the
doorway of the house, to bar the entrance of evil; hung from the bow of
the canoe, to insure a successful voyage; worn on the arm in hunting, to
assure an accurate aim; worn on any part of one's person, to give success
in loving, hating, planting, fishing, buying, and so forth, through the
whole range of daily work and interests.

Some kinds, worn on a bracelet or necklace, are to ward off sickness. The
new-born infant has a health-knot tied about its neck, wrist, or loins.
Down to the day of oldest age, every one keeps on multiplying or renewing
or altering these life talismans.

If of the charge at Balaklava it was said, "This is magnificent, but it is
not war," I may say of these heathen, "Such faith is magnificent, though
it be folly." The hunter going out, certain of success, returns
empty-handed; the warrior bearing on his breast a fetich panoply, which he
is confident will turn aside a bullet, comes back wounded; every one is
some day foiled in his cherished plan. Do they lose their faith? No, not
in the system,--their fetichism; but in the special material object of
their faith--their fetich--they do. Going to the oganga whom they had paid
for concocting that now disappointing amulet, they tell him of its
failure. He readily replies: "Yes, I know. You have an enemy who possesses
a fetich containing a spirit more powerful than yours, which made your
bullet miss its mark, which caused your opponent's spear to wound you.
Yours is no longer of use; it's dead. Come, pay me, and I will make you a
charm containing a spirit still more powerful."

The old fetich hitherto jealously guarded, and which would not have been
sold for any consideration, is now thrown away or sold to the foreign

A native heathen Akele chief, Kasa, my friend and host in the Ogowe, in
1874, showed me a string of shells, bones, horns, wild-cat tails, and so
forth, each with its magic compound, which he said could turn aside
bullets. In a friendly way he dared me to fire at him with my
sixteen-repeater Winchester rifle. I did not believe he meant it; but, on
his taking his stand a few paces distant, he did not quail under my steady
aim, nor even at the click of the trigger. I, of course, desisted,
apparently worsted. Two years later, Kasa was charged by an elephant he
had wounded, and was pierced by its tusks. His attendants drove off the
beast; the fearfully lacerated man survived long enough to accuse twelve
of his women and other slaves of having bewitched his gun, and thus
causing it only to wound instead of killing the elephant. On that charge
four of the accused were put to death.

Both men and women may become aganga on voluntary choice, and after a
course of instruction by an oganga.

"There is generally a special person in a tribe who knows these things,
and is able to work them. He has more power over spirits than other men
have, and is able to make them do what he likes. He can heal sickness, he
can foretell the future, he can change a thing into something else, or a
man into a lower animal, or a tree, or anything; he can also assume such
transformations himself at will. He uses means to bring about such
results; he knows about herbs, he has also recourse to rubbing, to making
images of affected parts of the body, and to various other arts. Very
frequently he is regarded as inspired. It is the spirit dwelling in him
which brings about the wonderful results; without the spirit he could not
do anything."[32]

[Illustration: FETICH DOCTOR. (The triangular patch of hair is the
professional tonsure.)]

Though these magicians possess power, its joy has its limitations; for,
becoming possessed by a familiar spirit, through whose aid they make their
invocations and incantations and under whose influence they fall into
cataleptic trances or are thrilled with Delphic rages, if they should
happen to offend that "familiar," it may destroy them by "eating" out
their life, as their phrase is. On Corisco Island, in 1863, a certain man
had acquired prominence as a magic doctor; he finally died of consumption.
His friends began a witchcraft investigation to find out who had "killed"
him. A post-mortem being made, cavities were found in the lungs. Ignorant
of disease, they thereupon dropped the investigation, saying that his own
"witch" had "eaten" him.

Captain Guy Burrows, a British officer, formerly in the service of the
Kongo Free-State, left it unwilling to be a participant in the fearful
atrocities allowed by the King of Belgium; and he has recently made a
scathing exposure of the doings of Belgian agents that have made the Kongo
a slave-ground of worse horrors than existed in the old days of the export
slave-trade. He thus jocularly describes what he saw of fetich at the town
of Matadi on the Kongo, where there is an English Baptist Mission:
"Outside the small area, under the direct influence of the mission, there
is but one deity,--the fetich. The heathen in his blindness, in bowing
down to wood and stone, bows, as Kipling says, to 'wood for choice.' He
carves a more or less grotesque face; and the rest is a matter of taste. I
came across one figure whose principal ornament consisted of a profusion
of ten-penny nails and a large cowrie shell.[33] But anything will do; an
old tin teapot is another favorite fetich decoration. I have generally
found that the uglier they are, the more they seem to be feared and

"The fetich is sometimes inclined to be a nuisance. On one occasion I
wanted to build an out-house at the far end of a plantation, where tools
and other implements might be stored. I was told by the chief, however,
that this was fetich ground, and that terrible misfortunes would follow
any attempt to build on it. I tried to get some closer idea of the fetich,
but could get no more material information than a recital of vague terrors
of the kind that frighten children at night. So I began building my
out-house, during the course of which operation some monkeys came and sat
in the trees, highly interested in the proceedings. In some indefinite way
I gathered that the fetich power was regarded as being invested in these
monkeys, or that they were the embodiment of the fetich idea, or anything
else you please. But I could not have my work interfered with by the
ghosts of a lot of chattering apes, and the fears of those big children
the natives; so I witch-doctored the monkeys after an improved recipe of
my own,--I shot the lot. Thereafter the spell was supposed to be lifted,
and no farther objections were raised; but the empty cartridge cases were
seized upon by the men as charms against any further manifestations in the
same place. I am glad to say none occurred; the spell I had used was too

Captain Burrows was probably an efficient administrator. But, like many
foreigners, he evidently chose to ride, rough shod, over natives'
prejudices, regarding them as idle superstitions, and unable or unwilling
to investigate their philosophy. I see, however, from his story, that he
had gotten hold of a part of the truth. That ground on which he desired
to build was probably an old graveyard. The native chief very naturally
did not wish it to be disturbed. Monkeys that gather on the trees in the
vicinity of a graveyard are supposed to be possessed by the spirits of
those buried there. An ordinary individual would have been forcibly
prevented had he attempted what Captain Burrows did. He had a foreign
government at his back, and the natives submitted. Their dead and their
monkeys, sacred _pro tempore_, had succumbed to the superior power of the
white man's cartridges. Their only satisfaction was to retain the empty
shells as souvenirs.



Worship is an eminent part of every form of religion, but it is not
essential to it. True, most religions have some form of worship. But a
belief would still be a religion, even if it were so insignificant or so
degraded or so indifferent as not to care to express itself in rites or

Fetichism, whose claim to a right to be reckoned as a religion some have
been disposed to dispute, expresses itself by most of the visible and
audible means used in the cults of other forms of religion.

The motives also that prompt to the performance of religious rites are not
to enter into the question whether the beliefs associated with them are
worthy to be dignified by the name "religion." Motives may vary widely,
_e. g._, love in an evangelical Christian, pride in a Pharisee, sensual
lust in a follower of Islam and in a Mormon, and fear in the fetich
worshipper. Those motives, mixed perhaps with other considerations, are
the dominant factor in the government of the religious life of each.

We have already seen in the previous chapter that the religious thought of
the believer in fetichism does not concern his soul or its future. The
evils he would escape are not moral or spiritual. The sense of a great
need that makes him look for help outside of himself is not based on a
desire to obey God's will, but on his and some spirit's co-relation to the
great needs of this mortal life.

The salvation sought being a purely physical one, the thoughts that direct
the use of means to that end are limited to physical needs, and largely
to physical agencies. But not entirely: for one of these agencies, as
already mentioned in the previous chapter, is prayer; other agencies are
sacrificial offerings, and the use of amulet charms, or talismans, known
as fetiches.

1. _Fetich Worship as performed by Sacrifice and other Offerings._
Sacrifice is an element in all real worship, if by sacrifice, in the
widest sense, may be understood the devoting of any object from a common
to a sacred use, and this irrespective of the actual value of the gift (as
is the case also with Chinese paper imitation money scattered around the
grave, in Chinese funerals). The intention of the giver ennobles it; the
spirit being supposed in some vague way to be gratified by the respectful
recognition of itself, and even to be pleased sometimes by the gift

(1) Thus the stones heaped by passers-by at the base of some great tree or
rock, the leaf cast from the passing canoe toward a point of land on the
river, though intrinsically valueless, and useless to the ombwiri of the
spot, are accepted as acknowledgments of that ombwiri's presence.

"All day we kept passing trees or rocks on which were placed little heaps
of stones or bits of wood; in passing these, each of my men added a new
stone or bit of wood, or even a tuft of grass. This is a tribute to the
spirits, the general precaution to insure a safe return. These people have
a vague sort of Supreme Being called Lesa, who has good and evil passions;
but here (Plateau of Lake Tanganyika), as everywhere else, the Musimo, or
spirits of the ancestors, are a leading feature in the beliefs. They are
propitiated, as elsewhere, by placing little heaps of stones about their
favorite haunts. At certain periods of the year the people make
pilgrimages to the mountain of Fwambo-Liamba, on the summit of which is a
sort of small altar of stones. There they deposit bits of wood, to which
are attached scraps of calico, flowers, or beads; this is to propitiate

"After harvest, for instance, they make such an offering. So when a girl
becomes marriageable, she takes food with her, and goes up to the
mountain for several days. When she returns, the other women lead her in
procession through the villages, waving long tufts of grass and

(2) Other gifts are supposed to be actually utilized by the spirit in some
essential way. In some part of the long single street of most villages is
built a low hut, sometimes not larger than a dog-kennel, in which, among
all tribes, are hung charms; or by which is growing a consecrated plant (a
lily, a cactus, a euphorbia, or a ficus). In some tribes a rudely carved
human (generally female) figure stands in that hut, as an idol. Idols are
rare among most of the coast tribes, but are common among all the interior
tribes. That they are not now frequently seen on the Coast is, I think,
not due to a lack of faith in them, but perhaps to a slight sense of
civilized shame. The idol has been the material object most denounced by
missionaries in their sermons against heathenism. The half-awakened native
hides it, or he manufactures it for sale to curio-hunters. A really valued
idol, supposed to contain a spirit, he will not sell. He does not always
hide his fetich charm worn on his person; for it passes muster in his
explanation of its use as a "medicine."

That idol, charm, or plant, as the case may be, is believed for the time
to be the residence of a spirit which is to be placated by offerings of
some kind of food. I have seen in those sacred huts a dish of boiled
plantains (often by foreigners miscalled "bananas") or a plate of fish.
This food is generally not removed till it spoils. Sometimes, where the
gift is a very large one, a feast is made; people and spirit are supposed
to join in the festival, and nothing is left to spoil. That it is of use
to the spirit is fully believed; but just how, few have been able to tell
me. Some say that the "life" or essence of the food has been eaten by the
spirit; only the form of the vegetable or flesh remaining to be removed.

(3) Blood sacrifices are common. In any great emergency a fowl with its
blood is laid at that low hut's door. In time of great danger, an expected
pestilence, a threatened assault by enemies, or some severe illness of a
great man or woman, a goat or sheep is sacrificed.

At the entrance to a village the way is often barred by a temporary light
fence, only a narrow arched gateway of saplings being left open. These
saplings are wreathed with leaves or flowers. That fence, frail as it is,
is intended as a bar to evil spirits, for from those arched saplings hang
fetich charms. When actual war is coming, this street entrance is
barricaded by logs, behind which real fight is to be made against human,
not spiritual, foes. The light gateway is sometimes further guarded by a
sapling pinned to the ground horizontally across the narrow threshold. An
entering stranger must be careful to tread over and not on it.

In an expected great evil the gateway is sometimes sprinkled with the
blood of a sacrificed goat or sheep. The flesh is not wasted; it is eaten
by the villagers, and especially by the magic doctor. Does not this look
like a memory of a tradition of the Passover and its paschal lamb? And
does it not suggest some thought of a blood atonement?

(4) I have not actually seen, or even heard of human sacrifices in the
tribes I have personally visited. But on the adjacent Upper Guinea Coast,
until ten years ago, there were human sacrifices to the sacred crocodiles
of the rivers of the Niger Delta. In the oil rivers of that same coast
there was, until recently, an annual sacrifice (as in the ancient Nile
days) of a maiden to the river spirits of trade, for success in foreign

Treaties with foreign civilized nations have now prohibited this
sacrifice, but the maiden has not gained much in the change. Instead of
one being sacrificed to a brute crocodile to please the spirit of trade,
hundreds are prostituted to please brutal, dissolute foreigners.

The thousands of captives butchered at the "annual custom" of Dahomey were
claimed by its successive kings, in their answer to the protests of the
ambassadors from civilized nations, to be required as offerings to the
safety of the nation, the omission of which would be punished by the loss
of the king's own life. Fearful as that annual barbarity was, I do not
think that those kings should properly be called "bloodthirsty." It was
their religion. All the more dreadful the religion that called for such

Here, again, the question presents itself whether Africa has gained much
in the substitution of wicked white representatives of civilization for
the heathen black representatives of fetichism. The Kongo River was
rescued from the cruelties and loss of life in the foreign slave-trade,
only to be subjected to greater cruelties, in its miscalled "Free State,"
under the control of Belgium, at the hands of men like Major Lothaire.

The following remarks of Menzies[35] on the use of sacrifice by primitive
man are descriptive of the interior tribes of Africa to-day: "Sacrifice is
an invariable feature of early religion. Wherever gods are worshipped,
gifts and offerings are made to them of one kind or another. It is in this
way that, in antiquity at least, the relation with the deity was renewed,
if it had been slackened or broken, or strengthened and made sure.
Sacrifice and worship are, in the ancient world, identical terms. The
nature of the offering and the mode of presenting it are infinitely
various, but there is always sacrifice in one form or another. Different
deities of course receive different gifts; the tree has its roots watered,
or trophies of battle or of the chase are hung upon its branches; horses
are thrown into the sea. But of primitive sacrifice generally we may
affirm that it consists of such food and drink as men themselves partake
of. Whether it be the fruit of the field or the firstlings of the flock
that is offered at the sacred stone, whether the offering is burnt before
the god or set down and left near him, or whether he is summoned to come
down from the sky or to travel from the far country to which he may have
gone, it is of the materials of the meal that the sacrifice consists. In
some cases it appears to be thought that the god consumes the offering, as
when Fire is worshipped with offerings which he burns up, or when a
fissure in the earth closes upon a victim; but in most cases it is only
the spirit or finer essence that the god enjoys; the rest he leaves to
men. And thus sacrifice is generally accompanied by a meal. The offering
is presented to the god whole, but the worshippers help to eat it. The god
gets the savor of it which rises in the air towards him, while the more
material part is devoured below."

The testimony of travellers in other parts of Africa, distant thousands of
miles from the West Coast, show that the practice of offerings is almost
identical all over the southern third of the continent, the lines of
latitude of Bantu tribes being conterminous with their language and their

Arnot[36] says that in South Africa, "when going to pray, the Barotse make
offerings to the spirits of their forefathers under a tree, bush, or grove
planted for the purpose; and they take a larger or a smaller offering,
according to the measure of their request. If the offering be beer, they
pour it upon the ground; if cloth, it is tied to a horn stuck in the
ground; if an ox be slaughtered, the blood is poured over the horn, which,
in fact, is their altar." (Ps. cxviii. 27.)

In that same region, among the Barotse, "Nothing of importance can be
sanctified without a human sacrifice, in most cases a child. First the
fingers and toes are cut off, and the blood is sprinkled on the boat,
drum, house, or whatsoever may be the object in view. The victim is then
killed, ripped up, and thrown into the river."

Declè also[37] describes the religious habits of the Barotse tribes of
Southern Central Africa: "They chiefly worship the souls of their
ancestors. When any misfortune happens, the witch doctor divines with
knuckle-bones whether the ancestor is displeased, and they go to the grave
and offer up sacrifice of grain or honey.... They also bring to the tombs
cooked meats, which they leave there a few minutes and then eat. When they
go to pray by a grave, they also leave some small white beads. Whilst an
Englishman was journeying to Lialui, he passed near a little wood where
there lay a very venerated chief. The boatmen stopped, and having
sacrificed some cooked millet, their headman designated a man to offer up
a prayer, which ran thus: 'You see us; we are worn out travellers, and our
belly is empty; inspire the white man, for whom we row, to give us food to
fill our stomachs.'"

Among the Wanyamwezi, "Every chief has near his hut a Musimo hut, in which
the dead are supposed to dwell, and where sacrifices and offerings must be
made. Meat and flour are deposited in the Musimo huts, and are not, as
with many other peoples, consumed afterwards. The common people also have
their Musimo huts, but they are smaller than that of the chief, and the
offerings they make are, of course, not so important as his."

The Wanyamwezi being great travellers, they have numberless ways of
propitiating the Musimo. "The night before starting they put big patches
of moistened flour on their faces and breasts. On the way, if by chance
they are threatened with war or any other difficulty, some of them go on
ahead in the early morning for about a hundred yards along the path over
which they are about to travel. Then they place a hand on the ground, and
throw flour over it in such a manner as to leave the impression of a hand
on the soil. At the same time they 'wish' hard that the journey may go off
well. On the march, from time to time each of them will deposit in the
same spot a twig of wood or a stone in such a way that a great heap gets
collected. If they halt in the midst of high grass each will plait a
handful of grass, which they tie together so as to make a kind of
bower.[38] In the forest, if they are pressed for time, each will make a
cut with a blow of a hatchet in a tree; but if they have time, they will
cut down trees, lop off the branches, and place these poles against a big
tree; in certain places I have seen stacks of hundreds of them around a
single tree. Sometimes they will strip pieces of bark from the trees, and
stick them on the branches, and at others they will place a pole supported
by two trees right over the path. On it they will hang up a broken gourd,
or an old box made of bark. On some occasions they will even erect a
little hut made of straw to the Musimo on the road itself; but this is
usually done when they are going on a hunting expedition, and not on a
journey. Near the villages, where two roads meet, are usually found whole
piles of old pots, gourds, and pieces of iron.[39] When a hunter starts
for the chase, he prays to the Musimo to give him good luck. If he kills
any big game, he places before the hut of his Musimo the head of the beast
he has killed, and inside a little of the flesh."[40]

2. Just as worship is an eminent part of religion, prayer is usually a
chief part of religious worship. But in fetichism, though it undeniably
has a part, it is not prominent, and not often formal or public. It plays
a less obvious and less frequent part than either sacrifices or the use of

"Prayer is the ordinary concomitant of sacrifice; the worshipper explains
the reason of the gift, and urges the deity to accept it and to grant the
help that is needed. The prayers of the earliest stage are offered on
emergencies, and often appear to be intended to attract the attention of
the god who may be engaged in another direction. The requests they contain
are of the most primary sort. Food is asked for, success in hunting or
fishing, strength of arm, rain, a good harvest, children, and so forth.
They have a ring of urgency; they state the claims the worshipper has on
the god, and mention his former offerings as well as the present one; they
praise the power and the past acts of the deity, and adjure him by his
whole relationship to his people (and also to his enemies) to grant their

Fetich prayer may be and is offered without restriction by any one, young
or old, male or female; but to my knowledge it is seldom used by the
young. A very intelligent woman, a member of my Batanga church, tells me
that when she was a child she possessed a fetich supposed to be very
valuable, which she had inherited from her father. She says that when she
would be going into the forest or where she expected difficulty or danger
or trouble or was anxious for success, she would hold the fetich in her
hand, and with eye and thought directed toward it and the spirit it was
supposed to contain, would utter a short petition for aid and protection.

But practically formal prayer is rarely made. Ejaculatory prayer, however,
is made constantly, in the uttering of cabalistic words, phrases, or
sentences adopted by or assigned to almost every one by parent or doctor.
They are uttered by all ages and both sexes at any time, as a defence from
evil, on all sorts of occasions,--_e. g._, when one sneezes, stumbles, or
is otherwise startled, etc.

The prayers which I have heard were of adults. On a journey, about 1876,
stopping for a night in a village on the Ogowe River, I saw the venerable
chief stand out in the open street. He addressed the spirits of the air,
begging them, "Come not to my town!" He recounted his good deeds--praising
himself as just, honest, and kind to his neighbors--as reason why no evil
should befall him, and closed with an impassioned appeal to the spirits to
stay away.

At another time, about 1879, in another Ogowe village, where a man's son
had been wounded, and a bleeding artery which had been successfully closed
had just broken open again, and the hemorrhage, if not promptly checked,
would probably be fatal, the father ran out of the hut, wildly
gesticulating towards the sky, saying, "Go away! go away! O ye spirits!
why do you come to kill my son?" And he continued for some time in a
strain of alternate pleading and protestation.

In another case I saw a woman who rushed into the street objurgating the
spirits, and in the next breath humbly supplicating them, who, she said,
were vexing her child that was lying in convulsions.

Observe that while these were distinctly prayers, appeals for mercy,
pathetic, agonizing protestations, there was no praise, no love, no
thanks, no confession of sin,--only a long, pitiful deprecation of evil.

There are also prayers of blessing. Parents in farewells to their
children, or a chief to his parting guest, or any grateful recipient of a
valued gift, will take the head or hand of the child, guest, or donor, and
saying, "Ibâtâ!" (blessing), or adding a cabalistic ejaculation, will
sometimes "blow" a blessing. From this custom has arisen the statement in
some books of travel that it was an African mode of honoring a guest to
spit on his hand. It is true that the sudden and violent expulsion of the
breath in "blowing" the "Ibâtâ" from the tip of the tongue is apt to be
followed by an ejection of more or less saliva, but the kernel of the
custom lies in the prayer of blessing accompanying the act.

In auguries made by the mfumu, or witch-doctor, among the Wanyamwezi, "the
mfumu holds a kind of religious service; he begins by addressing the
spirits of their forefathers, imploring them not to visit their anger upon
their descendants. This prayer he offers up kneeling, bowing and bending
to the ground from time to time. Then he rises, and commences a hymn of
praise to the ancestors, and all join in the chorus. Then, seizing his
little gourds, he executes a _pas seul_, after which he bursts out into
song again, but this time singing as one inspired."[42]

3. The third mode of worship has been already mentioned in a previous
chapter, _viz._, the use of charms or fetiches. This is the mode most
frequently used; and to the descriptions of their forms of preparation and
manner, universality, and the various effects of their use, the following
chapters are devoted.



Hundreds of acts and practices in the life of Christian households in
civilized lands pass muster before the bar of æsthetic propriety and
society, and even of the church, as not only harmless and allowable, but
as commendable, and conducive to kindness, good-will, and healthful social
entertainment; but in the doing of these acts few are aware of the fact
that some of them in their origin were heathenish and in their meaning
idolatrous, and that long ago they would have brought on the doer church

Norse legends and Celtic and Gaelic folk-lore abound in superstitions that
were held by our forefathers in honor of false gods and demons. Their
Christian descendants, to the present generations in Great Britain and the
United States, delight our children with the beautifully printed fairy
tale, forgetting, or not even knowing, that once, long ago, that tale was
a tale of sin. The superstitious peasant of Germany, Ireland, and other
European countries, while as at least a nominal son of the church he
worships God, fears the machinations of trolls and the "good little
people," and wards off their dreaded influence by vocal and material
charms,--a practice for which the African Negro just emerging from
heathenism is debarred church-membership. The practice is common to the
three,--the untaught heathen, the ignorant peasant, and the enlightened
Christian,--but its significance differs for each. To the Christian it is
only a national or household tradition, without religious or moral
significance, and his belief in the power of the charm is seldom seriously
held. To the peasant the practice is also a tradition; it is not his
religion, but he thinks that somehow under the divine Providence, in whom
he believes and whom he worships in the church, it will be conducive to
his physical well-being. But to the heathen it is a part of his religion,
and leads to the exclusion of the true God, whom he does not know, or at
least does not worship.

In our Christian homes, around the Christmas tree, with all its holy,
happy thoughts, we decorate with the holly bush and we hang the mistletoe
bough, never thinking that the December festival itself was originally a
heathen feast, and that our superstitious forefathers spread the holly as
a guard against evil fairies, and hung the mistletoe as part of the
ceremonies of a Druid's human sacrifice.

The superstitious African Negro does precisely the same thing to-day,
because he believes in witchcraft; the holly bush not growing in his
tropical air, he has substituted the cayenne pepper bush. The witch or
wizard whom he fears can no more pass over that pepper leaf with its red
pods than the Irish fairy can dare the holly leaf with its red berries.
Superstitious acts are thus rooted in us all, heathen and Christian, the
world over; only with this great difference,--that to the Christian they
bear no religious or even moral significance; to the heathen their entire
_raison d'être_ is that they are his religion, or rather part of his
worship in the practice of his religion.

In emerging from his heathenism and abandoning his fetichism for the
acceptance of Christianity, no part of the process is more difficult to
the African Negro than the entire laying aside of superstitious practices,
even after his assertion that they do not express his religious belief.
From being a thief, he can grow up an honest man; from being a liar, he
can become truthful; from being indolent, he can become diligent; from
being a polygamist, he can become a monogamist; from a status of ignorance
and brutality, he can develop into educated courtesy. And yet in his
secret thought, while he would not wear a fetich, he believes in its
power, and dreads its influence if possibly it should be directed against
himself. Some church-members thus believing and fearing do wear fetiches,
claiming that their use is simply defensive. In their moral thought they
make a distinction, which to them is clear and satisfactory in the present
stage of the enlightenment of their conscience, between the defensive and
the offensive use of the fetich,--the latter is a black art; the former is
a white art. Only the heathen and non-Christian element of the community
practise the black art. They ignore not God's existence, but deny that He
plays any part in the economy of human life. They believe in evil spirits,
and that they themselves can have association with them, by which they may
obtain power for all purposes; they use enchantments to obtain that power;
and having it, or professing to have it, they exercise it for the
gratification of revenge or avarice, or in other ways to injure other
persons. They become, in heart, murderers; and if occasion serve, by
poison or other means, are willing to become actual murderers. The
community regards them as criminals, and executes them as such when it is
proved that they used black art to accomplish the death of some one who
has recently died.

The Christian, of course, will practise none of the black arts, but
believing in their existence and power as permitted to the Evil One under
the divine government, he is willing to allow himself to use, as a
counter-influence, a fetich of the white art in self-defence.

The discussion of the morality of this white art is often a difficult
question in the church sessions in the discipline of some offending
church-member. Few of the natives have emerged so far into the light as to
stand squarely and fully with the missionary in his civilized attitude
toward this question of the allowability of a fetich charm under any
circumstances. Even the missionary, if he is wise and would not be unjust,
will look with the leniency of charity on an offence of this kind in the
case of a convert only lately come out of heathenism, which he would not
or should not exercise toward a fortune-teller or hoodoo practitioner
under the broad light of civilization.

In electing men as ruling elders in the church session, or accepting
candidates for the gospel ministry, while a certain degree of
intellectuality is desired, and a certain amount of education required, we
look first and always for the quality of their moral fibre, whether or not
it be untrammelled by the fetich cult.

A rare and noble example of utter freedom from any such superstitious bias
was the late Rev. Ibia ja Ikěngě. From his youth, believing in,
using, and practising fetich white art, when he became a Christian his
conversion was so clear and decided that he was soon made a ruling elder,
was accepted as a candidate, grew up to licensure as a probationer,
subsequently reached ordination to the ministry, and finally became pastor
of the Corisco church of his own Benga tribe. Honored during his
ministerial life by all classes, foreigners and natives, he died regretted
by all, even by the heathen whose sins he had unsparingly denounced. But
there are few so morally clear as he.

A few years ago, while I was in charge of the Gabun church, in the Mpongwe
tribe, at the oldest station and outwardly the most civilized part of the
mission, I was surprised by a charge of witchcraft practice laid against a
very ladylike woman who was one of my intimate native friends. I had known
her from her childhood; had admired her intelligence, vivacity, and
purity; had unfortunately helped her into a disastrous marriage from
which, as her pastor, I afterwards rescued her with legal grounds for
divorce; and subsequently she had married a Sierra Leone man who professed
to be a Christian. It was discovered that she had hanging over the doorway
in her bedroom a fetich regularly made and bought from a fetich doctor. On
trial of the case, she denied that it was hers, stated that it was her
husband's, admitted that she knew of its existence and use, that she
allowed it to be placed in the usual spot for warding off evil spirits,
and was not clear in denial of belief that it might be of some use to her
in that way.

My three ruling elders looked on the case more lightly than even I was
charitably disposed to do, and my own duty as a judge was obscured by my
friendship for the accused. It was a great pain for me to have even to
rebuke a lady I had so loved and trusted. She kept her anger wonderfully
under control while in the session meeting; but she resented the rebuke,
broke our friendship, and subsequently sought to injure me by slander. If
there was any doubt about her complicity with the fetich, there was no
doubt about the fact of her effort to injure me. I did not prosecute her
(as I would have done had she slandered any one else), lest I be suspected
of making my position of session moderator an engine for personal revenge.
She subsequently made a noble reparation. She still affirms that she does
not believe in fetich, and remains in "good standing" in the church, while
occasionally hanging a charm on her garden fence for its "moral effect" on

Lately a fellow missionary told me that in a conversation with certain
natives, professed Christians, they admitted their fear lest their
nail-clippings should be used against them by an enemy, and candidly
acknowledged that when they pared their nails they threw the pieces on the
thatch of the low roof of their house.

The missionary was surprised, and, perhaps with a little suspicion or
perhaps as a test, turning to a man present who had remained silent during
the discussion, said, "And you?--what do you do with your parings?" He
honestly replied, "I throw them on the roof!" And this man is an elder,
and had been advanced to be a local preacher. There is no expectation of
his ordination, for though he can preach a good sermon, he is lacking in
all other abilities desirable in a minister. He is probably fifty years of
age, and for forty years has been in mission employ of some kind, and
living in the mission household much of that time. But this mission
association has not been to him the benefit it would have been to almost
any one else; for, being of slave origin, he seemed to prefer to keep
aloof from the free-born, grew up without companionship, and is extremely
secretive. Though a Christian and a good man, he had not opened his inner
life to all the ennobling influences of the light.

A difficulty, admitted by the missionary in judging of the morality of the
use of a fetich charm, is the explanation offered by the natives, even by
some professedly Christian, that the charm is of the nature of a
"medicine," and, generally, actually has medicines in it. It is known to
the native that civilized and Christian therapeutics recognize a great
variety of medicinal articles, solid and liquid, and that they are
employed in a variety of ways,--as lotions, ointments, and powders; and
that some are drunk, some are rubbed into the skin, and some are worn on
the body,--_e. g._, a sachet of sulphur in skin diseases, or of pungent
essential oils to fend off insects,--and that certain herbs whose scent is
attractive to fish are rubbed on the fisherman's hook. The missionary
knows, too, that certain native medicinal plants are used, and with
efficiency, in precisely these ways and with precisely these reasons as,
at least in part, the ground for their use.

Truth gains nothing by an indiscriminate denunciation of all native
"medicine"; for the native knows by the personal experience of himself and
his observation of others that a given "medicine" has helped or cured
himself and others. His belief in this case is not a mere theory; it is
actual fact. The missionary loses in the native's respect, and in the
native's trust in his judgment or the value of his word, if he asserts
unqualifiedly that "native medicine" is "foolishness," especially if, as
was the case before the desirability of medical missionaries was as
generally recognized by the church as it now is, the missionary was able
to give him no substitute for the magic doctor. The native Christian's
sense of justice was aggrieved at being disciplined for the use of a
medicine in sickness, which experience told him had been of benefit and in
place of which the missionary offered him no other.

The native's error in his judgment of the case and the missionary's
justification of his position lay in the idolatrous ceremonies that are
associated with the administration of the medicine. In the native's
ignorant mind, and in the distress of his disease, he was unable to see a
distinction between the therapeutic action of a drug and the mode of its
administration. In fact, to him that mode may be as important a factor
contributive to the desired result as the drug itself. In the heathen
belief of the native doctor it is admittedly true that the administration,
not the drug, is the important factor, both mode of administration and the
drug itself deriving all their efficiency from a spirit claimed by the
magician to be under his control, which is in some vague way pleased to be
associated with the particular drug and those special ceremonies. The
native doctor does not understand therapeutics as such. Some one of his
ancestors happened to observe that a certain leaf, bark, or root exhibited
internally proved efficient in cases where the symptoms indicated a
certain disease which he had failed to cure by his dances, drums,
auguries, and other enchantments. Not knowing the _modus operandi_ of the
drug itself, he had jumped to the conclusion that he had finally happily
found the adjuvant herb necessary to please the spirit for whom he had
been making enchantments, without which herb the spirit had hitherto
withheld its assistance. And ever afterward the secret of this particular
drug was guarded by his family, the knowledge of its tree being handed
down as an heirloom, the secret kept as jealously and carefully as the
recipe for the proprietary medicine of any quack in civilized lands. In
his medical ethics there was no _quæ prosunt omnibus_.

The dividing line of morality between the fetich doctor and the Christian
physician is a narrow but deep chasm. The latter knows that, with all his
skill in physiology and the infallibility of his drug's indication,
results lie in the hand of God, with whom are the issues of life and
death, who has sovereignly and beneficently endowed certain plants or
minerals with properties befitting certain pathological conditions. The
former ignores God, and firmly believes that his own enchantments have
subsidized the power of a spirit, so that the spirit itself is to enter
into the body of the patient, and, searching through his vitals, drive
out the antagonizing spirit, which is the supposed actual cause of the
disease. The etiology of disease is to the native obscure. His attempts at
explanation are somewhat inconsistent; the sickness is spoken of as a
disease, and yet the patient is said to be sick because of the presence of
an evil spirit, which being driven out by the magician's benevolent spirit
the patient will recover.

The drug exhibited with the ceremonies by which the friendly spirit is
induced to enter the body is entirely secondary and adjuvant, and is not
supposed to be any more efficient in producing a cure than was the Old
Testament incense of the Temple ritual in obtaining an answer to prayer.

But the drug is often a really valuable medicine, and does cure the
patient. Yet the native Christian must be forbidden to submit to its use,
because of the invariably associated heathen ceremonies. The magician
alone knows from what plant the drug came, and he positively refuses to
administer it unless its associated ceremonies are carefully observed. For
the Christian to consent to do that, is to "kiss the calves"[43] of
idolatrous Israel, or to partake of the "meats offered to idols."[44]

The manner of practising the white art by the magic doctor may be purely
ritual without his making or the patient's wearing any material amulet,
but the performance is none the less fetich in its character.

According to the usual procedure an article is prepared with incantations
referring to spiritual influences to be worn by the applicant either as a
cure for an actually existing disease or any other expected danger, or,
irrespective of disease, for the attainment of a desired object or for
success in some cherished plan. Its application may be as limitless as the
entire range of human desire.

The first step in the process is the selection of an object in which to
enclose the various articles deemed necessary to attract and please the
spiritual being whose aid is to be invoked. In this selection it is not
probable that superstitious or other moral consideration enters. It is
simply a matter of taste as to shape or availability or convenience. The
article usually chosen is a horn of a gazelle or young antelope, or of a
goat. The ground for the choice is availability; those animals are common.
The horns are preserved and are therefore always at hand. They are small,
light, and easily carried. They are durable, not liable to rust and decay,
as would be an article of vegetable origin, and they have a convenient

The next step in the process is the selection of the substances which are
to be packed into the hollow of the horn. These are of both animal and
vegetable origin, but mostly vegetable. They may be very absurd to our
civilized view, they may be disgusting and even filthy; but they are all
ranked as "medicine," have actually some fitness to the end in view, as
described in the previous chapter, and are to be as carefully regarded as
are the ingredients of a physician's prescription by a druggist. Their
absurdity must not militate against the view of them as "medicine," even
to a civilized mind. We are not to forget that, all superstitious and
fetich ideas aside, our own pharmacopœia one hundred years ago
contained animal products of supposed therapeutic value that were clumsy,
annoying, and even disgusting. Indeed, it is only in very modern medicine
that the profession have thought it worth while to regard the matter of
agreeable look and pleasant taste. Homœopathy, even if we do not all
believe in it, must be given credit for at least eliminating nauseous
taste from the attributes of a good medicine, even of an emetic.

From the wide range of substances, mineral, animal, and vegetable, the
magic doctor takes generally some plant. Indeed, so associated is the
doctor's thought of a tree and some spirit belonging to it, that an
educated and very intelligent native chief at Gabun who still clings to
many heathen practices, of whom recently I asked an explanation of fetich
from the native point of view, said sententiously, "A principle of fetich
comes from trees." This carried to me very little meaning. I asked him to
explain at length. He did so. He said that in the long ago, while still
his ancestors knew of God and had not entirely forgotten to give him some
kind of worship, their medicine men were botanists, and, like Solomon,
"spake of trees." The herbs and barks they used were employed solely for
their own intrinsically curative qualities. But as people became more
degraded and "like people, like priest," the medicine men added a ritual
of song, dances, incantations, and auguries by which to dignify their
profession with mystery. As they grew in power, they added claims of
spiritual influence, by which to impress their patients with fear and to
exact obedience even from kings, until finally the idea of a spirit as the
efficient agent in the cure was substituted for that of the drug itself,
and fetich belief dominated all.

The reason for the choice of one tree rather than another in a given case
of sickness is almost impossible to find out. Perhaps there is a vague
tradition of the fact that it was used long ago by those who first
happened to discover that it had real medicinal quality, and the present
generation continues to use it, though having forgotten what that quality
was, or even that it had any intrinsic quality of its own, their etiology
of disease assigning as the cause of all sickness the antagonistic
presence of an evil spirit.

The laity, heathen and Christian, positively do not know from what
particular tree the leaf or piece of bark was obtained, and they would not
be able to recognize it even if they were allowed to see it. They see only
the dry powder or ashes. Even if the heathen laity were able to tell me,
they will not do so. Even if they were bribed, I would have no certainty
that they were showing me the plant that was actually used; for they would
know that I would have no means of comparing specimens or of proving their
deception. The native will tell foreigners many things for friendship or
for regard, and he enjoys conversation with us; but superstition slams his
heart's door shut when he is asked to reveal secrets of the spirits. His
prompt thought is: "White man's knowledge has given him power. There is
little left of land, authority, women, or wealth in my country that he has
not seized. Shall I add to his power by telling him the secrets of my
spirits?" Of course the magic doctor will not tell. That would be giving
himself entirely away.

Even Christian men and women who have inherited from a parent knowledge of
some plant, and who use it rationally for its purely medicinal quality
without any reference whatever to spiritual influences, can barely be
induced to tell me of it. The fee they obtain is part of their means of
living. They make honest "medicine" in the circle of their acquaintances
for certain sicknesses for which their drug happens to be fitted. Of a
cure for any other sickness they know nothing, and must themselves go to
some one else who happens to possess the knowledge.

Even by me my native friends--though with their personal respect or
affection for me they would be willing to do much--do not like to be
asked. They know that I, in asking for information, expect to utilize it
in letters or lectures or books. Their secret would not be safe even with
me, and it may die with them. One of the noblest of my native female
friends at Gabun, a Christian, well educated, with only a minimum of
superstition remaining, and no belief at all in fetich, inherited from her
mother much botanical and medicinal knowledge. I observe her decocting a
medicine for a sick friend, and I ask her, "What medicine is that?" She
turns away her usually frank eyes and simply says, "Sijavi" (leaves).
"Yes, I see they are leaves. But I asked you what they are. Where do you
get them?" With eyes still turned away, she only says, "Go-iga" (in the
forest). "Exactly; of course it's a plant. But is it a tree or a vine or a
shrub, or what?" And she looks at me steadily, and quietly says, "Mi amie"
(I don't know). I have long ago learned that "mi amie," though only
sometimes true, is not always a lie. It is equivalent to our conventional
"Not at home," or a polite version of, "Ask me no questions and I'll tell
you no lies." From my friend it is a kind notification that the
conversation had better be changed. It having reached this acute stage,
the pursuance of it would be worse than useless. I talk about something
else, and immediately she resumes her wonted cordiality.

Probably the particular herb selected by the fetich-man does possess some
therapeutic value (for cures are effected) of which he does not himself
know. He knows that that plant was said by his ancestors to be the proper
one to use in case of a certain sickness, but knowledge of the _raison
d'user_ has been lost.

The use of drugs in decoctions is less likely to be merely superstitious.
The fresh leaves and barks are recognized. There is not likely to be a
secret about them. Whatever of fetich is introduced in the case will be in
the mode of administration.

The next step, the admixture of the ingredients, is secret. They are
ground or triturated, or reduced to ashes, and only the ash or charcoal of
their wood is used. Among the common ingredients are colored earths,
chalk, or potter's blue clays. Beyond the usual constituents constantly
employed, there are other single ones, which vary according to the end to
be obtained by the user of the fetich,--for one end, as elsewhere already
mentioned, some small portion of an enemy's body; for another, an
ancestor's powdered brain; for another, the liver or gall-bladder of an
animal; for another, a finger of a dead first-born child; for another, a
certain fish; and so on for a thousand possibilities. These ingredients
are compounded in secret, and with public drumming, dancing, songs to the
spirit, looking into limpid water or a mirror, and sometimes with the
addition of jugglers' tricks, _e. g._, the eating of fire.

The ingredients having been thus properly prepared, and the spirit,
according to the magician's declaration, having associated itself lovingly
with these mixed articles, they and it are put into the cavity of the
selected horn or other hollow thing (a gourd, a nut-shell, and so forth).
They are packed in firmly. A black resin is plastered over the opening.
Perhaps also a twine is netted tightly on the top of it. A red
paint--triturated red-wood mixed with palm or other oil--is daubed on it.
While the resin is still soft, the red tail-feathers of the gray African
parrot are stuck into it. This description is typical. It would be equally
true if the chosen material object had no cavity, _e. g._, if it were a
pebble or a piece of bark; in which case the sacred ingredients plastered
on it would be held _in situ_ by the twine netting. A hole is bored in the
apex of the horn, and it is hung by a string from the neck, arm, waist, or
ankle of the purchaser, or from his door, roof, or garden fence; or from
the prow of his canoe; or from any one of a hundred other points,
according to the convenience of the owner or the object to be obtained by
its use.

Those objects may be, all of them, not only desirable, but commendable,
even from a Christian point of view. In the exercise of the white art
there is no ill-will to or malice against any other known person. The
owner of the fetich amulet is only using, from his point of view, one of
the known means of success in life,--somewhat as a business man in
civilized lands uses his signs and tricks of trade to attract and
influence customers.

It is true that our native convert, in abjuring fetich and refraining from
the white art, is at a disadvantage, humanly speaking, alongside of his
heathen fellow, just as the honest grocer who does not adulterate his
foods is somewhat at a disadvantage with the man who does.

The heathen, armed with his fetich, feels strong. He believes in it; has
faith that it will help him. He can see it and feel it. He goes on his
errand inspired with confidence of success. Confidence is a large part of
life's battle. If he should happen to fail, he excuses the failure by
remembering that he had not obeyed all the minute "orunda" directions that
the magician told him to follow. It is entirely in his power carefully to
obey all directions next time; and then he cannot possibly fail! The
Christian convert is weak in his faith. He would like to have something
tangible. He is not sure that he will succeed on his errand. He goes at it
somewhat half-hearted, and probably fails. His not very encouraging
explanation is that God is trying his faith. That explanation is perhaps
not the true one, but it is sufficient as his explanation. But it does not
nerve him for the next effort; only the strong rise to overcoming faith.
The weak ask the missionary whether they may not be allowed to carry a
fetich only for "show." That "show" is for effect on a heathen competitor;
for the moral effect on that competitor's mind,--that he should not think
that the convert, in becoming a Christian, was at a disadvantage as to
chances of success in the race with him. But that would be allowing even
the "appearance of evil."

It was actually true, in the early days of mission effort, that converts
were oppressed by heathen under the idea that, as the gospel proclaimed by
the missionary was a message of peace, all the "peace" was to be on the
Christian's side, and that he dared not strike a blow even in
self-defence. But we did not understand the angels' song of good-will as
explained by the followers of George Fox, and by precept and example we
allowed the use of force in the defence of right.

As to the use of fetich by those who did not really believe in it, it was
true that some Europeans, non-Christian men in their trade with the
natives, seeing what a power the fetich was in the native thought, and
knowing that it was exercised against themselves, deemed it a matter
simply of sharp practice to adopt a fetich themselves, and play the native
at his own game. To my knowledge this was done by an Englishman now dead.
I was intimately acquainted with him; and though his morals were
objectionable and his religion agnosticism, I enjoyed his society. He was
a gentleman in manners, intelligent, well-read, interested, in common with
myself, in African philology and ethnology, and his river steamers often
generously helped me in my itinerations. His trade interests were large;
he spoke the native language well, was practically acquainted with native
customs and native mode of thought. He was a good hater and a firm
friend, strict with subordinates to the point of severity, but on
occasions free-handedly generous. Naturally such a character, while it
made for him many friends, developed some enemies. A few hated him, most
liked him, even while all feared him. To checkmate them on their own
ground and to carry prestige in dealing with the heathen chiefs of wild
tribes, he caused to be made for himself, and allowed it to be known in
advance that he carried, a powerful fetich. The effect was very decided in
increasing his power, influence, and trade success, so successful that I
am not sure but that he grew himself to have some faith in it,--an
illustration of the oft-noted fact in moral philosophy that non-Christian
credulity often leads men's beliefs further than does Christian faith. The
after history of my trader friend is a sad illustration of the wings that
ill-gotten wealth develops. His fetich assisted in amassing a fortune
several times over, but it did not retain it for him. He died in pitiful

Practice of this white art holds all over South Africa and among all its
tribes. "They believe in charms, fetiches, and witchcraft. The latter is
the source of great dread to a Mashona, who fears that death or accident
may overtake him through the instrumentality of some fellow-being who may
perchance hold against him a grudge. For the purpose of avoiding these
calamities, charms are worn about the person, usually around the neck.
Divining bones or blocks of wood called 'akata' are thrown by the
witch-doctors to discover a witch or evil spirit, and they are also
employed to ascertain the probable results of a journey, a hunt, or a
battle,--in short, any and all of the events of life."[45]

"The tribes we have passed through seem to have one common religion, if it
can be called by that name. They say there is one great spirit, who rules
over all the other spirits; but they worship and sacrifice to the spirits
of ancestors, so far as I can learn, and have a mass of fetich medicines
and enchantments. The hunter takes one kind of charm with him; the
warrior another. For divining they have a basket filled with bones, teeth,
finger-nails, claws, seeds, stones, and such articles, which are rattled
by the diviner till the spirit comes and speaks to him by the movement of
these things. When the spirit is reluctant to be brought up, a solemn
dirge is chanted by the people. All is attention while the diviner utters
a string of short sentences in different tones, which are repeated after
him by the audience."[46]



The distinction sought to be made by the half-civilized Negro between a
white art and a black art, as a justification of his practice of fetich
enchantments, lies in the object to be obtained by their use. He vainly
tries to find a parallel to them in Christian use of fire-arms,--proper
for defence, improper for unprovoked assault. The black art he admits is
wrong, its object being to kill or injure some one else; the white he
thinks allowable, because with it he acts simply on the defensive. He
wishes to ward off a possible blow of an unseen foe aimed at himself. He
professes his intention not to strike or take otherwise active measures to
injure any known person. After every allowance made, the distinction
between the arts as moral and immoral is not a clear one. They differ only
in their degree of immorality. The means both use are immoral, not
justified by the possible goodness of the desired end, and not sanctified
by the intention of the user. Both use fetiches. Fetich, if it has power
at all, is not of God; if it is powerless, it is folly. Thus, in every and
any case, it dishonors God.

But whatever doubt there might have been as to the allowability of white
art practice, there is no doubt as to the immorality of black art. It
always contemplates a possible taking of life.

The term "witchcraft," which attaches itself to all fetichism, localizes
itself in the black art practice, which is thus pre-eminently known as
"witchcraft." Its practitioners are all "wizards" or "witches." The user
of the white is not so designated. He or she does not deny the use; it is
open and without any sense of criminality in the eyes of the community,
however much he or she may endeavor to suppress the fact from the
knowledge of church officers. But a practitioner of the black art denies
it and carries on his practice secretly.

The above distinction is observed by travellers in other parts of Africa,
as will be seen by the following quotations, which give also an
interesting exposition of the ceremonies and practices of the black art in
different regions:

"Among the Matabele of South Africa," says Declè, "it is well understood
that there were two kinds of witchcraft. One was practised by the
witch-doctors and the king, such as, for instance, the 'making of
medicine' to bring on rain, or the ceremonies carried out by the
witch-doctors to appease the spirits of ancestors.[47] The other
witchcraft was supposed to consist of evil practices pursued to cause
sickness or death.

"According to native ideas, all over Africa, such a thing as death from
natural causes does not exist. Whatever ill befalls a man or a family, it
is always the result of witchcraft, and in every case the witch-doctors
are consulted to find out who has been guilty of it. In some instances the
witch-doctors declare that the evil has been caused by the angry spirits
of ancestors; in which case they have to be propitiated through the medium
of the witch-doctors. In other cases they point out some one or several
persons as having caused the injury by making charms; and whoever is so
accused by the witchcraft doctor is immediately put to death, his wife and
the whole of his family sharing his fate. To bewitch any one, according to
Matabele belief, it is sufficient to spread medicine on his path or in his
hut. There are also numerous other modes of working charms; for instance,
if you want to cause an enemy to die, you make a clay figure that is
supposed to represent him. With a needle you pierce the figure, and your
enemy, the first time he comes in contact with a foe, will be speared.

"The liver and entrails of a crocodile are supposed to be most powerful
charms, and whoever becomes possessed of them can cause the death of any
man he pleases. For that reason, killing a crocodile is a very heinous

"While I was in Matabele-land, a crocodile was one day found speared on
the bank of a river. The witch-doctors were consulted in order to find out
who had been guilty of the deed; and six people were denounced as the
offenders and put to death with their families.

"Of witch-doctors there are two kinds.[49] The first deliver oracles by
bone-throwing. They have three bones carved with different signs; these
they throw up, and according to the position they assume when falling, and
the side on which they fall, they make the prediction. The other kind
deliver their oracles in a slow and very shrill chant. Both are supposed
to be on speaking terms with spirits. They are in constant request, but
are usually poorly paid. Their influence, however, is tremendous; and in
Lo-Bengula's time their power was as great as, if not greater than, the
king's. Lo-Bengula always kept two or three of them near him. Chief among
their works was that of rain-making; this was done with a charm made from
the blood and gall of a black ox. No witch-doctors, however, could make
rain except by the orders of the king. It was a risky trade; for they were
put to death if they failed in their endeavors to produce rain. Dreams are
considered of deep significance by the witch-doctors. Madmen are supposed
to be possessed of a spirit, and were formerly under the protection of the

"One of the most remarkable ceremonies that used to be performed by the
witch-doctors was that of 'smelling out' the witches (wizards?). On the
first moon of the second month of the year all the various regiments
gathered at Buluwayo, and held a big dance in which the king took part;
usually, from 12,000 to 15,000 warriors assembled for this ceremony. After
the dance the smelling of witches began. The various regiments being
formed in crescent shape, the king took his stand in front surrounded by
the doctors, usually women. Then began a slow song accompanied by a dance;
they carried in their hand a small wand. Gradually the song and the dance
became quicker; they seemed to be possessed. They rushed madly about,
passing in front of the soldiers, pretending to smell them. All of a
sudden they stopped in front of a man, and touching him with their wands,
began howling like maniacs; the man was immediately removed and put to
death. In this way hundreds of people were killed every year during the
big dance. No one, however high his position, was protected against the
mandate of the witch-doctors, usually the tools of the king, who found in
this a way of getting rid of his enemies, or of doing away with those in
high station whose loyalty he had reason to doubt. Other crimes are few
except the ever-present witchcraft. To bewitch an enemy on the Tanganika
plateau, you scatter a red powder round his hut and a white one near his
door; this never fails to kill.

"Ordeal by muavi is, of course, flourishing; with the enlightened
modification that, if the accused does not die, he can recover damages
from the accuser. In the Mambwe district the muavi is made of a poisonous

The same "medicines," the same dances, the same enchantments used in the
black art, are used in the professedly innocent white art; the chief
difference being in the mission that the utilized spirit is entrusted to

Similarity in witchcraft practices is one of the several grounds held by
ethnologists, as proving identity in origin of the African Negro and the
Australian black. To quote from Dr. Carl Lumholtz's book, "Among
Cannibals": "In the various [Australian] tribes are so-called wizards, who
pretend to communicate with the spirits of the dead and get information
from them. They are able to produce sickness or death whenever they
please, and they can produce or stop rain and many other things. Hence
these wizards are greatly feared. Attention is called to the influence of
this fear of witchcraft upon the character and customs of the natives. It
makes them bloodthirsty, and at the same time darkens and embitters their
existence. An Australian native is unable to conceive death as natural
except as the result of an accident or of old age; while diseases and
plagues are always ascribed to witchcraft and to hostile blacks. In order
to practise his arts against any black man, the wizard must be in
possession of some article that has belonged to him. On Herbert River the
natives need only to know the name of the person in question, and for this
reason they rarely use their proper names in addressing or speaking of
each other, but simply their class names. I once met a black man who told
me that he personally had been the victim of strange wizards, and that
ever since that time he had been a sufferer from headache. One afternoon
many years ago, two wizards had captured and bound him; they had taken out
his entrails and put in grass instead, and had let him lie in this
condition till sunrise. Then he suddenly recovered his senses and became
tolerably well; a result for which he was indebted to a wizard of his own
tribe, who thus proved himself more powerful than the two strangers. The
blacks call an operation of this kind kobi, and a man who is able to
perform it, as a matter of course, is very much respected and feared."

"The Ovimbundu race," says Arnot, "of Bihe and the country to the west are
most enterprising traders and imitators of the Portuguese. They seem,
however, to retain tenaciously their superstitions and fetich worship.

"In Chikula's yard there is a small roughly cut image, which I believe
represents the spirit of a forefather of his. One day a man and woman came
in and rushed up to this image, dancing, howling, and foaming at the
mouth, apparently mad. A group gathered round, and declared that the
spirit of Chikula's forefather had taken possession of this man and woman,
and was about to speak through them. At last the 'demon' began to grunt
and groan out to poor Chikula, who was down on his knees, that he must
hold a hunt, the proceeds of which must be given to the people of the
town; must kill an ox, provide so many pots of beer, and proclaim a great
feast and dance. Furthermore, all this was to be done quickly. The poor
old man was thoroughly taken in, and in two days' time the hunt was

"Thus I find, as among the Barotse, that divining and prophesying, with
other religious and superstitious means, are resorted to in order to
secure private ends and to offer sacrifice to the one common god, the

"At another time a man came to Senhor Porto's to buy an ox. He said that
some time ago he had killed a relation by witchcraft to possess himself of
some of his riches, and that now he must sacrifice an ox to the dead man's
spirit, which was troubling him. This killing by witchcraft is a thing
most sincerely believed in; and on hearing this man's cold-blooded
confession of what was at least the intent of his heart, it made me
understand why the Barotse put such demons into the fire.

"Among the Ovimbundu, old and renowned witches (wizards?) are thrown into
some river, though almost every man will confess that he practises
witchcraft to avenge himself of wrong done and to punish his enemies. One
common process is to boil together certain fruits and roots, with which
the wizard daubs his body, in order to enlist the aid of the demons; and
the decoction is then thrown in the direction of the victim, or laid in
his path, that he may be brought under the bewitching spell."[51]

We quote again from Dr. J. L. Wilson, "Western Africa": "Witchcraft, and
the use of fetiches as a means of protection against it, is carried to a
greater extent here [Southern Guinea] than in Northern Guinea, owing, no
doubt, to the greater imaginativeness of the people. The marvels performed
by those who are supposed to possess this mysterious art transcend all the
bounds of credulity. A man can turn himself into a leopard, and destroy
the property and lives of his fellow-men. He can cause the clouds to pour
out torrents of rain, or hold back at his pleasure.

"A different article is used here for the detection of witchcraft from
that used in Northern Guinea. The root of a small shrub, called akazya, is
employed, and is more powerful than that used in the other section of the
country. A person is seldom required to drink more than half a pint of the
decoction. If it acts freely as a diuretic, it is a mark of innocence; but
if as a narcotic, and produces dizziness and vertigo, it is a sure sign of
guilt. Small sticks are laid down at the distance of eighteen inches or
two feet apart, and the suspected person, after he has swallowed the
draught, is required to walk over them. If he has no vertigo, he steps
over them easily and naturally; but, on the other hand, if his brain is
affected, he imagines they rise up before him like great logs, and in his
awkward effort to step over them, is apt to reel and fall to the ground.
In some cases this draught is taken by proxy; and if a man is found
guilty, he is either put to death or heavily fined, and banished from the
country. In many cases post-mortem examinations are made with the view of
finding the actual witch; I have known the mouth of the aorta to be cut
out of a corpse, and shown as unanswerable proof that the man had the
actual power of witchcraft.[52] No one expects to resent the death of a
relative under such circumstances. He is supposed to have been killed by
his awkward management of an instrument that was intended for the
destruction of others; and it is rather a cause of congratulation to the
living that he is caught in a snare of his own," and that his own "witch"
has killed him.[53]

Not every one who uses white art is able also to use the black. Any one
believing in fetich can use white arts, and not subject himself to the
charge of being a wizard. Those who desire to go beyond the arts of
defence, and gratify their revenge or any other passion by killing or
injuring some one else, have generally to purchase the agency of a doctor
or some one skilled in the black art. Should the means thus employed be
efficient in causing a death (or seemingly so, by the coincidence of their
use and the death itself) and the facts become known, both the doctor and
the man who employed him would probably be put to death. Yet,
inconsistently, the very men who would execute them have themselves used,
or will some day use, these same black arts for the same murderous
purpose, and the native doctors will continue in their risky business.

And yet, again, inconsistently, every man and woman in the community
dreads such a charge, and looks askance on those who are suspected of
belonging to the Witchcraft Company. For there is such a society, not
distinctly organized. It has meetings at which they plot for the causing
of sickness or even the taking of life. These meetings are secret;
preferably in a forest, or at least distant from a village. The hour is
near midnight. An imitation of the hoot of an owl, which is their sacred
bird, is their signal call. They profess to leave their corporeal body
lying asleep in their huts, and claim that the part which joins in the
meeting is their spirit-body, whose movements are not hindered by walls or
other physical objects. They can pass with instant rapidity through the
air, over the tree-tops. At their meetings they have visible, audible, and
tangible communication with evil spirits. They partake of feasts; the
article eaten being the "heart-life" of some human being, who, in
consequence of this loss of his "heart," becomes sick, and will die,
unless it be restored. The early cock-crowing is a warning for them to
disperse; the advent of the morning star they fear, as it compels them to
hasten back to their bodies. Should the sun rise upon them before they
reach their corporeal "home," their plans would fail, and themselves would
sicken. They dread cayenne pepper. Should its bruised leaves or pods have
been rubbed over their body-home by any one during their absence, they
would be unable to re-enter it, and would die or miserably waste away.

The attitude of all missionaries toward executions on a charge of being a
witch or a wizard has uniformly been distinctly in opposition to them. We
characterize them as murder. The European governments which have taken
possession of Africa also put down witchcraft, medicine-making, and
execution of supposed witchcraft murderers with a strong hand. The natives
submit under pressure of force, but unwillingly. Each man or woman is glad
of the strong foreign power that protects himself or herself from being
put to death on a witchcraft charge; but they each complain that the
government does not execute, nor will allow them to execute, others
against whom they make the same charge. It is undeniably true that were
the European governments that have partitioned Africa to withdraw to-day,
the witch-doctors, with poison ordeal and fetich killing and witchcraft
execution, would promptly re-establish themselves and soon would become
rampant again. The Christian churches and communities already established
would barely hold their own, and would not have an influence extensive
enough to restrain the forces of evil.

I quote from a recent issue of a Freetown, Sierra Leone, newspaper, edited
by a Negro, an article written by a Negro on this subject: "The subject of
'witchcraft' has been agitating of late the minds of this community, and
much sense and more nonsense has been heard from those who take upon
themselves to elucidate the matter. It is a very difficult and delicate
question to tackle at all times, especially when knowledge, which is
always the foundation of eloquence, is absent. From the statement of Holy
Scriptures we know that there is such a thing as witchcraft, and the
theory is confirmed by the records of English history. It will be a most
desirable thing if any person guilty of witchcraft could be convicted by
means that would be convincing in the legal investigation of other crimes;
it will save the community from many heart-burnings and mistakes.

"A writer in a local journal recently made the assertion that in any case
of poisoning in the cities of Europe, steps are taken to trace the poison
by eminent physicians and detectives employed to hunt up the accused, but
in our opinion the cases are not analogous. In the case of suspected
poisoning post-mortem examinations by competent authorities will disclose
the fact whether the deceased died of poisoning; unfounded, and in some
instances gratuitous, assertions are not without proofs allowed to cloud
the life of individuals. A _prima facie_ case once established, the
suspect is pursued with the utmost vigor of the law.

"In this colony [Sierra Leone] most deaths are attributed to the influence
of witches, and accusation of witchcraft is at once made against
individuals without attempt at obtaining evidence.

"How can it be proved that there is a band of these wicked ones, so as to
attach credence to the confession of a conscience-stricken member who
implicates also a number of coadjutors? The problem is an intricate one,
and requires thoughtful investigation."

The slaves exported from Africa to the British possessions in the West
Indies brought with them some of the seeds of African plants, especially
those they regarded as "medicinal," or they found among the fauna and
flora of the tropical West Indies some of the same plants and animals held
by them as sacred to fetich in their tropical Africa. The ceiba, or
silk-cotton tree, at whose base I find in Africa so many votive offerings
of fetich worship, they found flourishing on Jamaica. They had established
on their plantations the fetich doctor, their dance, their charm, their
lore, before they had learned English at all. And when the British
missionaries came among them with school and church, while many of the
converts were sincere, there were those of the doctor class who, like
Simon Magus, entered into the church-fold for sake of whatever gain they
could make by the white man's new influence, the white man's Holy Spirit!
Outwardly everything was serene and Christian. Within was working an
element of diabolism, fetichism, there known by the name of Obeah, under
whose leaven some of the churches were wrecked. And the same diabolism,
known as voodoo worship, in the Negro communities of the Southern United
States has emasculated the spiritual life of many professed Christians.

It must be admitted, as to this whole matter of witchcraft belief and
witchcraft murder and witchcraft execution, however wrong the Negro
belief, his sense of justice is aggrieved by the attitude of the foreign
missionary and the foreign government. Something should be allowed to that
sense of justice. Both missionary and government err sometimes, in their
judgment of individual or tribal crime and in their punishment of it, by
arbitrarily following only civilized law and the civilized point of view;
ignoring or not giving proper weight, in the make up of their judgment, to
the degree to which the fetich enters as a factor in native motives and
acts, and the power with which it influences native thought.

In Matabele-land, South Africa, after the defeat and death of the king
Lo-Bengula, and the occupation of his country by Great Britain, there was
an outbreak, the cause of which was not fully appreciated until it was
traced to the witch-doctors, who seized the occasion of the ravages of the
rinderpest, which was at that time devastating the cattle of South Africa,
to make use of their power. "Naturally they must have felt, more than
anybody else, the occupation of Matabele-land by the whites, as it meant
the disappearance of their former power. When the rinderpest broke out,
they probably persuaded the natives, who understood nothing about an
epidemic and attributed whatever ill befalls them to witchcraft, that it
was the spirit of Lo-Bengula, which was dissatisfied with them and which
caused their cattle to die. To appease Lo-Bengula's spirit, it was
necessary to fight the whites. They, the witch-doctors, would make
medicine to turn the bullets of the white men into water, so that the
Matabele could not be hurt by them."[54]

Similarly Great Britain with difficulty has suppressed several risings of
the Ashantees, and the late so-called "Hut-Tax" rebellion in Sierra Leone.
The actual force of the natives, in organization, arms, and skill, was
almost ridiculous in its inferiority as compared with the thoroughly armed
and disciplined troops of the British Empire; but the final result, though
never doubtful, was attained with much loss of men and funds. The fetich
doctor and fetich belief were a _vis a tergo_ with the native horde. Its
value as a factor in the contest had not been reckoned on by the
foreigner. Whatever motives influenced the native in the contest, in
patriotism, cupidity, revenge, bravery, they were minor. The grand
influence that nerved his arm and made him perfectly fearless in his
assaults against weapons of precision, was his deep conviction, more
complete than Christian faith, that he would win. Had not the fetich
doctor told him so? Though there had been some apparent failures, in his
belief they were only apparent. The real failure was in his own self, his
not having followed minutely all the fetich directions. Those directions
followed rightly in the next battle, he _could not_ fail.

The faith of a Christian does not assure him, in any emergency of life,
that he will be successful in his plan; it only certifies him that,
whatever be the result, success or failure, of any single act or series of
acts in life's drama, his own will must be subordinated to God's, who, if
not granting his specific wish to-day, will overrule everything in the
final _dénouement_ for his best spiritual good.

Similarly the heathen fetich, mixed with the fatalism of Islam, is an
explanation of the splendid recklessness with which the followers of the
Mahdi flung themselves against the sabres and maxims of General
Kitchener's army at Omdurman.

Faith in fetich is a power as long as its devotee believes in its
infallibility. When that is gone, his flight or conquest is instant.
Fetich power therefore cannot be invariably relied upon as a motive to
action. It may sometimes be magnificent. Only Christian faith or civilized
discipline can be sublime, as compared with it.

But a fetich devotee who has lost his faith in his fetich could never have
stood with Christian martyrs who knew perfectly well that within an hour
they would be torn to pieces in the arena. Their sublime faith looked
beyond that arena to the eternal promise. A fetich soldier who has lost
his faith in his fetich could never have gone with those who stood head
erect before certain death in the Alamo fort or who rode in the charge at
Balaklava. Their elevated motives of patriotism, implicit soldierly
obedience to order, and the sweet scent of human glory made them discount
the value of their own blood. These were motives not only powerful in
force, but great in character. The Negro's fetich faith is powerful, but
never great.

Something cognate to this in the comparison of the power and the greatness
of a motive will explain the persistent fatuity of the Boer in protracting
his contest with Great Britain. From the very first, whatever the world
may have thought of essential right or justice in the case, the world knew
that England would win. The Boer would have been wise to have accepted
defeat earlier and made terms with a conqueror who generally has been
magnanimous and rarely cruel, rather than invite, by guerilla warfare,
measures severer, harsher, and possibly exterminative. The Boer is a
Christian, but his faith was of the Mosaic kind that expected the God of
battles to interfere visibly in his behalf. The president of the republic
had preached that he would do so. The Boer looked on the president as a
prophet, and believed him. But his faith was an unreasonable one; it was
fatuous. His bravery, patriotism, marksmanship, and endurance could not
avail. These all tell well for a martyrdom, if martyrdom were desirable or
necessary, but they did not tell well for assertion of success.

France, overcome by Germany, still was brave and patriotic; but she was
wise in accepting the inevitable,--wiser than the Negro or the Boer.
France believed in God; so did Germany. But the faith of neither was of
the fetich kind. Nevertheless, the fetich faith is magnificent, even if it
be fatuous.

For the apparently cruel side of the black art, _viz._, the killing of
those guilty of witchcraft, there is some allowance to be made.

To the believer in fetich the killing is a judicial act. He does not call
it a murder, but an execution; and he tries to justify it by an argument
which even the missionary has to admit is correct if the Negro's premises
in the argument are admitted. As we do not admit both of them, his
argument falls. But it is difficult to show him that his second premise is
wrong, and he is unconvinced.

I have several times been thoroughly worsted in my discussion with native
chiefs on this matter of witchcraft executions. In the early years of my
missionary life, while resident on Corisco Island, I followed the practice
of my predecessor, the Rev. J. L. Mackey, in the effort to prevent such
executions, which were then (about 1863) common. We directed the native
Christians to notify us of any death, and we would at once go to the
village and endeavor to forestall the almost invariable witchcraft
investigation. The headman, Kombenyamango, of an adjacent village, was a
large, strong, influential, cruel man. There was so little about him to
command my respect that I had shown him but slight deference. Having thus
his _amour propre_ wounded, he was unfortunately not on very good terms
with me. His aged mother had been failing in health for a long time, and
finally had died. Her position, as mother of a chief, had given her much
respect in native eyes. The concourse of mourners gathered from a distance
was large. Feeling for her death was deep; threats of vengeance for her
taking off were loud. I was soon informed that one of her female slaves
had been seized under pure suspicion because of her proximity as the dead
woman's servant. In her case as a means of finding whether or not she was
guilty, there had been no ordeal test of drinking the mbundu poison. (On
the Upper Guinea Coast it is sassa-wood; at Calabar, the Calabar bean; at
the equator, the akazya leaf.) Under torture, being beaten and lacerated
by thorn bushes, she had confessed herself guilty, was in chains, and was
soon to be executed.

On such occasions, on arriving at the village, there was often an effort
on the part of the chief to deceive the missionary. The chief would either
assert that he had had no intention of making a witchcraft investigation,
or would consent now, in deference to his white friend the missionary, to
abandon his intention, and would forbid any execution. But it would be
revealed to us afterwards that at that very moment a victim was in chains
in that very village, and had subsequently been secretly put to death.

This day Kombenyamango, though receiving me with sufficient respect, was
nonchalant. He did not lie. He promptly, in answer to my question, said,
"Yes, I have a prisoner here, and I intend to put her to death." "Why?"
"Because she has killed my mother!" I told him I did not believe his
mother had died by unnatural means, and I preached to him the usual sermon
on the Sixth Commandment. I was at that time young in my knowledge of
native thought and fetich belief. I can see now that to every sentence of
my address he could have said Amen, in his believing, as he did, that his
mother had been murdered, and that this slave woman had broken the Sixth
Commandment. But, after listening awhile, he became impatient, and said,
"Look here! in your country, when a person kills your mother, don't you
tie a rope about his neck and hang him up, and don't you say you are doing
right in so doing?" "Yes." "Well, that's just what I am going to do to
this woman, and I am right." "Yes, you would be right if she has killed
your mother; but she has not. The bewitching with which you charge her is
foolish." (As to the folly, I know now that that was a matter of opinion
between him and me; and he had reason for his opinion.) He replied, "But
she has confessed that she is guilty." "Quite possibly; but still a lie on
her part, for she would say anything to obtain temporary relief from your
torture." "But ask her yourself." "No use to do so in your presence; she
is afraid of you, and she will not dare to speak to me or contradict you."
"Well, then, I will bring her; and you take her off there among the
plantains by yourself, and see what she will say." This sounded fair; but
even so, I had my doubts, for she did not know me. Perhaps they would lie
to her, and tell her I was confederate with her master, and would order
her not to alter her confession. And she, in her dazed condition, was
really not responsible for anything she might say. She was brought from a
hut. She was in chains, and yet with her limbs free to walk. There was no
possibility of her escape; nor of my being able to abduct her, had I been
unwise enough to attempt it. I led her out of Kombenyamango's hearing, but
still plainly in his sight, and kindly said to her, "Did you do this?" To
my amazement, she said, "Yes." "But what did you do? If you say you killed
her, how did you do it?" She described minutely how, being in attendance
on the old woman, she was often vexed at her petulance, and had been
beaten by her for small neglects; how, in her anger, she had desired her
mistress's death; had collected crumbs of her food, strands of her hair,
and shreds of her clothing; how she had mixed these with other substances,
and had sung enchantments with drum and dance, aided by others; had tied
all these things together on a stick which she had secretly buried at the
threshold of the old woman's door, desiring and expecting that she should
thereby die. By an unfortunate coincidence the old woman had died a month
or two later; and the slave believed that what she had done had been
efficient to accomplish the taking of life.

Baffled, I returned to Kombenyamango, and admitted her confession. But I
told him that, even so, both he and she were under a delusion; that what
she had done had no efficiency for accomplishing a murder; that it was
impossible. (Here again was a difference of opinion as to possibility; he
believed his senses. In his life he had seen witchcraft mysteries; I had

It was useless, even inconsistent, to plead for mercy; I retired
heartsick. I was morally certain the old woman had died a natural death.
Yet this poor slave woman had had murder in her heart, and had tried to
make her murderous thought effective. She was, before God, guilty. She had
confessed herself, before man's bar, guilty. (Well for the thousands of us
who know ourselves guilty in thought, that we are not to be held by our
fellow-sinners as guilty in act!) I knew that she was really innocent, but
I could not prove it. She was taken to sea in a boat, and decapitated; her
remains were thrown into the sea.

On another occasion, a year later, also on Corisco Island, a certain
heathen headman of a village, Osongo, had died. A female slave who was
suspected had fled. Her flight was regarded as proof positive of her
guilt. Our mission premises had always been accorded by the native chiefs
the right of sanctuary. A refugee for any offence could not be seized on
our premises till we saw just reason for "extraditing" him. This slave
woman had hidden herself in our jungle-thicket adjoining a forest; just
where I did not know. Two freemen--my personal employees, good
Christians--knew, and secretly at night with my connivance fed her. My
school-girls also learned of it. Such a secret is difficult to hide. One
of the girls, a niece of Osongo, revealed it to another of my workmen,
Matoku, a slave also of Osongo, and a professed Christian. He, with the
traitorous cowardice that makes many slaves informers on each other as a
means of enhancing their own safety with their masters, revealed it to
Ajai, Osongo's brother. Ajai, with a retinue of servants, came to visit me
in my study. He, with a wily talk about the sadness of his brother's
death, detained me, while the servants broke into the mission premises,
and, led by Matoku, captured the woman, faint with her days and nights of
exposure. I discharged Matoku from my employ, and dismissed the niece from
school. But the heathen regarded these punishments as slight; they had
obtained their object. My attempts to plead with Ajai for the woman's life
were met with undisguised admission of his fixed purpose to kill her. With
a family as prominent on the island and as wedded to heathenism as was
Osongo's, and in face of the current that set against the woman, the
influences I was able to employ, and which had at other times resulted in
saving some lives accused of witchcraft, proved ineffectual. I was
privately told that she was to be put into a boat and carried out to sea
so as to prevent any interference I might possibly attempt. With a
spy-glass I saw a native boat shoot rapidly out from beyond a point of
land half a mile distant. The rowers rested on their oars when they
reached deep water. She was seized; her head held over the gunwale, her
throat cut, and her lifeless body cast into the sea.

She had a son, a stout lad. Ajai, fearing that he might live to avenge his
mother's death, had ordered him also to be killed as an accomplice with
her in the bewitching of Osongo. The tragedy that was being enacted on the
beach behind the point of land from which had issued the boat I did not
see; but I was told that the lad was seized, his hands and limbs tied to a
stake, where he was slowly burned to death. A crowd sat on the beach
jeering him, and amused themselves by tying little packets of gunpowder to
different parts of his body, enjoying the sight of his struggles as the
packets exploded in succession.

Undeniably there is much jugglery and conscious deception on the part of
the magic doctors. How much they really believe in what they say or do no
one has been able to discover; they assert that they are under
supernatural influences, and have power given from supernatural sources.
Rarely are any of this priest class converted to Christianity. A few have
professed conversion, and have made a general acknowledgment of
sinfulness; but they did not like to talk about their divinations; they
called them "foolishness." But evidently there was something about those
divinations of which they seemed ashamed and which they wished to forget.
Only one have I met who would talk on the subject, and she believed she
had been under satanic influence,--not simply as all wicked thoughts are
satanic in their character and inspiration, but that she had actually been
under satanic possession, and was given by the devil more than mere human
power. Certainly, if there is in civilized jugglery, fortune-telling,
clairvoyance, divining, spirit-rappings, theosophy, _et id omne genus_,
nothing more than sleight of hand, alert observation of facial
expression, and mind-reading, the African conjurer almost equals the
civilized professional. The native magician does and tells some wonderful
things. In one of my congregations an educated woman, a widow, who had
only one child, a son grown to young manhood, had subsequently lived in
succession with four other men, three of whom were white, who had either
died or deserted her; and she supposed herself past child-bearing. She
contracted a secret marriage with a white gentleman, but of it positively
nothing was known or even suspected by any one. She confessed to me that
one day, being a visitor in a distant place where she was not known, she,
out of mere curiosity, hired a magician to divine her future. He looked
into his magic mirror, and, among many other things which he could
shrewdly have guessed in a quick study of her character as revealed in her
looks, manner, and language, surprised her by describing a white man (whom
he had never seen) who, he asserted, was deeply attached to her, and by
whom she would become the mother of two children. She suppressed her
surprise, and told him that though married four times, she had borne no
child in eighteen years. He nevertheless asserted, "I see them in your

Within five years from that time she did have two untimely births by her
white husband. She told me in her confession that he knew nothing of them,
they being miscarriages. She had suppressed from him the fact of her
pregnancy. When subsequently she united with the church, she made these
revelations only to me as her pastor, to save herself from public rebuke.

At another time a woman in Gabun became very anxious about a brother of
hers who was trading on the Ogowe River, at a place at least three hundred
miles distant; no news had come of him. Evil news always flies fast and is
always spread publicly. She went to a magician. Divining, he said, "Your
brother is dead." "But where? What? When did he die?" "Only recently. I
see his body lying bleeding." And he described the wounds, the locality on
the river, the time, and other details of a country where he had never
been. Two months later news did come, and it agreed in time, place, and
circumstances with the divination.

Such things occur in civilized lands. They are accounted for without any
reference to, or belief in, demoniac or even supernatural causes or
influences. We call such recondite knowledge telepathy, and leave it for
psychologists to study its character and application. It has no religious
significance or use. The most devout Christian may believe in it or be
subject to its operation. Other cases of telepathy in Africa I have been
told of, that had no fetich nor any divination of magic doctor connected
with them; but the natives attributed them to some unknown

An outcome of the witchcraft of fetichism, demonolatry, though not
necessarily identical with demoniacal possession, intimately associates
itself with it as a part of its development. For the Negro belief in such
possession there is good basis. The Bible recognizes the possibility of
human beings in their free agency making pacts with the devil, in virtue
of which he was allowed, under divine administration, to share with them
some of his supernatural power as prince of the power of darkness, and god
of this world. Such pacts were condemned by Jehovah as unholy. Those who
made them were called witches and wizards; such transgressors were
directed to be destroyed. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"[55] (a
command that does not necessarily prove that the professed diabolical
compact was always a real one. The mere professing to have satanic
companionship and aid was an offence heinous to Jehovah's theocratic
government of his people.)

But the witch of Endor[56] certainly was a reality; she did "bring up"
real departed spirits; perhaps only on that one occasion, and then only by
direct divine and not satanic power and will, and for a divine object. She
herself seems to have been surprised[57] at the real success of
divinations which formerly may have been, in her hands, only deceptions.

My native heathen chiefs have good precedent for their witchcraft
executions. New England history cannot wipe out the fact of the Salem
witchcraft trials.

Demoniac possessions in supposed lunatics are possible; they were actual
and numerous in Palestine during the ministry of Christ. Satan was
"loosed" with unusual power, that the Son of God in his contest with him
could give to the world convincing proof of his divine origin and
authority, even the devils being subject to him. If demoniacal possessions
are possible during a term of years, they are equally possible for a few
hours; they never were nor are made by Satan for a good purpose. God, in
the days of Christ, for the special purpose of the time, overruled them
for the defence of his kingdom; since then, in the hearts of evil men,
their advent is only for evil and by evil.

If in Christian lands the enchantments of the hoodoo are only jugglery and
nothing else, it may be that Satan's power is limited under the broad
light of Christianity. But in heathen lands, where for ages Satan's power
has not only been accepted but also sought, I am disposed to believe that
some apparent cases of lunacy are real possessions by Satan, in which
cases both the physical disease and its associated mental aberration are
the effect of the possession. In lunacy pure and simple the mental
aberration is the effect of disease alone,--some mental or physical

The possibility of a permanent possession by Satan being admitted, it is
easily possible that the fetich doctors or priestesses may be temporarily
entered into by satanic power, and that some wonderful things they do and
say while endowed with that power are used by the devil to blind men's
minds against the truth.

It may be, therefore, that the missionary in his contest with heathenism
has literally to fight with the devil, with principalities and powers in
high places, and needs weapons more subtle than Martin Luther's inkstand.
If so, he puts his preaching and his work at a disadvantage in deriding
the witchcraft side of fetichism, revealed in black art, as simply
"folly," and reprehensible only as a superstition. It is more than that;
it is wickedness,--spiritual wickedness in high places. While it is true
that it has much that is mere jugglery and charlatanism, it is quite
possible that it may have something that is diabolically real.

But all this does not fully justify my Negro chief in putting to death his
slave, who may or may not have been more than self-deceived and deceiving,
who may or may not have had a temporary satanic possession, who may or may
not have been guilty of murder before the bar of God or man. That chief
and all his assistants in the execution, and all other users of the black
art, had, in the beginning of their fetich life, been users of only the
defensive white art; had inevitably grown into the use of the offensive
black art, and in all probability at some time or other had used
divinations, with and by the aid of witchcraft doctors, for the
destruction of others in a similar way and under the same motives as those
admitted by my poor slave woman.

My chief's argument syllogized would be: Whoever kills should be killed;
this woman has killed; therefore she should be killed. His first premise
stands; but neither he nor any of his people had a right to use it;
consistently, he and all his should themselves have been at the same bar
with the woman; they either had done, or would some day be doing, just
what they were charging her with doing. His second premise may or may not
have been true; certainly, the only one who could know whether it was true
was the accused herself, and she may have been self-deceived; and her
confession should have no standing in court, having been forced under
torture. I could not therefore admit his conclusion; and I think that, had
the Master stood visibly on Corisco Island that day, He would have said,
"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."



In civilization, under governments other than autocratic, law being made
and executed, at least professedly, with the consent of the governed, all
enactments find not only their justification, but also the possibility of
their enforcement, in their support by public opinion. It is the general
consensus as to the need of an enactment regarding certain conditions
affecting the lives or happiness or rights of the majority, that
crystallizes opinions into a form of words, and gives authority for the
enforcement of the decisions expressed by those words.

This is also partly true even under governments more or less despotic,
where the will of the ruler, not of the ruled, is made the basis of law.
Few despots are so utterly tyrannical as deliberately to arouse opposition
on the part of their subjects. Even a Nero, who would refuse a petition if
it happened to run counter to his whim or caprice of the day, would grant
that same petition if it happened to coincide with his own whim of another
day. Even he thought it desirable to pander to the public taste for the
butcheries of the amphitheatre, not simply because he himself enjoyed
them. Though he could initiate no measure for the real good of Rome, he
recognized the necessity of responding to the cry, "panem et circenses."

In all governments fear is recognized as one of the grounds for the
enforcement of law. In even the freest nations and under the highest form
of civilization the public opinion that administers law makes its demand
partly in the interest of essential right, partly with the instinct of
self-preservation against the forces of evil, and partly for the
punishment of wrong. Punishment in itself is not reformatory; it is
retributive; it is deterrent; it plays upon fear.

In the native African tribal forms of government, while it would not be
true to say that there is no justice in the customs they recognize, it is
true that the only sentiment appealed to, in the enforcement and even in
the enactment of supposed needed measures, is that of fear. Their religion
being one of fear, it is therefore appealed to to lend its sanction and

"Fetiches are set up to punish offenders in certain cases where there is
an intention to make a law specially binding; this refers more
particularly to crimes which cannot always be detected. A fetich is
inaugurated, for example, to detect and punish certain kinds of theft;
persons who are cognizant to such crimes, and who do not give information,
are also liable to be punished by the fetich. The fetich is supposed to be
able not only to detect all such transgressions, but has power, likewise,
to punish the transgressor. How it exercises this knowledge, or by what
means it brings sickness and death upon the offender, cannot, of course,
be explained; but, as it is believed in, it is the most effectual
restraint that can possibly be imposed upon evil-disposed persons."[58]

Among the Negro tribes of the Bight of Benin and the Bantu of the region
of Corisco Island and of the Ogowe River, in what is now the
Kongo-Français, there was a power known variously as Egbo, Ukuku, and
Yasi, which tribes, native chiefs, and headmen of villages invoked as a
court of last appeal, for the passage of needed laws, or the adjudication
of some quarrel which an ordinary family or village council was unable to

In those councils an offender could be proved guilty of a debt or theft,
or other trespass, and when it was no longer possible for him by audacity
or mendacity to persist in his assertion of innocence, he would yield to
the decision of the great majority against him. But there was no central
government to enforce that decision or exact from him restitution. The
only authority the native chiefs possessed was based on respect due to
age, parental position, or strength of personal character. If an offender
chose to disregard all these considerations, an appeal was then made to
his superstitious fear.

Egbo, Ukuku, Yasi, was a secret society composed only of men, boys being
initiated into it about the age of puberty. Members were bound by a
terrible oath and under pain of death to obey any law or command issued by
the spirit under which the society professed to be organized. The actual,
audible utterance of the command was by the voice of one of the members of
the society chosen as priest for that purpose. This man, secreted in the
forest, in a clump of bushes on the outskirts of the village, or in one of
the rooms of the Council House, disguised his voice, speaking only
gutturally. The whole proceeding was an immense fiction; they believed in
spirits and in the power of fetich charms, and they made such charms part
of the society's ceremonies; but, as to the decisions, all the members
knew that the decision in any case was their own, not a spirit's. They
knew that the voice speaking was that of their delegate, not of a spirit.
Yet for any one of them, or for any woman, girl, or uninitiated boy, to
assert as much would have been death. And those men who would not have
submitted to the same decision if arrived at in open council of themselves
as _men_, and known before the whole village to be speaking only as men,
would instantly submit when once the case had been taken to Ukuku's Court.
They carried out that fiction all their lives. Let a man order his wives
and other slaves to clear the overgrown village paths, they might hesitate
to obey by inventing some excuse that they were too much occupied with
other work, or that they would do it only when other people who also used
the same path should assist; or if under the sting of a kasa-nguvu (lash
of hippopotamus hide or manatus skin) they started to do the work, they
might do it only partly or very unsatisfactorily. But let the man call in
the other men of the village and summon a meeting of the society, the
recalcitrants would submit instantly, and in terror of Ukuku's voice; much
as they might possibly have suspected it was a human voice, they would not
dare whisper the suspicion. They helped to carry on a gigantic lie. They
taught their little children, both girls and boys, that the voice belonged
to a spirit which ate people who disobeyed him. When the society walked in
procession to or from their appointed rendezvous, they were preceded by
runners who, with a well-recognized cry and with kasa-nguvu in hand,
warned all on the path of the coming of the spirit. Women and children
hastened to get out of the way; or, if unable to hide in time, they
averted their faces. The penalty when a woman even saw the procession was
a severe beating; that, however, might be commuted to a fine.

About thirty-nine years ago, on the island of Corisco, the then
headquarters of the Corisco Mission, there was a long-standing feud
between the Benga tribe, inhabiting that island, and the Kombe tribe,
dwelling at the mouth of the Eyo River, of the Benita country, fifty miles
to the north. Benita was also a part of the mission field. The quarrel
between the two tribes greatly obstructed our mission work. Missionaries
were entirely safe in travel between the two places, respect being given
them as foreigners, and their presence in a boat protected their crews;
but it was often difficult to obtain a crew willing to go on the journey
without the presence of a white man. The difficulties caused by the feud
fell heavily also on the Benga people themselves. The island itself had no
products for trade; ivory, dye-woods, and rubber came from the Benita
mainland. Many Kombe women had married Benga men, and needed frequently to
revisit their own country. Finally, to end the feud, it was agreed that
the Kombe Ukuku Society, whose power was held in even greater fear than
that of Benga, should come to Corisco and settle the affair.

It was a day of terror at the Girls' Boarding School, of which I was then
superintendent. As the long, blood-curdling yell of the forerunners on
the public path, that ran only one hundred feet from the school dwelling,
announced the approach of the procession, the girls fled, affrighted, to
the darkness of the attic of the house. After the procession had passed,
they ran away secretly in byways to their own villages, feeling safer in
the darkness of their mother's huts than in the mission-house; for it had
been reported that Ukuku, besides settling the tribal feud, intended to
attack the mission work that had been successfully making converts among
the Kombe, because any native who became a Christian immediately withdrew
from membership in the society. It had therefore begun to feel a little
anxious about its safety. I stood at my door and saw the procession pass;
they saw me, but, because of my sex, they did not show any displeasure.
They were painted with white and other colored chalks that gave a horrible
expression to their faces; their look was defiant, and a hoarse, muttered
chant had, even on myself, a depressing effect. I could well imagine that
to a superstitious native mind the _tout ensemble_ would be terrifying.

The procession on its way chose to pass over a road that had by use become
somewhat public, but which was owned by the mission; it was only fifty
feet past the front door of the house of the senior missionary, the Rev.
James L. Mackey. Mrs. Mackey was standing at the door of the house; not
being a Benga woman, she saw no reason why she should retire before Ukuku,
and stood her ground. Ukuku went to their rendezvous in a rage, and the
Kombe portion demanded the life of the woman who not only had not hidden
her face in their presence, but had dared persistently to look upon them.
This demand was modified by the Benga portion to a fine; its alternative,
whipping, not even they daring to suggest for a white lady. This demand
for a fine was actually brought to Mr. Mackey, who gave a dignified reply,
pointing out that, as foreigners, white people were not subject to Ukuku;
that Ukuku had trespassed on mission private property, and was itself
responsible for being seen; that, as a Christian, in no case could he
recognize the authority of Ukuku to order or fine him. In reply, Ukuku
made the point that it was the government of the country, and that even
foreigners were bound to obey law. (Corisco actually belonged to Spain,
but Spain in no way exercised any visible authority over it.)

They admitted their trespass on private property, but still demanded the
fine. Mr. Mackey made no further reply; and of course, as a matter of
conscience, refused to pay the fine. But it transpired afterwards that
native friends, fearful lest matters should come to an ugly pass through
his refusal, privately paid the fine themselves. The missionary, unaware
of this, thought he had triumphed; really Ukuku had, but not
unqualifiedly, for it was a shock to its power that it should have been
disputed at all, even by a white man.

About the same time a young slave man who was beginning to attend church
with desire to become a Christian, was sitting in a village where was
being held a meeting of the local Ukuku Society. The object of the meeting
was to alarm and drive back to a more constant performance of fetich
observances some of the villages on which heathenism was beginning to lose
its hold. In the course of his oracular deliverances the Ukuku priest
mentioned by name this young man. In his fresh zeal as a convert he made a
protest; perhaps duty did not call for even that just at the time, but he
even went beyond. As he was able to recognize the voice, though disguised,
and knew who its owner was, he made a fatal mistake in saying, "You,
such-a-one, I know who you are; you are only a man; why are you troubling
me?" He was promptly dragged to the seaside and decapitated.

While converts felt the propriety of abandoning their membership in the
society and any participation in its ceremonies, the mission had not
required of them nor deemed it desirable that they should make a
revelation of its secrets. But it had occurred in the early history of the
mission that one young man, Ibia, a freeman, member of a prominent
family, had felt that in breaking away from heathenism and becoming a
Christian he should cast off the very semblance of any connection with
evil or even tacit endorsement of it. He knew the society was based on a
great falsehood. As a lad he had believed Ukuku was a spirit; on his
initiation he had found that this was not so; but loyal to his heathenism
and to his oath, he had assented to the lie and had assisted in
propagating it. He was known for the fearlessness of his convictions, and
in his conversion he to a rare degree emerged from all superstitious
beliefs. Few emerge so utterly as he. He therefore publicly began to
reveal the ceremonies practised in the Ukuku meetings. At once his life
was in danger. The two pioneer missionaries, Rev. Messrs. Mackey and
Clemens, were men of exceptional strength of character and wise judgment,
and had obtained a very strong hold on the respect and affection even of
the heathen. Their influence, united with a small party of Ibia's own
family and a few of the more civilized chiefs, was able to save his life,
he being guarded in the mission-house until the fierceness of heathen rage
should abate. But, though his enemies presently ceased from open efforts
to kill him by force, they proclaimed that they would kill him by means of
the very witchcraft power he was despising. They said they would concoct
fetich charms which would destroy the life of his child, and that they
would curse the ground on which he trod so that it should sicken his feet.
Not long afterwards his infant child did die, and one of his feet for more
than a year had a painful ulcer. The coincidence was startling, and
somewhat triumphant for the heathen; but infant mortality is large even
among natives, and phagedenic ulcers of the leg are very common. Ibia
recognized his afflictions as a trial of his faith permitted by God. He
came out of his fiery trial strong, and his life since has been that of a
reformer, uncompromising with any evil, earning from his own people their
ill-will by his scathing denunciations of anything that savored of
superstition. He became the Rev. Ibia j'Ikěngě, member of Corisco
Presbytery and pastor of the Corisco church; and Ukuku has long since
ceased to exist as a power on the island.

Like all government intended for the benefit and protection of the
governed, Ukuku, when it happened to throw its power on the side of right,
was occasionally an apparent blessing. It could end tribal quarrels and
proclaim and enforce peace where no individual chief or king would have
been able to accomplish the same result. In this connection I quote from
an editorial in a Sierra Leone newspaper:

"Much of the ideas of our western civilization as to native African
institutions have been crude and uninformed, based on misconception and a
predisposition to consider such institutions as an outcome of barbarism
and savagery, to be treated with unmitigated contempt. But as the light of
modern researches is reflected on the question by sympathetic students who
have brought an unprejudiced mind to bear on the subject, if haply they
might discover the hidden truths underlying the fabric which age, custom,
and intellect have combined to construct into a national system, it is
becoming more and more apparent to those who are interested in the
material progress of Africa and the Africans and who are believers in the
fact that native races have a civilization of their own capable of
development and expansion on right lines, that the study of such questions
should be intelligently and scientifically pursued, and with a purpose to
help those concerned in their onward progress towards the attainment of
moral, social, and intellectual liberty.

"That [some] native [governmental] institutions have wielded, and are
wielding, a power for good in the several communities belonging to each
distinctive tribe, is a fact that cannot be disputed or contested, in the
past as well as in the present. The Aro of the Yorubas [in the Niger
Delta], the Porroh of the Mendis [of Sierra Leone], and the Bondo of the
mixed mass who inhabit Sherbro-land, have and exercise judicial functions
exemplary and disciplinary in their effects. By their means law and order
are observed to such an extent that many of the unrestrained and rowdy
outbursts cowardly indulged in by so-called civilized communities and
people are practically unknown.

"These institutions are connected with and govern the agencies that work
in the sociology of all communities, such as the marriage laws; the
relation of children to parents and of sex to sex; social laws; the
position of eldership and the deference to be paid to age and worth;
native herbs and medicines, and the duties of the native doctor to the
other members of the community."

On one occasion in 1861 the Rev. William Clemens took a young Benga man
from Corisco Island to locate him as evangelist in the bounds of a
mainland heathen tribe where there was some doubt as to the young man's
safety. The village chief, though a heathen and entirely uninterested in
the religious aspect of the case, was alive to the fact that the presence
among his people of this young protégé of the white man would increase his
tribal importance, and that his people themselves would derive a pecuniary
benefit from even the small amount of money that would be spent on the
evangelist's food. He therefore voluntarily offered to call an Ukuku
meeting and have a law enacted that no one should machinate against the
Benga's life by fetiches of any kind. Mr. Clemens declined the offer. If
he accepted Ukuku's authority to defend him, he might some day be called
on to submit to the same power as an authority to punish him. He wisely
avoided an entangling alliance. He told the chief that he preferred to
entrust his protégé to his care and to rely on his promise rather than on
Ukuku's. This compliment put the chief on his mettle; the evangelist's
protection became to him a case of _noblesse oblige_.

The power of this society was often used as a boycott to compel white
traders as to the prices of their goods, using intimidation and violence
after the manner of trades unions in civilized countries. This was true
all along the West Coast of Africa wherever no white government had been
established. It ceased at Libreville, in the Gabun country, after the
establishment of a French colony in 1843, with a white governor, a squad
of soldiers, police, and a gunboat. Also at other trade centres such as
Libreville, Ukuku early lost its position, for the population was too
heterogeneous and there were too many diverse interests. At the large
trading-houses were gathered native clerks and a staff of servants as
cooks, personal attendants, boatmen, etc., representing a score of tribes
from distant parts of the coast. Whatever obedience they gave to similar
societies in their tribes, they did not feel bound by the local one, to
which they were strangers; and they were disposed, under a community of
trade interests with their employers, to disregard the society of the
local tribe, to many of whom they felt themselves socially superior.

But at Batanga, in what is now the Kamerun colony of the German
Government, the Ukuku Society forty years ago carried itself with a high
hand. Batanga was not then claimed by any European nation, and the number
of white men were few. Its trade in ivory was one of the richest on the
West Coast of Africa,--so rich that the Batanga people became arrogant.
Some of them disdained to make plantations of native food supply, and
lived almost entirely on foreign imported provisions, taking in exchange
for their abundant ivory barrels of beef, bags of rice, and boxes of
ship's biscuit. It was a case of demand and supply. The native got what he
wanted in goods, and the white man obtained the precious ivory. But in the
competitions of trade, fluctuations in the market, and the growing demand
of the natives for a higher price, there came days when some white man,
seeing the margin of his per cent of gain becoming too narrow, refused the
current price. Doubtless often the white men were arbitrary, not only in
prices but also in other matters. Doubtless, also, the natives were often
exorbitant in their demands. When the differences became extreme, the
native chiefs called in the aid of Ukuku. The phrase was to "put Ukuku" on
the white man's house. The trader was boycotted. He stood as under a major
excommunication. No one should buy from, or sell to him. No one should
work for him. He was deserted by cook, steward, washerman, and all other
personal attendants. Sentinels stood on guard to prevent food being
brought to him, or even to prevent his lighting a fire in his own kitchen
if he should attempt to cook for himself.

The white trader generally succeeded in breaking down the interdict put
upon him by these means, _viz._ (1) He had in his house a supply of canned
goods and ship's biscuit, with which he would not starve. (2) His Negro
mistress almost always remained faithfully with him, secretly assisting
him, divulging to him the plans of her own people,--as in the history of
Cortes and the conquest of Mexico. She dared to do this, being tacitly
upheld by her own family. The position of "wife" to a white man was
considered by the natives an honorable one, and was sought by parents for
their daughters. It was an exceptional source of wealth for them. (3) If
other means failed, the trader could almost always break the boycott by
bribes of rum. Time was money to him; often, indeed, in a malarial country
it was life to him. Though time was worth nothing to the natives, the rum
they had learned to love became a necessity to them. In cutting the white
man from their ivory, they had cut themselves from the white man's rum. A
judicious expenditure of demijohns in proper quarters generally enabled
Ukuku to revoke his own law. Then, perhaps, the white man would make some
slight concession.

I had an experience of this kind in the Benita country in 1868. I had been
there several years. There was growth in the desire for the good things
that money can buy, but wages and prices had remained unchanged. I was
obtaining all I needed of both labor and food without difficulty. Had I
had any difficulty, I should naturally have offered more inducement. I was
not aware that there was any discontent. None of my employees had asked
for a rise, nor had people, in selling their produce, complained of the
price I gave.


Suddenly, one morning, a company of about twenty men, led by an ambitious
heathen whose manner had always been dictatorial to me and to whom I had
shown no favor, filed into the public meeting-room of our mission-house. I
knew them all; none were in my employ, nor were any of them Christians.
As if they thought it was hopeless to attempt to obtain anything from me
by petition or respectful request, they seemed to have decided to stake
all on a demand and threat. They suddenly and harshly began, "We've come
to order you to change prices." Naturally I felt nettled and replied that
I saw no reason why I should take orders from them. They rose in a rage
and said, "Then we'll put Ukuku on you--(1) no one shall work for you; (2)
no one shall sell you food or drink; (3) you shall not go yourself to your
spring;" and with a savage yell they left the house. Instantly a great
terror fell on the native members of my household. Those who were heathen
dropped work and went to their villages. Those who were Christians came to
me distressed, saying that they desired to obey me, but they feared the
interdict. I relieved the situation for them by excusing them from further
work "till I should call them," and refrained from ringing the call-bell
at the usual work hour.

With me were Mrs. Nassau, our child's nurse, my sister Miss I. A. Nassau,
and two native girls, members of another tribe. Nurse was a foreigner, a
Christian Liberian woman, who was not amenable to the interdict. Some of
my Christian employees, though not working, remained on the premises. A
few visitors came in the afternoon,--some, as sincere friends, to
sympathize; some in curiosity, to see how we were feeling; and some as
spies, to see what we were doing. The interdict, except as an expression
of ill-will and a possible check to my mission work, did not trouble me.
As to food, I had an ample supply of canned provisions, sufficient for a
long siege. In refusing to sell me their native products, the people would
miss more than I should. As to work, the cleaning of the premises was not
pressing and could safely be neglected. As to drinking-water, enough could
be caught from the roof in the almost daily rains. Food and labor were
their own, to refuse if they chose. But the spring was on my premises and
belonged to me. To refrain from going to it might be deemed cowardice; at
least it would be obeying an order of what Ukuku claimed was a spirit. An
order from men I might submit to under compulsion; to submit to this
spirit went against my conscience. After prayer and consideration
overnight, Mrs. Nassau fully agreed with me that it was right I should
make a demonstration at the spring. In parting with her next morning, as I
took up a bucket to go to the spring, she knew I might not return alive. A
sandy path led through low bushes to the spring, several hundred yards
distant. I saw no one on the way nor at the spring. I filled the bucket
and was turning homeward, when a spy, armed with a spear, jumped out of
his ambush and ordered me to leave the water. As I did not do so, but
started to walk over the path, he stabbed at my back. I thrust the spear
aside and faced him, but walking backward all the time kept my eye
steadily on his. He feared my eye (most native Africans cannot stand a
white man's fixed look) and did not attempt to stab me in front, but tried
to spill the water in the bucket and stab me from behind. But the bucket
and its contents I guarded, as he struck at it from right to left, by
rapidly changing it from left to right with one hand and warding off the
spear with the other. Still walking backward, and keeping my eye on him,
the bucket and I reached the house in safety.

He hastened to the native villages, whence soon I heard a great outcry. A
company of Christian natives came in haste, saying that Ukuku was on his
way to assault the house, and that they and other young men, even some who
were not Christians, would fight for me against their heathen parents if I
could provide them powder. I supplied them. Then they bade me hasten and
fasten all doors and windows.

The mission dwelling consisted of two houses joined by a covered
veranda,--one, a one-storied bamboo; the other framed of boards, one and a
half story. Mrs. Nassau was in the latter, closing it. Before I had
finished closing the former, the enemies came, and I was alone in the
bamboo house. Shots rattled against the walls. Through the chinks I could
see the young men were guarding all entrances and firing. I think that in
this difficult situation, defending me against their own people, they
purposely fired wide, for no one was even wounded. But their armed stand
checked the enemies, who then soon retired. In after years these were
ashamed of their assault, and tried to minimize it, when it was related to
new missionaries, by representing that they did not intend to kill me. I
accepted that as a kindly after-thought. Certainly the spy at the spring
intended, and tried hard, to kill me. Certainly, also, their gunshots left
their marks on the walls of the bamboo house, and, for aught they knew,
had penetrated the thin walls and might have struck me.

That their interdict had been successfully broken, and that, too, by the
aid of their own sons, was a great blow to the Ukuku party. It was the
beginning of the end of its power. Four years later, while I was absent on
my furlough, the number of the church-members having largely increased,
two young men, themselves of strong character and imbued with the courage
of my able successor at Benita, Rev. Samuel Howell Murphy, deliberately
determined to "reveal Ukuku." They walked through a village street openly
shouting to the women that "Ukuku is only a man." At once their lives were
demanded; but so many of their companions stood up for them, and said to
their fathers, "The day you kill those two you will have to kill all of
us, for we all say also that Ukuku is only a person," that Ukuku was
amazed. Nevertheless the society met. But when the members looked in each
other's faces, each one knew that in voting to put to death the other
men's sons, he was voting also against his own son. The society could have
dared to kill one or two, but to kill a score! They shrank from it. Every
one thought of his own son thus involved, and the great lie was exposed
and died.

In 1879, on the Ogowe River, at my interior station, Kângwe, near the town
of Lambarene, one hundred and thirty miles up the course of the river, I
had a similar experience with that same society, known there in the Galwa
tribe by the name of Yasi.

In my new work on the Ogowe, I pursued toward that society the same course
I had followed with Ukuku at Benita. I preached simply the gospel of
Christ; but it is true that the gospel touches mankind in all their human
relations. I therefore was not silent about such sins as slavery and
polygamy, any more than I would be silent about the sins of drunkenness or
theft. All these were practices the evil of which in serious moments most
natives would admit, however much they chose still to persist in them. But
witchcraft was their religion; they believed in it. To attack it openly
would only offend, and I would lose the personal influence which I was
able to exercise in quiet, private discussions. Yasi, though a falsehood,
was their government. To attack it would have simply emptied my church of
every heathen auditor, and would have debarred any women or children from
receiving further instruction. I could afford to bide my time, for the
entering wedge of Christian principles to overthrow what I could never
have removed by direct onslaught. In conversations with my heathen
friends, the native chiefs, in their own houses, when no women or children
happened to be present, I would expostulate with them against such a mode
of government. I told them I would render them respect and even obedience,
if as persons they should enact laws affecting me as a person, but that I
could give neither respect nor obedience to what they knew I knew was a
lie. They looked troubled, and replied, "Yes, that's so, but don't tell it
to the women." And I did not. Nevertheless, in my untrammelled
conversations in the mission-house with my own Christian male employees, I
was not careful to be silent if our school-boys happened to be present;
and these same employees in their own dormitories deliberately and
intentionally told the boys of the falsities of their tribal
superstitions. They were right. This was Christian principle, working as I
desired it should. Inevitably there grew up a generation of lads who began
to deride Yasi, and said that they would never join the society.

There came one day a delegation of them led by two Christian young men,
Mâmbâ and Nguva, asking my permission to play a mock Yasi meeting. I asked
them, "Will you dare to play that same play in your own villages?" "No, we
would be afraid." "Then don't do here what you are unable to carry out
elsewhere. I cannot defend you in your own villages. You are safe here;
wait until you are stronger and more numerous. Just now your play will
create confusion." Nevertheless they did play, with the result which I had
foretold. The chiefs were deeply enraged. They "put Yasi" on my house,
which meant that I was not to be visited nor sold any food. There was a
report, also, that the mission premises were to be assaulted with guns.
The loss of food supply was a serious difficulty. I did not need any for
myself and sister, nor for the two young missionaries, both of them laymen
who were visiting me from a sea-coast station, and who could not
understand the case in all its aspects, for they had never met with the
society's power; it did not exist at their station, having been broken
before they came to Africa. But how was I to feed thirty hungry
school-boys? I had to send most of them away to their distant homes down
the river; and my canoes returned with a temporary food supply that they
had been able to buy at places on the route where news of the interdict
had not as yet been officially carried.

The dozen young men who remained with me I armed with guns obtained from a
neighboring trading-house, and I posted sentinels every night to guard
against sudden assault. I went to the native villages and met a council of
several chiefs. They seemed desirous to keep on friendly terms with
myself, but they were angry at their own children. They took me to task
for my warlike preparations. These I told them were for defence, that I
would use the guns only when they compelled me to do so. Then they
complained that I had taught their children to disobey them. I denied,
stating that one of the greatest of God's commands which I had taught them
was to honor their parents. But I added that the Father in Heaven claimed
priority even to an earthly parent; and how could children really honor
parents who were persistently deceiving them about Yasi, who they knew was
only a person? They winced, and looking towards some women who were
passing by, said, "Don't speak so loud, the women will hear you." They
made another complaint, _viz._, that I was trying to change their customs;
they bade me leave them alone in their customs; I could keep my white
customs, and they would keep theirs. I frankly told them that I would be
pleased to see some of their customs which were evil changed, but that
neither I nor any other missionary could compel them to change; that,
nevertheless, these customs would be changed in their and my own lifetime.
They were terribly aroused, and swore, "Never! never! You can't change
them." "No, not I; but they will be changed." "Never! Who can or who will
do it?" "Your own sons." "Then we will kill our own sons."

They seemed to transfer their anger against me to their own children. The
interdict against my house was not formally removed, but it was not
rigidly enforced. I no longer felt it necessary to post sentinels at
night, and secretly, at night, a sister of one of these very chiefs sold
me food for my family. But the heathen rage spread down the river to the
villages of the disbanded school children and native Christians. One of
these, Nguva, was seized, chained, and offered to Yasi "to be eaten." He
was rescued by a daring expedition made by my two lay missionary visitors,
who went in my six-oared gig with my twelve enthusiastic young native
Christian workmen. They went fifteen miles down river, were secretly
directed by one of the little school-boys to the village where Nguva was
chained in stocks, assaulted the village at the mid-afternoon hour, when
almost all the men were away, cut Nguva from the stocks, and brought him
in triumph to my house. But in their retreat up the river they had for a
distance of five miles been subjected to a fusillade of native guns from
both sides of the river. The river was wide, and they kept in mid-stream,
and no one was injured. But the consequences of that resort to arms made
me much trouble after my visitors had safely returned to their seaside
station. According to native law, I, and not my guests, was held as the
responsible party, and the affair was not satisfactorily settled until
some months afterward.

My prophecy came true; less than ten years later little children were
playing Yasi as amusement in the village streets. Nguva became an elder in
the church. He is now dead. His chain is a trophy in the Foreign Board's
Museum, 156 Fifth Avenue, New York City.

Mâmbâ still lives, working faithfully as a church elder and evangelist.



In most tribes of the Bantu the unit in the constitution of the community
is the family, not the individual. However successful a man may be in
trade, hunting, or any other means of gaining wealth, he cannot, even if
he would, keep it all to himself. He must share with the family, whose
indolent members thus are supported by the more energetic or industrious.
I often urged my civilized employees not to spend so promptly, almost on
pay-day itself, their wages in the purchase of things they really did not
need. I represented that they should lay by "for a rainy day." But they
said that if it was known that they had money laid up, their relatives
would give them no peace until they had compelled them to draw it and
divide it with them. They all yielded to this,--the strong, the
intelligent, the diligent, submitting to their family, though they knew
that their hard-earned pay was going to support weakness, heathenism, and

Not only financial rights, but all other individual rights and
responsibilities, were absorbed by the superior right and duty of the
family. If an individual committed theft, murder, or any other crime, the
offended party would, if convenient, lay hold of him for punishment. But
only if it was convenient; to this plaintiff justice in the case was fully
satisfied if any member of the offender's family could be caught or
killed, or, if the offence was great, even any member of the offender's

Families recognized this custom as proper, and submitted to it; for the
family expected to stand by and assist and defend all its members,
whether right or wrong. Each member relied upon the family for escape from
personal punishment, or for help in their individual weakness or

In getting a wife, for instance, no young man had saved up enough to buy
one. His wages or other gains, year after year, beyond what he had
squandered on himself, had been squandered on members of his family. The
family therefore all contributed to the purchase of the wife. Though he
thenceforth owned her as his wife, the family had claims on her for
various services and work which neither he nor she could refuse.

If in the course of time he had accumulated other women as a polygamist,
and, subsequently becoming a Christian, was required to put away all but
one (according to missionary rule), it was difficult for him to do so, not
because of any special affection for the women involved in the dismissal,
nor for pity of any hardship that might come to the women themselves.
True, they would be a pecuniary loss to him; but his Christianity, if
sincere, could accept that. And the dismissal of the extra women does not,
in Africa, impose on them special shame, nor any hardship for
self-support, as in some other countries. The real trouble is that they
are not his to dismiss without family consent. The family had a pecuniary
claim on them, and the heathen members thereof are not willing to let them
go free back to their people. If this man puts them away, he must give
them to some man or men in the family pale who probably already are
polygamists. The property must be kept in the family inheritance. Thus,
though attempting to escape from polygamy himself, this man would be a
consenting party in fastening it on others. His offence before the church
therefore would still be much the same.

For such concentrated interests as are represented in the family, there
naturally would be fetiches to guard those interests separate from the
individual fetich with its purely personal interests.

Respect for the family fetich is cognate to the worship of the spirits of
ancestors. Among the Barotse of South Africa, for this worship, "they have
altars in their huts made of branches, on which they place human bones,
but they have no images, pictures, or idols."

Among the Mpongwe tribes of Western Equatorial Africa, "the profound
respect for aged persons, by a very natural operation of the mind, is
turned into idolatrous regard for them when dead. It is not supposed that
they are divested of their power and influence by death, but, on the
contrary, they are raised to a higher and more powerful sphere of
influence, and hence the natural disposition of the living, and especially
those related to them in any way in this world, to look to them, and call
upon them for aid in all the emergencies and trials of life. It is no
uncommon thing to see large groups of men and women, in times of peril or
distress, assembled along the brow of some commanding eminence or along
the skirts of some dense forest, calling in the most piteous and touching
tones upon the spirits of their ancestors.

"Images are used in the worship of ancestors, but they are seldom exposed
to public view. They are kept in some secret corner, and the man who has
them in charge, especially if they are intended to represent a father or
predecessor in office, takes food and drink to them, and a very small
portion of almost anything that is gained in trade.

"But a yet more prominent feature of this ancestral worship is to be found
in the preservation and adoration of the bones of the dead, which may be
fairly regarded as a species of relic worship. The skulls of distinguished
persons are preserved with the utmost care, but always kept out of sight.
I have known the head of a distinguished man to be dissevered from the
body when it was but partly decomposed, and suspended so as to drip upon a
mass of chalk provided for the purpose. The brain is supposed to be the
seat of wisdom, and the chalk absorbs this by being placed under the head
during the process of decomposition. By applying this to the foreheads of
the living, it is supposed they will imbibe the wisdom of the person whose
brain has dripped upon the chalk."[59]

In the Benga tribe, just north of the equator, in West Africa, this family
fetich is known by the name of Yâkâ. It is a bundle of parts of the bodies
of their dead. From time to time, as their relatives die, the first joints
of their fingers and toes, especially including their nails, a small
clipping from a lobe of the ear, and perhaps snippings of hair are added
to it. But the chief constituents are the finger ends. Nothing is taken
from any internal organ of the body, as in the composition of other
fetiches. This form descends by inheritance with the family. In its honor
is sacredly kept a bundle of toes, fingers, or other bones, nail
clippings, eyes, brains, etc., accumulated from deceased members of
successive generations. This is distinctly an ancestor worship.

"The worship of ancestors is a marked and distinguishing characteristic of
the religious system of Southern Africa. This is something more definite
and intelligible than the religious ceremonies performed in connection
with the other classes of spirits."[60]

What was described by Dr. Wilson as respect for the aged among the tribes
of Southern Guinea forty years ago, is true still, in a large measure,
even where foreign customs and examples of foreign traders and the
practices of foreign governments have broken down native etiquette and
native patriarchal government. "Perhaps there is no part of the world
where respect and veneration for age are carried to a greater length than
among this people. For those who are in office, and who have been
successful in trade or in war, or in any other way have rendered
themselves distinguished among their fellow-men, this respect, in some
outward forms at least, amounts almost to adoration, and proportionately
so when the person has attained advanced age. All the younger members of
society are early trained to show the utmost deference to age. They must
never come into the presence of aged persons or pass by their dwellings
without taking off their hats and assuming a crouching gait. When seated
in their presence, it must always be at a 'respectful distance,'--a
distance proportioned to the difference in their ages and position in
society. If they come near enough to hand an aged man a lighted pipe or a
glass of water, the bearer must always fall upon one knee. Aged persons
must always be addressed as 'father' (rera, lale, paia) or 'mother' (ngwe,
ina). Any disrespectful deportment or reproachful language toward such
persons is regarded as a misdemeanor of no ordinary aggravation. A
youthful person carefully avoids communicating any disagreeable
intelligence to such persons, and almost always addresses them in terms of
flattery and adulation. And there is nothing which a young person so much
deprecates as the curse of an aged person, and especially that of a
revered father."

The value of the Yâkâ seems to lie in a combination of whatever powers
were possessed during their life by the dead, portions of whose bodies are
contained in it. But even these are of use apparently only as an actual
"medicine," the efficiency of the medicine depending on the spirits of the
family dead being associated with those portions of their bodies. This
efficiency is called into action by prayer, and by the incantations of the

"In some cases all the bones of a beloved father or mother, having been
dried, are kept in a wooden chest, for which a small house is provided,
where the son or daughter goes statedly to hold communication with their
spirits. They do not pretend to have any audible responses from them, but
it is a relief to their minds in their more serious moods to go and pour
out all the sorrows of their hearts in the ear of a revered parent.

"This belief, however much of superstition it involves, exerts a very
powerful influence upon the social character of the people. It establishes
a bond of affection between the parent and child much stronger than could
be expected among a people wholly given up to heathenism. It teaches the
child to look up to the parent, not only as its earthly protector, but as
a friend in the spirit land. It strengthens the bonds of filial affection,
and keeps up a lively impression of a future state of being. The living
prize the aid of the dead, and it is not uncommon to send messages to them
by some one who is on the point of dying; and so greatly is this aid
prized by the living that I have known an aged mother to avoid the
presence of her sons, lest she should by some secret means be despatched
prematurely to the spirit world, for the double purpose of easing them of
the burden of taking care of her, and securing for themselves more
effective aid than she could render them in this world.

"All their dreams are construed into visits from the spirits of their
deceased friends. The cautions, hints, and warnings which come to them
through this source are received with the most serious and deferential
attention, and are always acted upon in their waking hours. The habit of
relating their dreams, which is universal, greatly promotes the habit of
dreaming itself, and hence their sleeping hours are characterized by
almost as much intercourse with the dead as their waking hours are with
the living. This is, no doubt, one of the reasons of their excessive
superstitiousness. Their imaginations become so lively that they can
scarcely distinguish between their dreams and their waking thoughts,
between the real and the ideal, and they consequently utter falsehood
without intending, and profess to see things which never existed."[61]

All that is quoted above from Dr. Wilson is still true among tribes not
touched by civilization. What he relates of the love of children for
parents and the desire to communicate with their departed spirits is
particularly true of the children of men and women who have held honorable
position in the community while they were living. And it is also all
consistent with what I have described of the fear with which the dead are
regarded, and the dread lest they should revenge some injury done them in
life. The common people, and those who have neglected their friends in
any way, are the ones who dread this. The better classes, especially of
the superior tribes, hold their dead in affectionate remembrance.

I have met with instances of the preservation of a parent's brains for
fetich purposes, as mentioned above by Dr. Wilson. As honored guest, I
have been given the best room in which to sleep overnight. On a flat
stone, in a corner of the room, was a pile of grayish substance; it was
chalk mixed with the decomposed brain-matter that had dripped on it from
the skull that formerly had been suspended above. I then remembered how,
on visiting chiefs in their villages, they frequently were not in the
public reception-room on my arrival, but I was kept awaiting them. They
had been apprised of the white man's approach, had retired to their
bedrooms, and when they reappeared, it was with their foreheads, and
sometimes other parts of their bodies, marked with that grayish mixture.
The objects to be attained were wisdom and success in any question of
diplomacy or in a favor they might be asking of the white man.

Around the doctor and his power is always a cloak of mystery which I have
not been able to solve entirely, and of which the natives themselves do
not seem to have a clear understanding. The other factors in their fetich
worship have to them a degree of clearness sufficient to make them able to
give an intelligible explanation. It is plain, for instance, that the
component parts of any fetich are looked upon by them as we look upon the
drugs of our _materia medica_. It is plain, also, that these "drugs" are
operative, not as ours, by certain inherent chemical qualities, but by the
presence of a spirit to whom they are favorite media. And it is also clear
that this spirit is induced to act by the pleasing enchantments of the
magic doctor. But beyond this, what? Whence does the doctor get his
influence? What is there in his prayer or incantation greater than the
prayer or drum or song or magic mirror of any other person? For,
admittedly, he himself is subject to the spirits, and may be thwarted by
some other more powerful spirit which for the time being is operated by
some other doctor; or he may be killed by the very spirit he is
manipulating, if he should incur its displeasure.

Belief in the necessity of having the doctor is implicit, while the
explanation of his _modus operandi_ is vague, and he is feared lest he
employ his utilized spirit for revenge or other harmful purpose. A patient
and his relatives who call in the services of a doctor are therefore
careful to obey him, and avoid offending him in any way.

The Yâkâ is appealed to in family emergencies. Suppose, for instance, that
one member has secretly done something wrong, _e. g._, alone in the
forest, he has met and killed a member of another family, devastated a
neighbor's plantation, or committed any other crime, and is unknown to the
community as the offender. But the powerful Yâkâ of the injured family has
brought disease or death, or some other affliction, on the offender's
family. They are dying or otherwise suffering, and they do not know the
reason why. After the failure of ordinary medicines or personal fetiches
to relieve or heal or prevent the continuance of the evil, the hidden Yâkâ
is brought out by the chiefs of the offender's family. A doctor is called
in consultation; the Yâkâ, is to be opened, and its ancestral relic
contents appealed to. At this point the fears of the offender overcome
him, and he privately calls aside the doctor and the older members of the
clan. He takes them to a quiet spot in the forest and confesses what he
has done, taking them to the garden he had devastated, or to the spot
where he had hidden the remains of the person he had killed. If this
confession were made to the public, so that the injured family became
aware of it, his own life would be at stake. But making it to his Yâkâ,
and to only the doctor and chosen representatives of his family, they are
bound to keep his secret; the doctor on professional grounds, and his
relatives on the grounds of family solidarity. The problem, then, is for
the doctor to make what seems like an expiation. The explanation of this,
as made to me, is vague. I am uncertain whether the Yâkâ of the injured
family is to be appeased or the offender's own Yâkâ aroused from dormant
inaction to efficient protection, or both. The Yâkâ bundle is solemnly
opened by the doctor in the presence of the family; a little of the dust
of its foul contents is rubbed on the foreheads of the members present; a
goat or sheep is killed, and its blood sprinkled on them, the while they
are praying audibly to the combined ancestor-power in the Yâkâ. These
prayers are continued all the while the doctor, who makes his incantations
long and varied, is acting. The sanctifying red-wood powder ointment is
rubbed over their bodies, and the Yâkâ spirit having eaten the life
essence of the sacrificed animal, its flesh is eaten by the doctor and the
family. The Yâkâ bundle is tied up again, and again is hidden away in one
of their huts, care being taken to add to it from the body of the member
who next dies. The curse that had fallen on them is supposed to be wiped
out, and the affliction under which they were lying is believed to be

Recently (1901) a Mpongwe man had gone as a trader into the Batanga
interior. He was sick at the time of his going, one of his legs being
swollen with an edematous affection, so much so that people in the
interior, natives of that part of the country, and fellow-traders,
wondered that he should travel so far from his home in that condition. He
said he was seeking among different tribes for the cure he had failed to
obtain in his own tribe. Later on, he died. He happened to die alone,
while others who lived with him, one of them a relative, were temporarily
out of the house. The suddenness of the death aroused the superstitious
beliefs of the relative, and he rushed to the conclusion that it had been
caused by black art machinations of some enemy. But of the whereabouts or
the personality of that enemy he had not even a suspicion. He cut from the
dead man's body the first joints of his fingers and all the toe-nails, put
them in the hollow of a horn, and closed its opening, intending to add its
contents to his family Yâkâ when he should return to Gabun. Then he waved
the horn to and fro toward the spirits of the air, held it above his head,
and struck it on the back of his own neck, uttering at the same time an
imprecation that as his relative had died, so might die that very day,
even as he had died, the unknown enemy who had caused his death.

There is another family "medicine," still used in some tribes, that was
formerly held in reverence by the Banâkâ and Bapuku tribes of the Batanga
country of the German Kamerun colony. It was called "Malanda." For
description of it see Chapter XVI.

Another medicine similar to the Yâkâ in its family interest is called by
the Balimba people living north of Batanga, "Ekongi." The following
statement is made to me by intelligent Batanga people who know the
parties, and who believe that what they report actually occurred.

At Balimba, in the German Kamerun territory, lived a man, by name Elesa.
He possessed a little bundle containing powerful fetich medicines, so
compounded that they constituted the kind of charm known as Ekongi. Like
Aladdin's lamp, and almost as powerful, it warned him of danger, helped
him in all his wishes, assisted him in his emergencies, and when he was
away from it, as it was hidden in one of his chests in his house, caused
him to be able to see and hear anything that was plotted against him. Only
he could handle it aright; no one else would be able to manage it.

A brother-in-law of Elesa, husband of his sister, knew of this Ekongi, and
asked Elesa to loan it to him in order that he also might be successful in
some of his projects.

Now, the peculiarity of the Ekongi medicine is that it acts for and
assists only the family of the person who owns it. Elesa refused his
brother-in-law, telling him that as they did not belong to the same
family, he would not know what to do with a strange Ekongi, nor would
Ekongi be willing to answer a stranger.

The brother-in-law knew perfectly well that this was the manner of all
Ekongi medicine; but he was so covetous and so foolishly determined that
he hoped that in some way this Ekongi might be of use to him if only he
could possess himself of it.

One day Elesa went off into the forest on a hunting trip, leaving his
Ekongi safely locked in a chest in his house. The brother-in-law obtained
a number of keys, and going secretly to Elesa's house, tried them on the
various chests stored in the back room. Finally a key fitted, and a lock
turned. Suddenly the lid flew up, and out of the now opened chest jumped
the little Ekongi bundle, followed by all the goods that had been packed
in the chest; and these spread themselves at his feet,--yards of cloth,
and hats, and shirts, and coats, and a multitude of smaller articles. He
rejoiced at the success of his effort. His covetousness overcame him. He
said to himself that he would put back Ekongi into the chest, would lock
it, gather up all this wealth and carry it away; and no one would see
them, or know that the chest had been opened by him.

He started to step forward, but his feet were held fast by some invisible
power. He tried to stoop down to lay hold of some of the goods within
reach, but his arms and back were held fast and stiff by the same
invisible power. And he realized that he was a prisoner in Ekongi's hands.

Off in the forest Elesa, in his chase, was enabled by his Ekongi to see
and know what was going on in his house. He saw his brother-in-law's
attempt at theft, and that his unlawful eyes had looked on the sacred
Ekongi. He abandoned the chase that day, and came back in great anger to
his house. There was his brother-in-law rooted to the spot on which he
stood, the chest open and empty, and the goods scattered on the floor.

Elesa controlled his anger, and at first said nothing. He quietly took a
chair from the room out into the street and sat down on it, opposite to
the doorway, as if on guard. Then he spoke: "So! now! You have looked on
my Ekongi! And you have tried to steal! I will not speak of the shameful
thing of stealing from a relative.[62] That is a little thing compared
with the sin you have done of looking on what was not lawful for your
eyes. We are of different families. I will punish you by taking away my
sister, your wife. You shall stand there until you agree to deliver up
your wife, and also an amount of goods equal to what you paid for her."
The brother-in-law began to plead against the hard terms, and offered to
put his father into Elesa's hand instead of the wife. But Elesa insisted.

The brother-in-law's father, at a distant village, possessed also his own
family Ekongi, which enabled him to see and know what was being said and
done at Elesa's house. He was angry at the hard terms demanded; according
to native view, he would defend any one of his family, even if he were in
the wrong. A native eye does not look at essential wrong or right; it
looks at family interest. His son's attempt at theft did not disturb him.
It was enough that Elesa had seized his son as prisoner. He snatched up
his spear, and hasted away to quarrel with his marriage relative Elesa.

On reaching the house, he saw his son still standing helpless, and Elesa
seated, still pressing his hard terms on him. The father said to Elesa,
"You are not doing well in this matter. Let my son go at once!"

Elesa refused, saying, "He wanted that which was sacred to me. He has
looked upon it and has desecrated it. I will not agree that the angry
Ekongi shall let him go free. He shall pay his ransom." After a long
discussion Elesa changed his terms, and demanded a money substitute of one
thousand German marks in silver ($250). The father also receded from his
demand that the son should be released unconditionally. And after further
discussion the father, having saved both his son and himself from the
first terms of the ransom, returned again to the question of a person
instead of money, and offered his daughter in marriage instead of the
$250. Elesa accepted. He picked up the now satisfied Ekongi, and put it
back into the chest; and all the scattered goods followed it, drawn by its
power. And when the lid was again closed down and locked, the
brother-in-law felt his limbs suddenly released from constriction, and was
able to walk away.

This was gravely told me by my cook, a member of the Roman Catholic
church, and was endorsed by a woman of my own church, who was present
during the recital.

My friend the late Miss Mary H. Kingsley, on page 273 of her "Travels in
West Africa," mentions an incident which shows that she had discovered one
of these Yâkâ bundles, though apparently she slid not know it as such and
suspected it to be a relic of cannibalism. It is true, however, that she
did come in contact with cannibalism. She had been given lodging in a room
of a house in a Fang village in the country lying between the Azyingo
branch of the Ogowe River and the Rěmbwe branch of the Gabun River. On
retiring at night, she had observed some small bags suspended from the
wall. "Waking up again, I noticed the smell in the hut was violent, from
being shut up, I suppose, and it had an unmistakably organic origin.
Knocking the end off the smouldering bush-light that lay burning on the
floor, I investigated, and tracked it to those bags; so I took down the
biggest one, and carefully noted exactly how the tie-tie (rattan rope) had
been put around its mouth; for these things are important, and often mean
a lot. I then shook its contents out in my hat for fear of losing anything
of value. They were a human hand, three big toes, four eyes, two ears, and
other portions of the human frame. The hand was fresh, the others only
so-so and shrivelled. Replacing them, I tied the bag up, and hung it up
again." It was well she noticed a peculiarity in the tying of the
calamus-palm string or "tie-tie." A stranger would not have been put in
that room of whose honesty or honor there was doubt. White visitors are
implicitly trusted that they will neither steal nor desecrate.

Another family medicine in the Batanga region is known by the name of
Mbati. An account of the mode of its use was given me in 1902 by a Batanga
man, as occurring in his own lifetime with his own father. The father was
a heathen and a polygamist, having several wives, by each of whom he had
children. One day he went hunting in the forest. He observed a dark object
crouching among the cassava bushes on the edge of a plantation. Assuming
that it was a wild beast wasting the cassava plants, he fired, and was
frightened by a woman's outcry, "Oh! I am killed!" She was his own niece,
who had been stooping down, hidden among the bushes as she was weeding the
garden. He helped her to their village, where she died. She made no
accusation. The bloodshed being in their own family, no restitution was
required, nor any investigation made. The matter would have passed without
further comment had not, within a year, a number of his young children
died in succession; and it began to be whispered that perhaps the murdered
woman's spirit was avenging itself, or perhaps some other family was using
witchcraft against them. A general council of adjacent families was
called. After discussion, it was agreed that the other families were
without blame; that the trouble rested with my informant's father's
family, which should settle the difficulty as they saw best, by inflicting
on the father some punishment, or by propitiation being made by the entire
family. The latter was decided on by the doctors. They gathered from the
forest a quantity of barks of trees, leaves of parasitic ferns, which were
boiled in a very large kettle along with human excrement, and a certain
rare variety of plantain, as small as the smallest variety of banana. To
each member of the family present, old and young, male and female, were
given two of these unripe plantains. The rind does not readily peel off
from unripe plantains and bananas; a knife is generally used. But for this
medicine the rinds were to be picked off only by the finger-nails of those
handling them, and then were to be shredded into the kettle in small
pieces, also only by their finger-nails. A goat or sheep was killed, and
its blood also mixed in. This mess was thoroughly boiled. Then the doctor
took a short bush having many small branches (a tradition of hyssop?), and
dipping it into the decoction, frequently and thoroughly sprinkled all the
members of the family, saying, "Let the displeasure of the spirit for the
death of that woman, or any other guilt of any hidden or unknown crime, be
removed!" The liquid portion of the contents of the kettle having been
used in the propitiatory sprinkling, the more solid pottage-like debris
was then eaten by all members of the family, as a preventive of possible
danger. And the rite was closed with the usual drum, dance, and song. My
informant told me that at that time, and taking part in the ceremonies,
was his mother, who was then pregnant with him. The Mbati medicine seems
to have been considered efficient, for he, the seventh child, survived;
and subsequently three others were born. The previous six had died. Though
two of those three have since died, in some way they were considered to
have died by Njambi (Providence), _i. e._, a natural death; for it is not
unqualifiedly true that all tribes of Africa regard all deaths as caused
by black art. There are some deaths that are admitted to be by the call of
God, and for these there is no witchcraft investigation.

The father also is dead. My informant and one sister survive. They think
the Mbati "medicine" was satisfactory, notwithstanding that the sister
believes that their father was secretly poisoned by his cousins, they
being jealous of his affluence in wives and children.

The last step in the Mbati rite is the transplanting of some plant. A
suitable hole having been dug at one end, or even in the middle of the
village street, each person takes a bulb of lily kind, probably a crinum
or an amaryllis, such as are common on the rocky edges of streams, and
pressing it against their backs and other parts of their body, and with a
rhythmic swaying of their bodies plant it in the hole. Thereafter these
plants are not destroyed. They are guarded from the village goats by a
small enclosure, and should at any time the village remove, the plants are
also removed and replanted on the new site. Such plants are seen in almost
every village.



In the great emergencies of life, such as plagues, famines, deaths,
funerals, and where witchcraft and black art are suspected, the aid or
intervention of special fetiches is invoked, as has been described in the
Yâkâ and other public ceremonies. The ritual required in such cases is
often expensive, as money is needed for the doctor's fee, for purchase of
ingredients and other materials for the "medicine," and in the
entertainment of the assemblage that always gather as participants or

There is also loss in time, little as the native African values time, and
slow as he is in the expedition of any matter. Houses that should be
erected and gardens that should be planted are neglected while the rite to
be performed is in hand. It may require even a month. During that time
either the favorable season for building or planting may have passed, or
the work has only partly been completed. The division of the seasons into
two rainy (of three months each) and two dry (a short hot and a long cool)
make it desirable, as in the temperate zones, for certain work to be done
in certain seasons.

But for the needs of life, day by day, with its routine of occupations,
whose outgoings and incomings are known and expected, the Bantu fetich
worshipper depends on himself and his regular fetich charms, which,
indeed, were made either at his request by a doctor (as we would order a
suit of clothes from a tailor), or by himself on fetich rule obtained from
a doctor; and when paid for, the doctor is no longer needed or
considered. The worshipper keeps these amulets and mixed medicines hanging
on the wall of his room or hidden in one of his boxes. But he gives them
no regular reverence or worship, no sacrifice or prayer, until such times
as their services are needed. He knows that the utilized actual spirits
(or at least their influence), each in its specific material object, is
safely ensconced and is only waiting the needs of its owner to be called
into action.

These needs come day by day. Almost daily some one in the village is
hunting, warring, trading, love-making, fishing, planting, or journeying.

_For Hunting._ The hunter or hunters start out each with his own fetich
hanging from his belt or suspended from his shoulder; or, if there be
something unusual, even if it be not very great, in the hunt about to be
engaged in, a temporary charm may be performed by the doctor or even by
the hunters themselves. This is the more likely to be done if there is an
organized hunt including several persons. Such ceremonies preliminary to
the chase are described by W. H. Brown[63] as performed by an old
witch-doctor among the Mashona tribe: "Fat of the zebra, eland, and other
game was mixed with dirt and put into a small pot. Then some live coals
were placed on the grease, which caused it to burn, so that clouds of
thick smoke arose. The huntsmen sat in a circle around the pot, with the
muzzles of their old flint-locks and cap-guns sticking into the smoke. In
unison they bent over and took a smell of the fumes, and at the same time
called out the name of the 'medicine' or spirit they were invoking, which
was Saru, saying thus, 'Saru, I must kill game; I must kill game, Saru!
Now, Saru, I must kill game!'

"After this performance was finished, each of the candidates in turn sat
down near the doctor, to be personally operated upon by him. He placed a
bowl of medicated water upon the huntsman's head, and stirred it with a
stick while the latter repeated the names of all the kinds of game he
wished to kill. This was to ascertain whether or not the hunt was to be
successful. If any of the water splashed out and ran down over the
patient's head and face, success was assured. If not a drop had left the
bowl, then the huntsman might as well have laid aside his gun and assegai,
for his efforts would have been doomed to failure."

Among the Matabele of Southeast Africa, "when they are about to start for
the chase, they arrange themselves in a circle at sunset, and the doctor
comes with the bark of a tree filled with medicine, and with his finger
marks the chiefs on the forehead, in order to give them authority over the

_For Journeying._ No journey of importance is made without preparation of
a fetich, to which more forethought and time and care are given than to
the preparation of food, clothing, etc., for the way. Arnot[64] describes
the process: "On behalf of a caravan to start for Bihe, Msidi and his
fetich priests have been at work a whole month, preparing charms and so
forth. The process in such a case is first to divine as to the dangers
that await them; then to propitiate with the appointed sacrifices to
forefathers (in this case two goats were killed); afterwards to prepare
the charms necessary either as antidotes against evil or to secure good.
The noma or fetich spear to be carried in front of the caravan, with
charms secured to it, was thus prepared. The roots of a sweet herb were
tied around the blade; then a few bent splinters of wood were tied on,
like the feathers of a shuttle-cock. In the cage thus formed, there were
placed a piece of human skin, little bits of the claws of a lion, leopard,
and so forth, with food, beer, and medical roots; thus securing,
respectively, power over their enemies, safety from the paws of fierce
animals, food and drink, and finally health. A cloth was sewn over all,
and finally the king spat on it and blessed it. After all these
performances they set out with light hearts, each man marked with sacred

"Before starting on a journey a man will spend perhaps a fortnight in
preparing charms to overcome evils by the way and to enable him to destroy
his enemies. If he is a trader, he desires to find favor in the eyes of
chiefs and a liberal price for his goods."


_For Warring._ So implicit is African faith in signs, charms, and
auspices, that when the sign before going into war is inauspicious, the
natives' hopelessness of success sometimes makes them seem almost
cowardly. Among the people of Garenganze in Southeast Africa, "when the
chiefs meet in war, victory does not depend on merely strength and
courage, as we should suppose, but on fetich 'medicines.' If some men on
the side of the more powerful chief fall, they at once retire and
acknowledge that their medicines have failed, and they cannot be induced
to renew the conflict on any consideration."[65]

Among the Matabele, "before a war the doctors concoct a special medicine,
and taking some of the froth from it, mark with it the forehead of those
who have already killed a man."

A native of Batanga recently described to me the war-fetich as formerly
prepared by his people. The medicine for it is arranged for thus. A house
is built at least several hundred yards from the village. There will be
present no one but the doctor, who eats and sleeps there while he is
arranging with the spirits and deciding on the medicine. After two days he
tells the people that he has finished it, that his preparations are ready,
and that they must assemble at his house. He tells them to bring with them
a certain shaped spear with prongs. Men have already gathered in the
village, to the number of several hundred, waiting for the war. The doctor
chooses from among them some man whom he sends to the forest to get a
certain ingredient, a red amomum pod. (It contains the "Guinea grains," or
Malaguetta pepper, which taste like cardamom seeds, which a century ago
were so highly valued in Europe that only the rich could buy them.) Then
the doctor and the man, leaving the crowd, go together to the forest with
knife and machete and basket. They may have to go several miles in order
to find a tree called "unyongo-muaele." The doctor holds the chewed amomum
seeds in his mouth, and blows them out against the tree, saying,
"Pha-a-a! The gun shots! Let them not touch me!" The assistant holds the
basket while the doctor climbs the tree and rubs off pieces of loose bark
which are caught in the basket as they fall. They then go on into the
forest to find another tree named "kota." There he blows the chewed seeds
in the same way saying the same,--"Pha-a-a! Thou tree! Let not the bullets
hit me!" And the assistant, with basket standing below, catches the bark
scraped down as the doctor climbs this tree.

They return to the village and enter the doctor's house. No women or
children may enter the house or be present at the ceremonies. The men
bring into the house a very big iron pot, and the doctor says, "This is
what is to contain all the ingredients of the medicine." Then the doctor,
with two other men, takes that spear by night, leaving all the other men
to occupy themselves with songs of war, while the townspeople are asleep;
they go to the grave of some man who has recently died. They dig open the
grave, and force off the lid of the coffin. The doctor thrusts the spear
down into the coffin into the head of the corpse. He twirls the spear
about in the skull, so as to get a firm grip on it with the prongs of the
spear. He changes his voice, and speaking in a hoarse guttural manner
says, "Thou corpse! Do not let any one hear what I say! And do not thou
injure me for doing this to you!" When the spear is well thrust into the
skull, he stoops into the grave, and with a machete cuts off the head. He
goes away carrying the head on the spear-point. While doing all this, he
wears not the slightest particle of clothing. They go back to the village
to the doctor's house; and there they catch a cock, and in the presence of
the crowd the doctor twists (not cuts) off its head. The blood of the cock
is caught in a large fresh leaf. He takes the fowl to the big pot, and
lets some of its blood drip into it. The head of the corpse is also put
into the pot, with water, and all the other ingredients, including the
spear. The bullets of the doctor's gun are also to go into the pot, which
is then set over a fire.

After the water has boiled the doctor takes a furry skin of a bush-cat,
and all the hundreds of men stand on one side in a line. He dips the skin
into the pot, and shakes it over them. As he thus sprinkles them, he lays
on them a prohibition, thus: "All ye! this month, go ye not near your
wives!" All that month is spent by them practising war songs and dances.

Then the doctor takes the blood that was collected on the leaf, and mixes
it with powdered red-wood. This mixture is tied up with the human head in
a flying-squirrel's skin. He hangs this bundle up in the house over the
place where he sits. The body of the fowl next day is torn in pieces, not
cut with a knife, and placed in a small earthen pot with njabi oil (the
oil of a large pulpy forest fruit), and ngândâ (gourd) seeds. An entire
fresh plantain bunch is cut, and successive squads of the men peel each
man his small piece with his finger-nails. These also they shred with
their nails, part into the pot, and part on a plantain leaf, as the pot is
small, and all the pieces will be added as the contents of the pot are
gradually reduced. The doctor himself lifts the pot from the fire, and
first eats of the mess, and then gives each of the men, with his hand, a
small share.

When all have finished eating, he opens the bundle that had been tied in
the squirrel skin, and with the fibrous inner bark of a tree,
kimbwa-mbenje (from which formerly was made the native bark-cloth),
sponges the red rotten stuff on their breasts, saying, "Let no bullet come
here!" Then, led by the doctor, they march in procession to the town.
There he tells the people of the town to try to shoot him, explaining that
he does not wish any one to be in doubt of the efficacy of the charm. As
he leads the procession, he holds the bundle in his hand, shouting, "Budu!
hah! hah! Budu! hah! hah!" The "hah" is uttered with a bold aspiration.
This is to embolden his followers. ("Budu! hah!" does not mean anything;
it is only a yell.) The people are terrified, though he is still shouting
to them to fire at him. He is safe; for he leads the procession to where
is stationed a confederate, who does fire at him point blank from a gun
from which the bullets have been removed. It is a triumph for him! The
crowd see that not only he does not fall dead, but he is not even wounded!
The charm has turned aside the bullets!

The townspeople are then invited to join the procession. They stand up
with the doctor and his crowd, and dance the war-dance. When the dancing
is ended, he takes the bundle and anoints all the townspeople, even the
women and children. And the men go to their war, sure of victory. But the
doctor himself does not go; he remains safely behind, saying that it is
necessary for him to watch the bundle in his house. Defeat in the war is
easily explained by saying that some one in the crowd had spoiled the
charm by not obeying some item in the ritual.

_For Trading._ One method is described to me by a Batanga native who had
seen it used by a certain man of his tribe. This man obtained the head of
a dead person who had been noted for his intelligence. This he kept hidden
in his house, lying in a white basin. To assure himself that it should be
seen by no one else, he built a small hut in the behu (kitchen-garden),
detached from his dwelling, and into which none but himself and wife
should enter. There he kept the head in its basin. When he had occasion to
go to a white man's trading-house to ask for goods or any other favor, he
first poured water into this basin, mixed it with the decomposed brain
that had oozed from the skull, and washed his cheeks in this dirty water.
He also took some brain-matter, mixed it with palm-oil, and rubbed it over
his hands. Then, on his going to the trading-house, when the white man
shakes hands with him and looks on his face, he will be pleased and
generously disposed, and will grant any request made.

My informant told me that when he was a lad he assisted his father in
using another method. His father was intimate with white men, trading
extensively with them in ivory. To increase his credit, he set out to make
a new fetich. He called the son to accompany him to the forest, and handed
him a basket to carry. They searched among the trees until they found two
growing near together, but bent in such a way toward each other that their
trunks crossed in contact, and were rubbed smooth by abrasion; and when
violently rubbing, in a storm, gave out a creaking sound. In that
mysterious sound inhered the fetich power. He chose the trees, not for any
value in their kind, but because of their singular juxtaposition and their
weird sounds. He gathered bark from these trees, and the son carried the
basketful back to their village. The father fixed the time of arrival and
point of entrance so that they should not be seen as they came to their
house. He then went out to the behu (kitchen-garden) and plucked four ripe
plantains (mehole); and gathered leaves of a certain tree, by name "boka."
An earthen pot containing water and pieces of the twin-tree bark was set
over the fire, and into the pot were finely sliced the mehole and the boka
leaves. To these were added a certain kind of fish, by name "hume," a
bottle of palm-oil, gourd seeds, and ground-nuts. All these were
thoroughly boiled together. When they were sufficiently boiled, he lifted
off the pot from the fire, not by his hands, but by clasping its hot sides
with his feet, as he sat on a low stool, and placed it on the ground.
Sitting by it, he held his face over it, with a cloth thrown over his
head, thus inhaling the steam. He remained in this steam bath for about an

At food time he cut two pieces of leaves from plantains, spread them on
the ground and sat on them, and ate the mess that was in the pot. While
eating, he uttered into the pot adjurations, _e. g._, "Let no one, not
even a Mabeya tribesman, hinder me from the white man's good-will! When I
go some day to make my request to the white man, let him grant it!" When
he had finished eating, he told his son to carry the pot into an inner
room and deposit it in a large box, which the father opened for that
purpose. The pot was not washed; it still contained the remains of the
pottage. He told his son to reveal to no one what they had done.

That very day he heard that his trade friend in the adjacent inferior
Mabeya tribe had obtained an ivory tusk for him. He at once started out
alone to meet his friend on the way, so as to be sure that it would not be
carried to some one else; but not as on other ordinary journeys. He was to
look neither to the right nor to the left (as if watchful of possibly
ambushed enemies), nor to look back, even if called by name; but with eye
straightforward, to walk steadily to the goal. Before starting, he had
rubbed some of the pottage mess on his hand and tongue. On reaching the
Mabeya village, his friend did not hesitate or haggle about the price, but
promptly told him to take the tusk. Before selling it to the white trader,
he scraped some ivory flakes from the outside of the tusk, put them into a
decanter with two bottles of rum (before foreign liquor was known, native
plantain beer was used) and pieces of the twin-tree bark. When
subsequently he had occasion to go to the trading-house, he first drank a
little from this decanter.

Another Bwanga-bwa-Ibâmâ, or trade medicine, is concocted as follows: A
man who decides to make one for himself does not allow any one but his
wife to know what he is about to do. He gathers from the forest leaves of
a tree, by name "kota," the skin of a flying-squirrel (ngunye), from some
dead person the nail from the fourth or little finger (of either hand),
and the tip of the tongue, some drops of his wife's menses, a solution of
red-wood powder, and the long tail-feathers of a forest bird, by name
"kilinga." He then provides himself with an antelope's horn. Having burned
the squirrel skin, he puts its ashes into the horn, mixed with the
above-named articles, including the feather, whose end is allowed to stick
out. Then, with the gum of the okume, or African mahogany tree, he closes
the mouth of the horn, as with a cork, to prevent the liquid contents from
escaping. This horn he suspends by a string from his neck or shoulder
whenever he takes it with him on a journey. He uses it in his trade
dealings with both whites and blacks. Before beginning a bargain or asking
a white trader or another person for gifts of goods, he secretly pulls out
the feather through the soft gum, and rubs a little of the liquid on the
end of his nose. When this fetich is not in use, it is hidden in his
bedroom or other private part of his house. But no one, not even his own
family, is allowed to know where it is kept.

Among the Mpongwe tribes of the equator in West Africa there are trade
medicines that involve actual murder. One of these is called "Okundu."
Like modern spiritualism, it seeks to employ a human medium to communicate
with the dead; but it is unlike spiritualism in that the medium must
actually be killed before he can go on his errand.

In the case of a man who seeks to become wealthy in trade and goes to a
magic doctor for that purpose, the doctor tells him of the different kinds
of medicine, and some of the most important things required for each. The
seeker may choose what he is able and willing to do. For Okundu medicine
it is required that the seeker shall name some one or more of his
relatives who he is willing should die, and that their spirits be sent to
influence white traders or other persons of wealth, and make them
favorably disposed toward the seeker, so that they may employ him in
positions of honor and profit. If the seeker hesitate to do the actual
murder, the doctor, by his black art, is to kill the person nominated and
send him on his errand. If the fear should occur to the seeker that
perhaps the murdered relative, instead of devoting himself in the
spirit-world to the trade interests of his murderer, should attempt to
avenge himself, the subject is dismissed by the doctor's assurance that
either the spirit shall not know that the death of its body was premature,
or that he will overrule it for the desired purpose.

I know, personally, a Mpongwe man still living in Gabun who is believed to
have done this Okundu. He is of prominent family, and had held lucrative
service with white traders. His fortunes began to wane; he fell into debt,
and white men began to doubt him and hesitated to entrust him. Though
wearing the dress of a civilized gentleman, he is a heathen at heart. He
had a little slave boy. The child suddenly and mysteriously disappeared.
Those who asked questions received evasive and contradictory answers. A
very reliable native told me that it was known that this man had been
communicating with an Okundu doctor, and many believed that the child had
been put to death. But no one dared to say anything openly, and there was
not sufficient proof on which to lay an information before the French
governor, only a mile distant.

Another Mpongwe trade medicine is Mbumbu (which means "rainbow"). Old
tradition said that the rainbow was caused by a forest vine which a great
snake had changed to the form of the sun-colored arc. The seeker of wealth
is aided by the doctor to obtain a piece of this rainbow, which he keeps
in secret, and can carry hidden with him. By it he is able at any time to
kill any one of his relatives whom he may choose (of course unknown to
them) and send their spirits off to induce foreign traders to give him a
store of goods (the children's pot of gold at the rainbow's end?).

_For Sickness._ Among the Mpongwe and adjacent tribes there are three
kinds of spirits invoked, according to the character of the disease. These
are Nkinda, Ombwiri, and Olâgâ.

It is clear that these, as explained in a previous chapter, are names of
spirits, but the same names (as in the case of other fetich mixtures) are
given to the medicines in whose preparation they are invoked. But my
informants differed in their opinions whether these names indicate
different kinds of spirits, or only a difference in the functions or works
done by them. One very intelligent and prominent native at first seemed
uncertain, but subsequently said that "Nkinda" indicated the spirits of
the common dead; "Ombwiri" the spirits of distinguished dead, kings, and
other prominent men; and "Olâgâ," a higher class, who had been admitted to
an "angelic" position in the spirit-world. All, however, asserted that all
these are spirits of former human beings. Which kind shall be invoked
depends on the doctor's diagnosis of the disease.


Take the case of some one who has been sick with an obscure disease that
has not yielded to ordinary medication: the doctor begins his
incantations with drum and dance and song. This is sometimes kept up all
night, and in minor cases the patient is required to join in these
ceremonies. But in the more mystic Nkinda, Ombwiri, and Olâgâ the sick
person sits still, being required to do so as a part of the diagnosis. For
if after a while the patient shall begin to nod his head violently, it is
a sign that a spirit of some one of these three classes has taken
possession of him. The doctor then takes him to a secret place in the
forest, and asks the spirit what kind it is, and what the nature of the
disease. The reply, though made by the patient, is not supposed to be his,
but the spirit's who is using his mouth. Really the sick, dazed,
submissive patient does not know what he is saying. After this diagnosis
the doctor goes to seek plants suitable for the disease. By chance the
patient may recover. If he does not, the doctor asserts that the spirit
had misinformed him, and the ceremony must be performed again.

One of the physical signs indicating that Olâgâ, rather than Nkinda or
Ombwiri, is the medicine to be used, is vomiting. Hemorrhages from the
lungs would be included in the Olâgâ diagnosis.

"Among the Mashonas of South Africa a 'medicine' used is a small antelope
horn called 'egona,' in which was a mixture of ground-nut oil and a
medicinal bark known as 'unchanya.' The concoction is taken out on the end
of a stick termed 'mutira,' and administered to the patient by dropping it
into his ear. The doctor stated that it was a sure cure for headache.

"Another horn, four inches long, called 'mulimate,' was for the purpose of
cupping and bleeding, and is used in this wise: An incision is made with a
knife into the body, the large end of the horn is placed over the wound;
then a vacuum is formed by the doctor's sucking the air out through an
opening at the little end. The small hole is closed with wax, and the horn
is left until it has become filled with clotted blood. This is the process
of curing rheumatism and other maladies, which are supposed by the
Mashonas to be literally drawn out with the blood. Bleeding is practised
extensively; and I have seen natives bled from arms, legs, body, and head
until they were so exhausted that weeks were required for their recovery.

"Another important instrument was a brush made of a zebra's tail, among
the hairs of which were tied many small roots and herbs possessing various
medicinal properties. One of the remedies was known as 'gwandere,' and,
taken internally, was a sure cure for worms, so the doctor stated. The
brush was called 'muskwa,' this being the name of any animal's tail. The
doctor demonstrated its use by operating upon a man in my presence. He
placed some powdered herbs in a bowl of water, then dipped the brush in,
and sprinkled the patient. Next, he performed several magic evolutions
with the brush around the patient's body, at the same time repeating, 'May
the sickness leave this person!' and so forth. The doctor told me that
after this operation the patient was certain of recovery, unless some
witch or spirit intervened to prevent it or to cause his death."[66]

_For Loving._ Love philtres are common, even among the civilized and
professedly Christian portion of the community. Philtres are both male and
female. If a woman says to herself, "My husband does not love me; I will
make him love me!" or if any woman desires to make any man love her, she
prepares a medicine for that purpose. This charm is called "Iyele." The
process is as follows: First, she scrapes from the sole of her foot some
skin, and lays it carefully aside. Next, when she has occasion to go to
the public latrine at the seaside or on the edge of the forest, she washes
her genitals in a small bowl of water, which she secretly carries to her
house. Then, with a knife, she scrapes a little skin and mucous from the
end of her tongue. These three ingredients she mixes in a bottle of water,
which is to be used in her cooking.

The most attractive native mode of cooking fish and meat is in jomba
("bundle"). The flesh is cut into pieces and laid in layers with salt,
pepper, some crushed oily nut, and a little water. These all are tied up
tightly in several thicknesses of fresh green plantain leaves, and the
bundle is set on a bed of hot coals. The water in the bundle is converted
into steam before the thick fleshy leaves are charred through. The steam,
unable to escape, permeates the fibres of the meat, thoroughly cooking it
without boiling or burning.

When the above-mentioned woman cooks for the man, her husband, or any
other for whom she is making the philtre, the water she uses in the jomba
is taken from that prepared bottle. This jomba she sets before him, and he
eats of it (unaware, of course, of her intention, or of the special mode
of preparation). It is fully believed that the desired effect is
immediate; that, as soon as he has finished eating, all the thoughts of
his heart will be turned toward this woman, and that he will be ready to
comply with any wish of hers. No objection to her, or to what she says,
coming from any other person in the village, male or female, will be
regarded by him.

I know a certain Gabun woman who boasted of her power, by the
above-described means, to cause a certain white man whom she loved (but
who was not her husband) to do anything at all that she bade him.

Also a small portion from that bottle may be poured (secretly) into the
glass of liquor that is to be drunk by a favored guest. This is practised
alike on visitors, white or black.

The process of making a love charm by a man is more elaborate. The
ingredients are more numerous and require more time in their collection.
Having fixed his desire on some woman, he decides in his heart, "I am
going to marry such and such a woman in such and such a village!" But he
keeps his intention entirely secret. He proceeds to make the male charm
called "Ebâbi." (I do not know the origin of this word; it looks as if it
belonged to the adjective "bobâbu" = soft, which is a derivative of the
verb "bâbâkâ," to yield, to consent, to soften.) The first ingredient is
coconut oil, which is poured into a flask made of a small gourd or
calabash. Then, going to the forest, he gathers leaves of the bongâm tree.
Another day he will go again to the forest, and find leaves of the bokadi
tree. Then he plucks some hairs from his arm-pits, and puts them and the
bruised leaves, with some of his own urine, into the flask. This flask he
then suspends from his kitchen roof above the itaka frame or hanging-shelf
that in almost all kitchens is placed above the fire-hearth. It remains
there in the smoke for ten days. Then taking it down, he inserts into it,
tip downward, a long tail-feather of a large bird called "koka." He is
ready then for his experiment. Any day that he chooses to go to seek the
woman, he first draws out the feather, with whatever of the mixture clings
to it, and wipes it on his hands. His hands he then rubs over his face
rapidly and vigorously, saying, "So will I do to that woman!" He must
immediately then start on his journey. This act of anointing his hands and
face must have been his very last act before starting. And there are
several prohibitions. He must have thought beforehand of all things needed
to be done or handled, for after the anointing he must not touch any other
thing. In taking the gourd-flask from above the hanging-shelf he must not
touch the shelf. He must not rub or scratch his head. He must not handle a
broom. He must not shake hands with any one on the path to the woman's
village. All these prohibitions are in order that the anointed mixture may
not be rubbed off, or its effect counteracted by contact with anything
else. When he reaches the woman's village, he goes directly to her, and
clasping her on the shoulder, he rubs his hands downward on her arm,
saying, "You! you woman! I love you!" Instantly the medicine is operative,
and she is willing to go with him.

If it is only a love affair, she goes secretly. If he offers her marriage,
there is first the amicable settlement by the council that is then held by
the woman's family as to the amount of the dowry to be paid for her.
Presents having been given to her by him, the woman goes with the man
without further objection. On reaching his house, he points out to her the
gourd-flask hanging in the kitchen, and tells her, "Let that thing alone."
But he does not inform her what it is; nor does she know or suspect that
it is anything more than an ordinary fetich. Nor does any one else know;
for no one had been allowed to see him perform any part of the several
processes of the ritual in compounding the charm.

_For Fishing._ The prescription for making the fetich for success in
fishing is as follows: Go in the morning early, while the rest of the
villagers are asleep, to an adjacent marsh or pond. (Almost all African
villages are built on or near the bank of some stream or lake.) Find a
place where pond-lilies are growing. Wade into the pond, bend low in the
water, and pluck three lily-pads. There are water-spiders, called
"mbwa-ja-miba" (dogs of the water), generally running over the surface of
the water at such places; catch four of them. Gather also leaves of
another water-plant called "ngâma." All these articles leave in the
village in a safe place. When other fishers come in from the sea, go to
the beach to meet them; and if they have among their catch a certain fish
called "hume," having three spines, beg or buy it. This you are to dry
over the fire. Watch the daily fishing until some one has killed a shark;
obtain its heart, which also is to be dried. Take also a plate full of
gourd seeds (ngândâ) and some ground-nuts (mbenda); also five "fingers" of
unripe plantains cut from the living bunch on the stalk, and a tumblerful
of palm-oil. All these above-named ingredients are to be mixed in one pot
(which must be earthen) and are to be cooked in it. While the mess is
boiling, sit by, face over the pot, in the steam rising from it, and speak
into the pot, "Let me catch fish every day! every day!" No people are to
be present, or to see any of these proceedings. Take the pot off the fire,
not with your hands, but by your feet, and set it on the ground. Take all
your fish-hooks, and hold them in the steam arising from the pot. Take a
banana leaf that is perfect and not torn by wind, and laying it on the
ground, spread out the hooks on it. Then eat the stewed mess, not with a
real spoon, but with a leaf twisted as a spoon. In eating, the inedible
portions, such as fish-bones, skins, rind, and so forth, are not to be
ejected from the mouth on the ground, but must be removed by the fingers
and carefully laid on the banana leaf. Having finished eating, call one of
the village dogs, as if it was to be given liberty to eat the remains of
the mess. As the dog begins to eat, strike it sharply, and as the animal
runs away howling, say, "So! may I strike fish!" Then kick the pot over.
Take the refuse of food from the banana leaf, and the hooks, and lay them
at the foot of the plantain stalk from which the five "fingers" were cut.
Leave the pot lying as it was until night. Then, unseen, take it out into
the village street, and violently dash it to pieces on the ground, saying,
"So! may I kill fish!" It is expected that the villagers shall not hear
the sound of the breaking of the vessel; for it must be done only when
they are believed to be asleep. When the bunch of plantains from which
those fingers were taken ripens, and is finally cut down for food by
others, you are forbidden to eat not only of it, but of the fruit of any
of its shoots that in regular succession, year after year (according to
the manner of bananas and plantains), take the place of the predecessor
stalk. You may never eat of their fruit.

_For Planting._ Planting is done almost entirely by women. If a woman says
to herself, "I want to have plenty of food! I will make medicine for it!"
she proceeds to gather the necessary ingredients. She takes her ukwala
(machete), pavo (knife), short hoe (like a trowel), and elinga (basket),
and goes to the forest. She must go very early in the morning, and alone.
She gathers a leaf called "tubě," another called "injěnji," the bark
of a tree called "bohamba," the bark also of elâmbâ, and leaves of bokuda.
Hiding them in a safe place, she goes back to her village to get her
earthen pot. Returning with it to the forest, she makes a fire, not with
coals from the village, but with new, clean fire made by the two
fire-sticks. These, used by natives before steel and flint were
introduced, require often an hour's twirling before friction develops
sufficient heat to cause a spark. The sparks are caught on thoroughly
dried plantain fibre. Then she builds her fire. She goes to some spring or
stream for water to put in the pot with the leaves and barks, and sets it
on the fire. All this while she is not to be seen by other people. When
the water has boiled, she sets the pot in the middle of the acre of ground
which she intends to clear for her garden until its contents cool. In the
meanwhile she goes to some creek and gets "chalk" (a white clay is found
in places in the beds of streams). She washes it clean of mud and rubs it
on her breast. Then she takes the pot, and empties its decoction by
sprinkling it, with a bunch of leaves, over the ground, saying, "My
forefathers! now in the land of spirits, give me food! Let me have food
more abundantly than all other people!" Then she again sets the pot in the
middle of the proposed plantation. She takes from it the tubě leaves
and puts them into four little cornucopias (ehongo), which she rolls from
another large leaf of the elende tree. She sets these in the four corners
of the garden. Whenever she comes on any other day to work in the garden,
she pulls a succulent plant, squeezes its juice into the ehongo; and this
juice she drops into her eye. To be efficient, this medicine has a
prohibition connected with it, viz., that during the days of her menses
she shall not go to the garden.

When her plants have grown, and she has eaten of them, she must break the
pot. Having done so, she makes a large fire at an end of the garden, and
burns the pieces of earthenware so that they shall be utterly calcined. It
is not required that she shall stay by the fire awaiting that result. She
may, if she wishes, in the meanwhile go back to her village. She takes the
ashes of the pot, mixes them with chalk in a jomba (bundle) of leaves,
which she ties to a tree of her garden in a hidden spot where people will
not see it.

Another strict prohibition is required of her by the medicine, _viz._,
that she is not to steal from another woman's garden. If she break this
law, her own garden will not produce. The jomba is kept for years, or as
long as she plants at that place, and the chalk mixture is rubbed on her
breast at each planting season. From time to time also, as the leaves of
the jomba decay or break away, she puts fresh ones about it, to prevent
the wetting of its contents by raid or its injury in any other way.



The observances of fetich worship fade off into the customs and habits of
life by gradations, so that in some of the superstitious beliefs, while
there may be no formal handling of a fetich amulet containing a spirit,
nor actual prayer or sacrifice, nevertheless spiritism is in the thought,
and more or less consciously held.

In our civilization there are thousands of professedly Christian people
who are superstitious in such things as fear of Friday, No. 13, spilled
salt, etc. In my childhood, at Easton, Pa., I was sent on an errand to a
German farmhouse. The kind-hearted Frau was weeding her strawberry bed in
the spring garden-making, and was throwing over the fence into the public
road superfluous runners. I asked permission to pick them up to plant in
my own little garden. She kindly assented, and I thanked her for them,
whereupon she exclaimed, "Ach! nein! nein! Das ist no goot! You say, 'Dank
you'; now it no can grow any more!" I was too young to inquire into the
philosophy of the matter. Surely she would not forbid gratitude. I think
the gist of what she thought my error was, that I had thanked her for what
she considered a worthless thing and had thrown away. I do not think she
would have objected to thanks for anything she valued sufficiently to
offer as a gift.

The difference between my old Pennsylvania-Dutch lady and my "Number 13"
acquaintances, and my African Negro friend is that to the former, while
they are somewhat influenced by their superstition, it is not their God.
To the latter it is the practical and logical application of his religion.
Theirs is a pitiable weakness; his a trusted belief.

It would be impossible to enumerate all the thousands of practices
dominated by the superstitious beliefs of the Bantu,--practices which
sometimes erect themselves into customs and finally obtain almost the
force of law. Many of these are prevalent all over Africa; others are


Everywhere are rules of pregnancy which bind both the woman and her
husband. During pregnancy neither of them is permitted to eat the flesh of
any animal which was itself pregnant at the time of its slaughter. Even of
the flesh of a non-pregnant animal there are certain parts--the heart,
liver, and entrails--which may not be eaten by them. It is claimed that to
eat of such food at such a time would make a great deal of trouble for the
unborn infant. During his wife's pregnancy a man may not cut the throat of
any animal nor assist in the butchering of it. A carpenter whose wife is
pregnant must not drive a nail. To do so would close the womb and cause a
difficult labor. He may do all other work belonging to carpentering, but
he must have an assistant to drive the nails.

In my early years on Corisco Island, and while I was expecting to become a
father, I was one day superintending the butchering of a sheep. It was not
necessary that I should actually use the knife; that was done by the cook;
but I stood by to see that the work was done in a cleanly manner, and that
in the flaying the skin should be rolled constantly away, so that the hair
should not touch the flesh. In the dissection I assisted, so that the
flesh should not be defiled by a carelessly wounded entrail. My servant
was amazed, and said my child would be injured. He was still more shocked
when Mrs. Nassau herself came to urge haste and to secure the liver for

Among the station employees on Corisco in 1864 was an ex-slave, a recent
convert, whose freedom had been purchased by one of the missionaries. The
native non-Christian freemen begrudged him his position as a mission
employee; for his wages were now his own, and could no longer be claimed
by his former master. Some of his fellow-servants, freemen, put off on
him, as much as they could, the more menial tasks. It was incumbent,
therefore, on the missionaries to see that he was not oppressed by his
fellows. Clearing of the graveyard was a task no one liked to have
assigned to him; and it was often thrown on poor Evosa. One day a newly
arrived missionary, the Rev. George Paull, the noblest of my associates
these forty years, who just then knew little of the language or of native
thought or custom, ordered Evosa to take his hoe and clean the cemetery
path. Evosa bluntly said, "Mba haye!" (I won't). "You won't! You refuse to
obey me?" "Mba haye!" "Then I dismiss you." Evosa went away, much cast
down. Some of his fellow-Christians came to me saying they were sorry for
him, and asked me to interfere. "But," I said, "he should obey; the work
is not hard." "Oh! but he can't do it!" "Why not?" "Because his wife is
pregnant." Immediately I understood. Evosa may not have believed in the
superstition, but for all that, if he did the work and subsequently there
should be anything untoward in his wife's confinement, her relatives would
exact a heavy fine of him. We had not required our converts to disregard
these prohibitions, if only they did not actually engage in any act of
fetich worship. I was careful to say nothing to the natives that would
undermine my missionary brother's authority; but privately I intimated to
Mr. Paull that I thought that if he had been fully aware of the state of
the case, he would not have dismissed the man. He was just, and reversed
the dismissal. Evosa was pardoned also for the bluntness of his refusal;
it was a part of his slavish ignorance. In conclusion, I warned him that
he should have explained to Mr. Paull the ground of his refusal, and
should have asked for other work. He had not supposed that the white man
did not know; and the asking of excuse is a part of politeness that has to
be taught. Almost every new missionary makes unwise or unjust orders and
decisions before he learns on what superstitious grounds he is treading.
Not all are willing to be rectified as was my noble brother Paull.

In the burial of a first-born infant the lid of the coffin is not only not
allowed to be nailed down, but it must not entirely cover the corpse; a
space must be left open (generally above the child's head); the
superstition being that if the coffin be closed, the mother will bear no
more children.


Almost every traveller in Africa, in publishing his story, has much to say
about the difficulties in getting his caravan of porters started on their
daily journey. His detailed account of slowness, disobedience, and
desertions is as monotonous to the reader as they were distressing to
himself. Did he but know it, the fault was often largely his own. The man
of haste and exactitude, that has grown up on railroad time-tables,
demands the impossible of aborigines who never have needed to learn the
value of time. Anglo-Saxon, Teutonic, and even Latin diligence expects too
much of the happy-go-lucky African. The traveller fumes, and frets, and
works himself into a fever. He would gain more in the end if he would
_festina lente_. He would save himself many a quarrel or case of
discipline (for which he earns the reputation of being a hard master; and
for which, further on in the journey, he may be shot by one of his
outraged servants) if he only knew that superstition had met his servant,
as the angel "with his sword drawn" met Balaam's ass, "in a narrow place";
and that servant could no more have dared to go on in the way than could
that wise ass who knew and saw what his angry master did not know.

Mr. R. E. Dennett, for many years a resident in Loango among the Bavili
people, and author of "Seven Years among the Fjort," recognizes this in "A
Few Signs and Omens," contributed recently to a Liverpool weekly journal,
"West Africa." What he says of the Fyât (Fiot) tribes is largely true of
all the other West African tribes. "They have a number of things to take
into consideration, when setting out upon a journey, which may account
for many of those otherwise inexplicable delays which so annoy the white
man at times when anxious to start 'one time' for some place or other.

"The first thing a white man should do is to see that the Negro's fetiches
are all in order; then, when on the way, he must manage things so that the
first person the caravan shall meet shall be a woman; for that is a good
sign, while to meet a man means that something evil is going to happen.
Then, to meet the bird Kna that is all black is a bad sign; while the Kna
that has its wings tipped with white is a good sign.

"The rat Benda running across your path from left to right is good; from
right to left fairly good; should it appear from the left and run ahead in
the direction you are going, 'Oh! that is very good!' but should it run
towards you, well, then the best thing for you to do is to go back; for
you are sure to meet with bad luck!

"See that your men start with their left foot first, and that they are
'high-steppers'; for if their left foot meet with an obstacle, and is not
badly hurt, it is not a bad sign; but if their right foot knocks against
anything, you must go back to town.

"See that you do not meet that nasty brown bird called Mvia, that is
always crying out, 'Via, via'; for that means 'witch-palaver,' and strikes
consternation into your people. Nobody likes to be reminded of his sins or
witch deeds, and be condemned to be burnt in the fire; and that is what
'via' means.

"Then there is that moderately large bird with wings tipped with white
called 'Nxeci,' also reminding one of 'witch-palaver,' and continuously
crying out, 'Ke-e-e,' or 'No.' You had far better not start.

"Take care also to shoot the cukoo o Nkuku before it crosses your path;
for if you allow it to pass, you had better return; it is a bad omen.

"Then, concerning owls: see that your camp at night is not disturbed by
the cry of the Kulu (spirit of the departed), that warns you that one of
you is going to die; or that of the Xi-futu-nkubu, which means that you
may expect some evil shortly. On the other hand, let the Mampaulo-paulo
hoot as much as it likes; for that is a good sign.

"Then look out that the snake Nduma does not cross your path; for that is
a sign of death, or else of warning to you that you should return and see
to the fetich obligations the iron bracelet Ngofu reminds you of. Examine
your men, and ask those who wear the bracelet the following questions:
Have you eaten the flesh of anything (save birds) on the same day that it
was killed? Have you pointed your knife at any one? Did you know your wife
on the Day of Rest (Nsâna, Sunday)? Have you looked upon a woman during a
certain period of the month? Have you eaten those long 'chilli' peppers
instead of confining yourself to the smaller kinds?

"You must send those who have not the bracelet, together with those who
have not been true to ngofu, back to town, to set this 'palaver' right.
Take great care of your fowls, and see that you have no ill-regulated cock
to crow between 6 P. M. and 3 A. M., as that means that there is a palaver
in town to which your men are called, so that it may be settled at once.

"Then, there is that large bird Knakna, whose cry warns your men that
there is something wrong with the fetich Mabili ('the east wind,' on the
gateway at the east entrance to each town), and this knowledge will hang
as a dead weight on all their energies until they have just run back to
town to see what the matter may be.

"Get your men to sleep early, lest they should see the 'falling stars';
for it means that one of their princes is about to die, and that is
disquieting. Then don't let it thunder out of season; for that portends
the death of an important prince.

"And if you determine to go out fishing, and meet the rat Benda (as above
noted), go or not, as the signs command you. If you meet the bird Mbixi
that sings 'luelo-elo-elo,' go on your way rejoicing; or when the little
bird Nxexi, true to nature, sings 'xixexi,' all is well; but when it
sings, 'tietie,' go back, for you will catch nothing.

"Then there is the wild dog Mbulu; well, that must not cross your path at
starting. You laugh? Well, so did Nyambi, the brother of my headman,
Bayona; and what happened? Nyambi had come down from the interior with his
master; and after a short stay was ordered back to his trading post, his
master saying that he would follow him shortly. A friend handed him a son
of his for him to educate, and to attend upon him; in fact, to be his
'boy.' Everything being ready, he set out from Loango; and the first thing
they met on the road was the wild dog. Now Nyambi was a plucky Bantu and
took no notice of this warning, but continued on his way. On reaching the
forest country in Mayomba, the boy entrusted to him ran away. Nyambi, true
to his trust, came after him back to his town, to see that the boy was
once more placed in the care of his father, and so to avoid any further
complications. Then he once more started on his way, and, nearing the
forest country again, was bitten severely on the foot by a snake. He tied
a rag around his leg just under the knee, and another just above his
ankle, and squeezed as much blood as he could from the wound itself. Then
he hobbled into the nearest town, and waited there for assistance from his
family, to whom he had at once despatched a messenger. They sent men and
women to bring him back to Loango, where he arrived in a very weak
condition, and with a fearful sore on his foot,--an awful warning to all
those who will not take the omens sent to them in earnest! What! you still
laugh? Well, there is no hope for you; you are too persistent, and have
not read the story of the rabbit and the antelope, and of the trap laid
for the former.[67] And if you keep on laughing at these superstitions of
the natives, don't blame any one if they call you a 'rabbit,' and refuse
to follow you in your wanderings through their land. Most haste is very
often worst speed in Africa; and the white man who ignores all but
physical difficulties does well to stay his impatient hand when about to
strike his most provoking and apparently dilatory black carrier, who is
beset by endless moral obstacles retarding his progress as no physical
difficulties can."

When I was beginning my pioneering of the Ogowe River in
September-November, 1874, I had with me one Christian coast native. I
completed my canoe's crew with four heathen Galwa, placed myself under the
patronage of the Akele chief Kasa, resided in his village, and bought from
him a site, Belambila, for my mission station, about a mile distant from
him. Daily I went with my crew in the canoe to work at the building of a
temporary house on the Belambila premises. One day a water-snake crossed
the canoe's bow, and I struck at it. The Christian looked serious, and the
four heathen laid down their paddles. It was sufficiently disastrous that
the snake had crossed our path; I had made matters worse by attempting to
injure it. They said, "You should not have done that." "Why?" "Because
somewhere and sometime it will follow us and will bite us. Let us go back
to Kasa's." I refused, and insisted on our proceeding with the day's work.
I might better have yielded to their request. It was as if I were under an
Ancient Mariner's curse. My snake was as bad as his albatross. My men
either could not or would not. Everything went wrong. They worked without
heart and under dread. What they built that day was done with so many
mistakes that I had to tear it down. I did not fully appreciate at that
time, but I do not now think that they were intentionally disobedient or
recalcitrant. Just as well compel a crew of ignorant sailors to start
their voyage on a Friday. The fear of ominous birds and other animals is
over all Africa. In Garenganze, according to Arnot, "many have a
superstitious dread of the horned night-owl. Its cry is considered an evil
omen, which can only be counteracted effectually by possessing a whistle
made out of the windpipe of the same kind of bird.


"Jackals, wild dogs, also are very much disliked. The weird cry of one of
these animals will arouse the people of a whole village, who will rush out
and call upon the spirit-possessed animal to be quiet and leave them, or
to come into the village, and they will feed and satisfy it.

"When travelling, they are careful to notice the direction this animal may
take. Should its cry come from the direction in which they are going, they
will not venture a step farther until certain divinations have been
performed that they may learn the nature of the calamity about to befall

The chameleon is an object of dread to all natives wherever I have lived.
I have never met, even among the most civilized, any man or woman who
would touch one. For friendship, or to make a sale, they would bring it to
me at the end of a long stick, in my various efforts at zoölogical and
other collections.

The millepedes they also dread. I handle them with impunity, and my little
daughter, on the Ogowe, in 1888 did so too, under my example. But her
young Negro companions soon made her afraid. True, the adult millepede
ejects a dark liquid which stained my hands and which natives said was
poisonous if taken internally. (That I never tested.)

A native friend, one of my Batanga female church-members, a sincere
Christian, of bright mind but limited education, told me recently (1902)
of her belief in the chameleon as a bad omen. She was visiting relatives a
dozen miles north. Word was sent her to return, as another relative, a
woman in my Bongaheli village, was dangerously ill. Her host told her to
go, and advised her to gather on the way a certain fern, parasitic on
trees, that is used medicinally in the disease of which the woman was
sick. My friend started on her day's journey, came to the tree, and was
about to pluck the ferns when she observed a chameleon clasping the tree;
it stood still and looked at her. She instantly left the tree, abandoned
the ferns, went back to tell her host that a chameleon was in possession
of them and had stared at her, and that it was useless to gather the
medicine, for she was sure their relative was dead. And she resumed her
journey, coming back to Bongaheli in order to attend the mourning. It was
true; the relative was dead, and the mourning had begun. Her belief was
not shaken when I reminded her that that chameleon was only doing just
what all chameleons do when they are not walking, and when confronted by
any one. They all clasp the branch on which they happen to be, and stare
at their supposed pursuer, if unable to escape.


Formerly a strange superstition said that on him who should kill a leopard
there would come an evil disease, curable only by ruinously expensive
ceremonies of three weeks' duration, under the direction of the Ukuku
(Spirit) Society. So the natives allowed the greatest ravages, until their
sheep, goats, and dogs were swept away; and were aroused to self-defence
only when a human being became the victim of the daring beast. The carcass
of a leopard, or even the bones of one long dead, were not to be touched.

While I was living at Benita, about 1869, the losses by leopards became so
great that, in desperation, some of the braver young men, under my
encouragement, determined that the depredator should be caught. (Nothing
was just then said about what should be done with it when caught.) A trap
was built in one of the villages, and baited with a live goat. Soon a
leopard was entrapped. What to do with it was then the question. Some
favored leaving it alone till they could ask permission of Ukuku to kill
it, even if they had to pay heavily for the permission. Others, who had
heard me laugh at their superstition, proposed that I should be asked to
shoot it. They came at night; I willingly and promptly went with my
Winchester repeating rifle, which could easily be thrust into the chinks
between the logs of which the trap was built. When the animal was shot,
came the question, Who should remove it? None would touch it. Among my
employees were two young men of another tribe with whom that superstition
did not exist. With their aid I lifted the carcass upon a wheelbarrow, and
took it to a place where I could comfortably skin it. Some objected to my
retaining the skin. They wanted the whole animal put out of sight. But the
majority agreed that the skin should be my compensation for my rifle's
service. Then a deputation carefully followed me out on the prairie, to
see that the spot where the skinning was to be done was not near any of
their frequented paths. After the flaying was complete, what was best to
do with the carcass? The majority objected to its being buried, fearing to
tread over its grave. So I sent the two young men in a canoe, to sink the
carcass out in the river's mouth toward the sea. Even then there were
those who for two weeks afterward would eat no fish caught in the river.

With this fear of the leopard was united a superstition similar to that of
the "wehr-wolf" of Germany, _viz._, a belief in the power of human
metamorphosis into a leopard. The natives had learned, from foreigners who
were ignorant of the fact that there are no tigers in Africa, to call this
leopard fiend a "man-tiger." They got their fears still more mixed by a
belief in a third superstition, _viz._, that sometimes the dead returned
to life and committed depredations. This belief was not simply that
disembodied spirits (mekuku) returned, but that the entire person, soul
and body (ilina na nyolo), rose temporarily from the grave, with a few
changes (among the rest, that the feet were webbed). Such a being, as
mentioned in a previous chapter, was called "Uvengwa." At one time, while
I was at Benito, intense excitement prevailed in the community: doors and
shutters were violently rattled at night; marks of leopard's claws
scratched doorposts; their tracks lay on every path; women and children in
lonely places saw their flitting forms, in the dark were knocked down by
their spring, or heard their growl in the thickets. It was difficult to
decide, in hearing these reports, whether it was a real leopard, a leopard
fiend, or only an uvengwa. To native fear, they were practically the same.
I felt certain that the uvengwa was a thief disguised in a leopard skin.
Under such disguise murders were sometimes committed. By bending my thumb
and fingers into a semi-closed fist, I could make an impression in the
sand that exactly resembled a leopard's track; and this confirmed my
conclusions as to the real cause of the phenomenon.

The pioneer of the Gabun Mission, Rev. Dr. J. L. Wilson, in 1842, found
the wehr-wolf superstition prevalent among all the tribes of Southern
Guinea. The leopard "is invested with more terror than it otherwise would
have, by a superstitious apprehension on the part of the natives, that
wicked men frequently metamorphose themselves into leopards and commit all
sorts of depredations, without the liability or possibility of being
killed. The real leopard is emboldened by impunity, and often becomes a
terrible scourge to the village he infests. I have known large villages to
be abandoned by their inhabitants, because they were afraid to attack
these animals on account of their supposed supernatural powers."

At Gabun, about 1865, there still remained a jungle on one side of the
public road that constituted the one street of the town of Libreville, as
it followed the curve of the bay for three miles. There were frequent
alarms and occasional murders along lonely parts of that road. The natives
believed that the leopard fiend was a beast; the French commandant
believed it was a human being. He had the jungle cut away. Since then, no
mangled bodies have been found there.

Among the Garenganze people, in 1884, Mr. Arnot often chid them "for their
want of bravery in not hunting down the many wild animals that prey around
their towns, carrying off the sick people, and frequently attacking and
seizing solitary strangers. They excused themselves by explaining that
these wild animals are really 'men of other tribes,' turned, by the magic
power they possess, into the form of lions, panthers, or leopards, who
prowl about to take vengeance on those against whom they are embittered.
In defending this absurd theory, one man said it was not possible for a
Luba and a Lamba man to go out into the country together without one
stealing a march on his neighbor, getting out of sight, and returning
again in the form of a lion or leopard, and devouring his travelling
companion. Such things, they say, are of daily occurrence amongst them;
and this foolish superstition leads them not only to tolerate the wild
animals about, but almost to hold them sacred."

This particular superstition still exists extensively. As late as 1898, it
is stated of the Barotse of Southeast Africa: "They believe that at times
both living and dead persons can change themselves into animals, either to
execute some vengeance or to procure something that they wish for: thus a
man will change himself into a hyena or a lion in order to steal a sheep,
and make a good meal off it; into a serpent, to avenge himself on some
enemy. At other times, if they see a serpent, it is one of the 'Matotela'
or slave tribe, which has thus transformed himself to take some vengeance
on the Barotse."[69]


There exists a custom, even among the civilized, for the seller of an
article to hold back a small portion after his price has been paid. When I
first met with this custom, I was indignant at what seemed like stealing;
and yet it was so open, and without any attempt at concealment, that I was
amazed. One who brought for sale a bunch of plantains twisted off and took
away one of its "fingers." Another who had just been paid for a peck of
sweet potatoes deliberately picks off one tuber. Another who brought a
gazelle for sale would not complete the bargain till I had consented that
he might remove the gall-bladder and a portion of the liver. I learned
that all these were for "luck": in order that the garden whence came that
plantain bunch or potato should be blessed with abundance; and the
hunter, that he might be successful in his next hunt. The gazelle is
credited with being a very artful animal, the cunning being located
especially in the liver.

One might ask why, if those pieces are so needed for luck, the owner did
not take them before selling, and while they were still his own and under
his entire control. I do not know their exact thought; but the statement
was that the chances of good luck were greater if the pieces of plantain,
potato, meat, etc. were abstracted after the article had actually passed
out of the seller's possession.

On the Ogowe, at Lake Azyingo, in 1874, I was present at the cutting up of
a female hippopotamus which a hunter had killed the night before. By favor
of the native Ajumba chief, Anege, I was allowed to see the ceremonies.
They were many; of most of them I did not understand the significance; and
the people were loath to tell me, lest I should in some way counteract
them. Even my presence was objected to by the mother of the hunter (he,
however, was willing).

After the animal had been decapitated, and its quarters and bowels
removed, the hunter, naked, stepped into the hollow of the ribs, and
kneeling in the bloody pool contained in that hollow, bathed his entire
body with that mixture of blood and excreta, at the same time praying the
life-spirit of the hippo that it would bear him no ill-will for having
killed it, and thus cut it off from future maternity; and not to incense
other hippopotami that they should attack his canoe in revenge. (Hippos
are amphibians, but are generally killed in the water.) He kept choice
parts of the flesh to incorporate into his luck fetich.

Mr. Arnot mentions the same custom in Garenganze: "One morning I shot a
hyena in my yard. The chief sent up one of his executioners to cut off its
nose and the tip of its tail, and to extract a little bit of brain from
the skull. The man informed me that these parts are very serviceable to
elephant hunters, as securing for them the cunning, tact, and power to
become invisible, which the hyena is supposed to possess. I suppose that
the brain would represent the cunning, the nose the tact, and the tip of
the tail the vanishing quality." The stomach of the hyena is valued by the
Ovimbundu (of Southwest Africa) as a cure for apoplexy.


Mr. Arnot states that in Garenganze "cases of infanticide are very rare.
Twins, strange to say, are not only allowed to live, but the people
delight in them." Though they are not regarded as monstrosities deserving
death, as among the Calabar people on the West Coast, it is nevertheless
considered necessary that certain preservative ceremonies should be
performed on the infants and their parents.

Mr. Swan, an associate of Mr. Arnot, describes a ceremony he was
unexpectedly made to share in while on a visit to the native king Msidi:
"My attention was drawn to a crowd of folk, mostly women, who approached,
singing and ringing a kind of bell. They formed in lines opposite to us.
In front of the rest were a man and woman, each holding a child not more
than a few days old. I learned that the little ones were twins, the man
and woman holding them being the happy parents, who had come to present
their offspring to the king. They wore nothing but a few leaves about
their loins,--a hint to Msidi, I suppose, that they would like some cloth.

"After chanting a little, an elderly woman came forward, with a dish in
her left hand and an antelope's tail in her right. When she reached Msidi,
I was astonished at her dipping the tail in the dish and dashing the
liquid over his face. Msidi's wife had a like dose. But my surprise
increased when she came to us and gave us a share. What was in the dish I
cannot say, but it struck me as possessing a very disagreeable odor. This
discourteous creature was the Ocimbanda (fetich doctor). She did not cease
her dousing work till she had favored all sitting around. The king then
went into the house, and his wife came out with some cloth, which she
tied around the mother's waist; and then a piece of cloth was given to the
husband. The friends had brought some native beer; and when Msidi came
out, he went to one of the pots, filled his mouth, spouting the beer in
his wife's face; she did the same to him, after which the spouting became
general.... They told me it was their custom to act thus when twins are

In the Benga tribe, thirty-five years ago, I observed that if one of a
pair of twins died, a wooden image was substituted for it on the bed or in
the cradle-box, alongside of the living child. I strongly suspected
Animism in the custom; but some Christians explained that the image was
only a toy, so that the living babe should not miss the presence of an
object resembling its mate.

Names of twins are always the same, in the same cognate tribes. In Benga
they are always Ivaha (a wish) and Ayěnwě (unseen). These names are
given irrespective of sex. But not every man or woman whom one may meet
with these names is necessarily a twin. They may have inherited the name
from ancestors who were twins.

All over Africa the birth of twins is a notable event, but noted for very
different reasons in different parts of the country. In Calabar they are
dreaded as an evil omen, and until recently were immediately put to death,
and the mother driven from the village to live alone in the forest as a
punishment for having brought this evil on her people.

In other parts, as in the Gabun country, where they are welcomed, it is
nevertheless considered necessary to have special ceremonies performed for
the safety of their lives, or, if they die, to prevent further evil.

In the Egba tribes of the Yoruba country they become objects of worship.
As in other parts of Africa where twins are preserved, they are given twin
names; which, of course, differ in different languages. Among the Egbas
the first-born is Taiwo, _i. e._, "the first to taste the world," and the
other Kehende, _i. e._, "the one who comes last."[70] About eight days
after their birth, or as soon as the parents have the money for the
sacrificial feast, they invite all relatives on both sides, neighbors and
friends together. Various kinds of food are prepared, consisting chiefly
of beans and yams. A little of each kind of food is set apart with some
palm-oil thrown upon it, and the small native plates or basins containing
it are set before the children in their cradle. They are then invoked to
protect their mother from sickness, to pity their parents and remain with
them, to watch over them at all times. I quote in this connection the
following from a West African newspaper:

"After the ceremony an elderly man or woman who has been a twin is called
upon to split the kola nuts, in order to find out whether the children
will live or die. This is their way of asking the god or goddess to answer
their requests (and it is singular that this throwing of kolas may be done
repeatedly until the reply is favorable to the inquirer). Thus: if a kola
nut is split into four parts in throwing it down, they say, "You Idol,
please foretell if the children will live long or die." If all the four
pieces of the kola fall flat on their backs, or all flat with their faces
to the ground, or if two of them fall with their faces downward and the
other two upward, then in each of those cases the reply is favorable, and
it means they will live long and not die. But if three pieces of the kola
should turn their faces to the ground and only one fall flat on its back,
or if the three pieces should turn their faces upward and only one
downward, the reply is unfavorable, and it means that the children will
die before long. In such cases they continue throwing the kola nut
indefinitely until they obtain their wish; or, in rare cases of total
failure, the subject of inquiry is reserved till a future time, when they
hope the idol may speak more favorably. Thus, twin children are worshipped
every month.

"In some cases, where the parents have the means, an invitation goes round
to as many twins as they can get to partake of the sacrificial feasts. Of
course, the people enjoy themselves at the feast.

"The twins have everything in common; they eat the same kind of food and
wear the same dress. If one of them should die, the mother is bound to
make a wooden image to represent the dead child. This kind of image is
generally about a foot in length, and is made of Ire wood, which is
flexible and durable. It is carved in such a manner as to represent the
human anatomy."

These images, substitute for a dead twin, are used very extensively among
all the tribes of Africa. Various reasons are given for their use: that
the surviving twin shall not be lonely; that the departed one may be sure
it is not forgotten; and other reasons. The images are retained as family
fetiches, to ward off evil from the mother.

"If both children should die, the mother must have two wooden images, and
regard them as her living children; she worships them every morning by
splitting kola nuts and throwing down a few drops of palm-oil before them.
Of course, the occasional feasts follow in their due course, and as
oftentimes as she may happen to see them in her dreams.

"If they should live, and both are males, they make engagements and marry
at the same time. If one is male, and the other is female, their dowry
must be given the same day; the parents believe that if things done for
them are not alike or do not go together, one will soon die."[71]


Superstition mingles in customs of speech. There is the custom of Kombo,
existing to-day. Something about the act of sneezing is considered
uncanny. A phrase or a cabalistic word, intended as an adjuration or a
protestation in the nature of a prayer for protection or blessing, is very
commonly ejaculated by one who sneezes and sometimes when one stumbles.
(In the old despotic days of native kings, in the Benito region, if a
king, on first emerging from his house in the morning, should happen to
stumble, he would order the nearest person in sight to be killed.) That
word is uttered by an adult for himself, by a parent or other relative
for an infant child. It may be an archaism whose meaning has been
forgotten. Generally the Kombo is an epigrammatic phrase invented by the
individual himself, and to be used only by him.

Sometimes, instead of a phrase, the single word "Kombo!" as representing
the custom, is uttered.

Some forty years ago the ejaculation, before the invariable "Mbolo"
salutation was uttered, that was used by visitors to the Mpongwe king on
the south side of the Gabun estuary, was, "What evil law has God made?"
The response was, "Death!" Little as the heathen natives liked to talk of
death, their use of that word to their king was in the nature of a good
wish that he might escape the universal law. And the "Mbolo!" (gray hairs)
that followed was a wish that he might live to have gray hairs.

His son, an educated man and a nominal Romanist, is now saluted quite as
formally, but the ejaculation has been changed to a more respectful and
Christian recognition of God.


Blasphemy of the Divine name, so fearfully common in professedly Christian
countries, is almost unknown to the African heathen. Though the native
name for God, Anyambe, is improperly used in names of persons (which is
not intended for disrespect), it is not often actually blasphemed. An
equivalent blasphemy, is occasionally practised in the misuse of the name
of their great and sacred spirit-society. In the Benga tribe "Saba?" and
"Sabali?" used interrogatively, mean only "True?" "Is that so?"; but, used
positively, they are of the nature of an oath, especially when the
society's name (Ukuk) was added: "Saba n' Ukuku" (True! by Ukuk!).

On the Ogowe River, in the Galwa tribe, the name of that society was
Isyoga, more commonly spoken of as Yasi. In the initiation into it the
neophytes were taught a long and very solemn adjuration, that could be
uttered only among the initiated, as an oath; but they were allowed
commonly to use simply its title "Yasi," the utterance of that one word
being accompanied by a downward sweep of the right hand over the left arm
from shoulder to hand. It was not permitted to women to speak this word.

In no tribes with which I have lived was this "By-the-Spirit" oath used so
much as among the Galwa of the Ogowe. It became monotonously frequent, in
and out of season, in all conversations and on the slightest assertion or
the simplest excitement.

I became very tired of "Yasi! Yasi! Yasi!" and that sweep of the right
hand, for the doing of which the canoe paddle or a tool was laid down.
And, by the way, the more of a liar a man was, the more frequent and
vociferous was he in his persistent use of "By Yasi!"


Totem worship is found in Africa, though nothing at all to the extent to
which it existed among the Indian tribes of the United States, and
especially Alaska.

In Southern Africa it exists among the Bechuanas (who, however, are not
pure Bantu); not in the form of carving and setting up poles in their
villages, but in the respect which different clans give to certain
animals, _e. g._, one clan being known as "buffalo-men," another as
"lion-men," a third as "crocodile-men," and so forth. To each clan its
totem animal is sacred, and they will not eat of its flesh. In some parts
this sanctity is regarded as so great that actual prayer and sacrifice are
made to it. But in most of the Bantu tribes this totem idea does not exist
as a worship. Indeed, the animal (or part of an animal) is not sacred to
an entire clan, but only to individuals, for whom it is chosen on some
special occasion; and its use is prohibited only to that individual. Only
in the sense that it may not be used for common purposes is it "sacred" or
"holy" to him.


"Taboo" is a Polynesian term, and indicates that which man must not touch
because it belongs to a deity. The god's land must not be trodden, the
animal dedicated to the god must not be eaten, the chief who represents
the god must not be lightly treated or spoken of. These are examples of
taboo where the inviolable object or person belongs to a good god, and
where the taboo corresponds exactly with the rule of holiness. But
instances are still more numerous, among savages, of taboo attaching to an
object because it is connected with a malignant power. The savage is
surrounded on every side by such prohibitions; there is danger at every
step that he may touch on what is forbidden to him, and draw down on
himself unforeseen penalties.[72]

This idea exists very largely in the Gabun and Loango coasts: as described
in a previous chapter, the custom is there called "orunda"; _e. g._, such
and such an animal (or part of an animal) is "orunda," or taboo, to such
and such a person.

The Portuguese Roman Catholic missionaries to the Kingdom of Kongo, more
than two hundred and fifty years ago, found this custom "of interdicting
to every person at their birth some one article of food, which they were
not through life, upon any consideration, to put into their mouths. This
practice was regarded [by those Roman Catholic priests] as specially
heathenish, and was unconditionally" forbidden.

Explanation may here be found why a church which two hundred years ago had
baptized members by the hundreds of thousands, with large churches, fine
cathedrals, schools, colleges, and political backing, and no other form of
Christianity to compete with it, shows in Kongo to-day no results in the
matters of civilization, education, morality, or pure religion. Its
baptism was only an outward one, the heathen native gladly accepting it as
a powerful charm. For each and all his heathen fetiches the priest simply
substituted a Roman Catholic relic. The ignorant African, while he learned
to bow to the Virgin, kept on worshipping also fetich. The Virgin was only
just another fetich. The Roman Catholic priests were to him only another
set of powerful fetich doctors. They commanded that, instead of the
orunda, "the parents should enjoin their children to observe some
particular devotion, such as to repeat many times a day the rosary or the
crown, in honor of the Virgin; to fast on Saturdays; to eat no flesh on
Wednesdays; and such other things as are used among Christians."

A similar substitution was made in the case of a superstition of the Kongo
country which exists universally among all African tribes to-day, _viz._,
"to bind a cord of some kind around the body of every new-born infant, to
which were fastened the bones and teeth of certain kinds of wild animals."
In place of this, the Roman Catholic records enjoin "that all mothers
should make the cords with which they bound their infants, of palm-leaves
that had been consecrated on Palm Sunday, and, moreover, guard them well
with other such relics as we are accustomed to use at the time of

Thus the heathen, in becoming a baptized "Christian," left behind him only
the name of his fetich ceremonies. Some new and professedly more powerful
ones were given him, which were called by Christian names, but which very
much resembled what he had been using all his life. His "conversion"
caused no jar to his old beliefs, nor change in its practice, except that
the new fetich was worshipped in a cathedral and before a bedizened altar.


Forty years ago, on Corisco Island, I found the remains of a custom which
resembled baptism.[73] Before that time it was very prevalent in other
parts of the Gabun country, whose people probably had derived it, like
their circumcision, from East Africa and from Jewish traditions. As
described at that time, "a public crier announces the birth, and claims
for the child a name and place among the living. Some one else, in a
distant part of the village, acknowledges the fact, and promises, on the
part of the people, that the new-born babe shall be received into the
community, and have all the rights and immunities pertaining to the rest
of the people. The population then assemble in the street, and the
new-born babe is brought out and exposed to public view. A basin of water
is provided, and the headman of the village or family sprinkles water upon
it, giving it a name, and invoking a blessing upon it, such as, that it
may have health, grow up to manhood or womanhood, have a numerous progeny,
possess much riches, etc."[74] The circumcision of the child is performed
some years later.


The same Benga word, "tuwaka," to spit, is one of the two words which mean
also "to bless." In pronouncing a blessing there is a violent expulsion of
breath, the hand or head of the one blessed being held so near the face of
the one blessing that sometimes in the act spittle is actually expelled
upon him.

This blessing superstition exists among the Barotse of South Africa (whose
dialect is remarkably like the Benga). "Relatives take leave of each other
with elaborate ceremony. They spit upon each other's faces and heads, or,
rather, pretend to do so, for they do not actually emit saliva. They also
pick up blades of grass, spit upon them, and stick them about the beloved
head. They also spit on the hands: all this is done to warn off evil
spirits. Spittle also acts as a kind of taboo. When they do not want a
thing touched, they spit on straws, and stick them all about the


Recently (1903), in passing through a street of Libreville, I saw several
women sitting on the clay floor of the wide veranda of a house. In their
arms or playing on the ground were a number of children. I was attracted
by their gambols, and stopped on my way, and having saluted the mothers, I
began to notice the children. The women knew me by sight, but I was a
stranger to most of them. I thought they would be pleased by attention to
their children. There were seven of them; and I exclaimed, "Oh! so many
children!" And I began counting them, "One, two, three, four--" But I was
interrupted by a chorus from the mothers, of "No! no! no! Stop! That is
not good! The spirits will hear you telling how many there are, and they
will come and take some away!" They were quite vexed at me. But I could
not understand why, if spirits can see, they would not know the number
without hearing my count. Perhaps my enthusiastic counting brought the
number more obviously to the attention of the surrounding spirits.



When a heathen Negro is sick, the first thing done, just as in civilized
lands, is to call the "doctor," who is to find out what is the particular
kind of spirit that, by invading the patient's body, has caused the

This diagnosis is not made by an examination and comparison of the
physical and mental symptoms, but by drum, dance, frenzied song, mirror,
fumes of drugs, consultation of relics, and conversation with the spirit
itself. Next, as also in civilized lands, must be decided the ceremony
particular to that spirit, and the vegetable and mineral substances
supposed to be either pleasing or offensive to it. If all those cannot be
obtained, the patient must die; the assumption probably being that some
unknown person is antagonizing the "doctor" with arts of sorcery.

Fearing this, all the family relatives and friends come, having been
informed by a messenger of the state of the case. They speak to and try to
comfort the sick, as would be done in civilization. But to believers in
fetich their coming means more than that. They have come from distant
places as soon as the news had spread that their relative was seriously
ill, without waiting for summons. Their coming is, indeed, a necessary
mark of respect for the sick; but it may happen, too, in case of the sick
man's dying, that it would be a proof for them of their innocence if a
charge should come up of witchcraft as the cause of death. The neglect to
make this prompt visit of condolence would be resented by the sick should
he recover, or, in case of his death, in the days when witchcraft arts
were more common, would have been held as a proof that the absentee had
purposely absented himself, under a sense of guilt.

In the sick man's village there already has been a slight wailing the
while that he is dying. Before life is extinct, and while yet the sick may
still be conscious though speechless, a low wail of mourning is raised by
the female relatives who have gathered in the room.

These visitors have sat quietly in the sick-room while the patient was
still conscious. To a foreigner that quiet is very strange in its
oppressive silence and in the stolidity of faces (at other times
expressive), whose very reason for being present is supposed to be the
expression of sympathy. Only a few assist in the making of food or
medicine for the patient, even when the medicines are not fetich. All the
others are spectators, smoking, lounging, dozing, or, if conversing,
speaking in a low tone. At the first report that death has actually come,
the women break into a louder wail.

But about a quarter of an hour is spent by some of the old members of the
family, testing to see whether life is really extinct. When that fact is
fully certified to the crowd in the street, the wailing breaks forth
unrestrainedly from men, women, and children. The moment that death is
declared, grief is demonstrated in screams, shrieks, yells, pitiful
supplication, and extravagant praise by the entire village.

Shortly after this first frantic outburst quiet is ordered, and the
arrangements for burial begin. The body is bathed and the limbs are
straightened. The stomach is squeezed so as to make the contents emerge
from the mouth in order that decomposition may be delayed and the body
kept as long as possible. The time will vary according to the necessity of
the case and the social position of the dead. Usually the corpse is
retained only one day; but in case of a prominent person as many as five
days, and in case of kings in some tribes, _e. g._, of Loango, the rotting
corpse, rolled in many pieces of matting, is retained for weeks.

When the washing and vomiting have been done, the corpse is dressed in its
finest clothing. The bed-frame is often enlarged so that many of the
chief mourners may be able to sit on it.

The body is generally taken from the bed and laid on a piece of matting on
the floor. The chief female mourner is given the post of honor, to sit
nearest to the dead, holding the head in her lap.

During the time until the burial the women keep bending the joints of the
corpse to prevent the body becoming stiff. The day before the burial (but
if in haste, on the very day of the death) the coffin is made. During the
making the mourning which had been resumed is again bidden to cease, in
order that the spirit may be pleased with the wooden house that is being
constructed for it. For the same reason the wailing is again intermitted
while the grave is being dug. Those who are digging it must not be called
off or interrupted in any way. When begun, the job must be continued to

After the grave is completed, when they leave it and go to arrange the
coffin, they must put into the excavation some article, _e. g._, a stick
of wood, as a notice to any other wandering spirit not to occupy that

When all these preparations are complete, the corpse is laid in the
coffin, and some goods of the deceased, such as pieces of cloth and other
clothing, are stuffed into it for his use in the other world. If the
deceased was addicted to smoking, a pipe and tobacco are laid in the
coffin, or if accustomed to spirituous drink, some liquor is often placed
there, either native palm-wine or foreign rum.

Recently, while the Rev. F. S. Myongo, a native clergyman, was visiting on
Corisco Island, he saw a mother put into a coffin a bundle of salt for her
daughter to eat in the future world.

If the deceased was a rich man, the people of his mother's side do not
allow him to be buried without their first being given a part of his
property by the people of the father's side.

If there be a suspicion that he has been killed by witchcraft, and yet not
enough proof to warrant a public charge and investigation, the relatives
take amomum seeds (cardamom), chew them, and put them into the mouth of
the dead, as a sign that the spirit shall itself execute vengeance on the
murderer, and that the survivors will take no further steps. It is a
_nolle prosequi_ of a judicial case.

All being ready, the lid of the coffin is nailed down, except in the case
of a first-born only child, as has been stated.

In former days, before coffins were used, the bamboo tatta of the
bed-frame, the pandanus leaf mat, palm-fibre mosquito-net, and other
bedding were all rolled about the corpse as it lay, and were buried with

While the corpse is being arranged in the coffin, the women have resumed
their wailing. The coffin is lifted by strong men and hurriedly taken to
the grave, the locality of which varies in different tribes,--sometimes in
the adjacent forest, sometimes in the kitchen-garden of plantains
immediately in the rear of the village houses, sometimes under the clay
floor of the dwelling-house. With the men who are carrying the coffin may
go some women as witnesses.

Formerly also slaves carried boxes of the dead man's goods, cloth,
hardware, crockery, and so forth, to be laid by the body, which in those
days was not interred, but was left on the top of the ground covered with
branches and leaves.

In carrying the coffin to the grave it must not be taken through the
village street but by the rear of the houses, lest the village be
"defiled." As a result of such "defilement," all sorts of difficulties
will arise, such as poor crops from the gardens and short supplies of

The coffin is laid with the face of the dead looking eastward. During the
interment people must not be moving about from place to place, but must
remain at whatever spot they were when the coffin passed, until the burial
is completed.

The digging of the grave, the carrying of the coffin, and the closing of
the grave are all done only by men. When these have finished the work of
burial, they are in great fear, and are to run rapidly to their village,
or to the nearest body of water, river or lake or sea. If in their running
one should trip and fall, it is a sign that he will soon die. They plunge
into the water as a means of "purification" from possible defilement. The
object of this purification is not simply to cleanse the body, but to
remove the presence or contact of the spirit of the dead man or of any
other spirit of possible evil influence, lest they should have ill-luck in
their fishing, hunting, and other work.

During the time of these burial and other ceremonies the women have
refrained from their mourning.

Women who have babes must not go along the route that was taken in the
carrying of the coffin, lest their children shall become sick.

When all parties have returned from the grave, the wailing is resumed.
They all mark their faces with ashes, and then begins the regular official
kwedi (mourning). During the continuance of this, pregnant women and
mothers with young children are not allowed to come near lest evil happen
to them. To prevent any possibility of the just-departed spirit injuring
any children of the village, leaves of a common weed, kâlâkâhi, are laid
on their heads.

The day after the funeral a decoction is made of the bark of a well-known
tree, bolondo. With it the doctor sprinkles the people, their houses,
their utensils and weapons, and the two entrances to the village. During
the ceremony the people are shouting an ejaculatory prayer, "Goods!
Possessions! Wealth! Do not allow confusions to come to us!" this is
distinctly a petition that the spirit should bring to them goods or help
them to obtain wealth; "Let us have food!" and many other similar cries
for good things. What remains in the vessel of the decoction of bolondo
bark after the general sprinkling is carried to the ends of the village
street, and emptied there, as a prevention against the entry of evil

Also there is made a mixture of scrapings of bolondo, powdered red-wood,
and chalk. This is rubbed on the cheeks of the people to keep off the evil
spirits. It is rubbed also, for that same purpose, on the walls of

The cutlass (machete) and native hoe that was used in the digging of the
grave are washed with the bolondo decoction after having been left exposed
to rain over night.

Then one of the houses of the village is chosen as the ndabo ya kwedi
(house of mourning). The mourners are to sit only in that house. If they
should eat in any other house, the spirit of the dead would come and eat
with them and would make them sick. During the days of kwedi the men go in
the mornings to fish; while they are away at the work, the weeping is
intermitted lest in some way it spoil the fishing.

The bedstead in the house of mourning must be constantly occupied, even
during the daytime, by some persons sitting there, lest the spirit come to
take any vacant space; and the house itself must not, by day or night, be
without some occupant. The near relatives, when one has occasion to go out
of that house, must not go unaccompanied, lest the spirit follow them and
attempt to resume earthly companionship and thus injure them.

If it was a great man who has died, an occasional dance is held during the
prescribed mourning time to please his spirit, which is supposed to be
walking around and observing what is done.

The kwedi formerly lasted a month, or, for a prominent person, a month and
a half.

People who while they were living were supposed to have witch power are
believed to be able to rise in an altered form from their graves. To
prevent one who is thus suspected from making trouble, survivors open the
grave, cut off the head, and throw it into the sea,--or in the interior,
where there is no great body of water, it is burned; then a decoction of
the bolondo bark is put into the grave. (The bolondo is a poison; even a
little of it may be fatal.)

When affairs are going wrong in the villages, and the people do not know
the cause, offerings of food and drink are taken to the grave to cause the
spirit to cease disturbing them, and prayers are made to it that it may
the rather bless them.

If the deceased was a very important person, the kwedi is interrupted on
the fifth day, for the selection of his successor as chief or king. This
ceremony is called "ampenda" (glories). The successor is placed on the
vacant seat or "throne"; and songs are sung in his praise. But first, a
herald is sent to the forest, or wherever the burial was made, to call the
dead to come and dispute his right to the throne, if he be not really
dead. The herald stands and calls on the dead by name, "Such an one!" This
he does slowly once, twice, thrice, until five times. He returns, and
reports to the waiting assembly, "He is really dead. I called five times,
and he did not answer." Then, this herald, standing in the street before
all the people, praises the dead for all his good deeds, and blames for
some of his bad ones. He turns to the chosen successor sitting on the
throne, and asks pardon for the candor he is about to exercise: "To-morrow
I will bow to you and take off my hat, but to-day I will tell the whole
truth about you." Turning to the crowd, he says, "The man who is gone was
good, and he has given us this new man. We hope that he too will be good.
You all help me now to tell him his bad points." Then, addressing the new
chief, he specifies, "You have a bad habit of so and so." And the crowd
responds affirmatively, "Bad! cease it!" After this, when the herald has
ended his own list of rebukes, any one else may call him aside and tell
him of any other evil of which he knows, and ask him to direct the new
king to reform it. This ceremony was particularly observed by the
Mpongwe-speaking tribes of the Gabun country. In the presence of the
domination by foreign governments, but little of it now exists there or in
any other tribes to the north.

In the improvised songs and ejaculations of the kwedi period the goodness
and greatness of the dead are recounted. The praise is fulsome,
exaggerated, and often preposterously untrue. Some declare their
hopelessness of ever again seeing any joy. Supplications are shrieked by
others for the departed to come back and reanimate the dead body. By most
the wailing is a song in moans. Men tear their garments; women dishevel
their hair; all take off their ornaments, and disfigure their faces with
ashes or clay. The female relatives reduce their clothing to a minimum of
decency. In all tribes formerly, and in some interior tribes still, the
wives are made naked, and compelled to remain so for months, especially if
they were known not to have been as submissive as is expected in the
slavery of savage African marriage.

During my early days in the Ogowe, about 1876, a native Akele chief, Kasa,
who had been my patron at my first residence in the Ogowe, Belambila, died
after I had removed to my second station, Kângwe. I made a ceremonious
visit of respect and condolence about a month after his death, for Kasa,
though a heathen and often cruel, to me had been true and helpful. His
family appreciated the compliment of my visit. I looked around the room,
and missed his wives. I did not know that they had been divested of all
clothing. I asked for them. A man hastened to go out and call them. I
wondered somewhat at the delay in their coming. I was afterward told that
though they were accustomed to the disgrace of nakedness before native
eyes, they did not wish to meet mine, for I had always treated them
respectfully. A half-dozen of them sidled into the room, each carrying in
their hands, as their only protection, a plate, and quickly huddled
together in a corner of the room. I as quickly dismissed them, telling
them I had not known of the rule under which they were living.

In the Batanga interior, among the Bulu-Fang tribe, where women at all
times wear scarcely any clothing, most widows are still required to go
perfectly naked, sometimes for a whole year.

All this wailing and mourning, while sincere on the part of some, is by
most simply a yielding to the contagion of sympathy. By some it is a mere
formality, and with many even a pretence.

In the older days, before Christianity had obtained any influence, or
before foreign governments had exercised power to force away barbarous
rites and compel civilized ones, when almost every death was regarded as
due to the exercise of black art, and was always followed by a witchcraft
investigation and by the putting to death of from one to ten so-called
"witches" and "wizards" (in the case of kings, fifty to one hundred), no
one, except the doctor and his secret councillors, knew on whom suspicion
for the death might fall, and all were quick to be demonstrative in their
grief, whether real or feigned, as a means of warding off the dreaded
accusation against themselves.

Though those witchcraft executions have ceased wherever foreign power
exists, the wailing is still as demonstrative, either as a sign of real
grief or as a mere custom; and the mourning after burial continued for
weeks (or even months) is an enormous evil. Wives and husbands abandoning
their duties to their own villages; children either slighted at their own
homes or idly helping to swell the confusion at the town of mourning; men
neglecting their fishing, and women neglecting their gardens,--all these
visitors are an expensive draft on the hospitality and resources of the
town of kwedi, or on their other relatives who may happen to be living
near. Inevitably there is not enough food for all, and they stanch their
hunger by immoderate drinking of foreign alcoholic liquors.

After the first paroxysms of grief, in a few days the mourning is reduced
to a perfunctory wail by the women for a short time each morning and
evening. The remainder of the day is spent in idle talk, which always runs
into quarrels; and the nights in dances, which generally end in dissolute
revelry. A month of mourning lays up a list of assignations and intrigues
that result in trials for adultery and broken marriage relations.

The feelings in the hearts of the mourners are very mixed. The outcry of
affection, pleading with the dead to return to life, is sincere, the
survivor desiring the return to life to be complete; but almost
simultaneous with that cry comes a fear that the dead may indeed return,
not as the accustomed embodied spirit, helpful and companionable, but as a
disembodied spirit, invisible, estranged, perhaps inimical, and
surrounded by an atmosphere of dread imparted by the unknown and the
unseen. The many then ask, not that the departed may return, but that, if
it be hovering near, it will go away entirely.

Few were those who during the life of the departed had not on occasions
had some quarrel with him, or had done him some injustice or other wrong,
and their thought is, "His spirit will come back to avenge itself!" So
guns are fired to frighten away the spirit, and to cause it to go off to
the far world of spirits, and not take up a residence in or near the town
to haunt and injure the living.

Nevertheless, the kwedi is kept up, if for nothing else than to satisfy
the self-complacence of the dead. It is believed that the dead, sometimes
dissatisfied with the extent or character of the mourning ceremony, have
returned and inflicted some sickness on the village, for the removal of
which other ceremonies have to be performed.

Thus far acts which are dictated by natural feelings, good and otherwise,
have been dealt with; but there are a multitude of other ceremonies,
varied in different tribes and never the same in any one tribe, which are
performed under the direct influence of religious duty as well as
superstitious fear. What has been thus far described is especially true of
the Mpongwe, Benga, and Batanga tribes of western Equatorial Africa,
typical for most Bantu tribes of the continent. The following quotations
afford a comparison of the burial customs of savages in other regions with
those I have observed:

Lumholtz,[76] describing the burial customs of Australia, writes: "The
natives in the neighborhood of Portland Bay, in the southwestern part of
South Australia, cremate their dead by placing the corpse in a hollow tree
and setting fire to it.... The natives of Australia have this peculiarity,
in common with the savages of other countries, that they never utter the
names of the dead, lest their spirits should hear the voices of the living
and thus discover their whereabouts. There seems to be a widespread belief
in the soul's existence independently of matter. On this point Fraser
relates that the Kulie tribe (Victoria) believes that every man and animal
has a muriep (ghost or spirit) which can pass into other bodies. A
person's muriep may in his lifetime leave his body and visit other people
in his dreams. After death the muriep is supposed to appear again, to
visit the grave of its former possessor, to communicate with living
persons in their dreams, to eat remnants of food lying near the camp, and
to warm itself by the night fires. A similar belief has been observed
among the blacks of Lower Guinea. On my travels I, too, found a widespread
fear of the spirits of the dead, to which the imagination of the natives
attributed all sorts of remarkable qualities. The greater the man was on
earth, the more his departed spirit is feared.... An old warrior who has
been a strong man and therefore much respected by his tribe, is, after his
death, put on a platform made with forked sticks, cross-pieces, and a
sheet or two of bark; he is hoisted up amidst a pandemonium of noise,
howling, and wailing, besides much cutting with tomahawks, and banging of
heads with nolla-nollas. He is laid on his back with his knees up, like
the females, and the grass is cleared away from under and around. The
place is now for a long time carefully avoided, till he is quite
shrivelled, whereupon his bones are taken away and put in a tree.

"The common man is buried like a woman, only that logs are put over him,
and his bones are not removed. Young children are put bodily into the

"The fact that the natives bestow any care on the bodies of the dead is
doubtless owing to the fear of the spirits of the departed. In some places
I have seen the legs drawn and tied fast to the bodies, in order to hinder
the spirits of the dead, as it were, from getting out to frighten the
living. Women and children, whose spirits are not feared, receive less
attention and care after death.

"In several tribes it is customary to bury the body where the person was
born. I know of a case where a dying man was transported fifty miles in
order to be buried in the place of his nativity. It has even happened
that the natives have begun digging outside a white man's kitchen door,
because they wanted to bury an old man born there. In Central Queensland I
saw many burial-places on hills. Such are also said to be found in New
South Wales and in Victoria. These burial grounds have been in use for
centuries, and are considered sacred.

"In South Australia and in Victoria the head is not buried with the body,
for the skull is preserved and used as a drinking-cup. It is a common
custom to place the dead between pieces of bark and grass on a scaffold,
where they remain till they are decayed, and then the bones are buried in
the ground.

"In the northern part of Queensland I have heard people say that the
natives have a custom of placing themselves under these scaffolds to let
the fat drop on them, and that they believe that this puts them in
possession of the strength of the dead man.

"A kind of mummy dried by the aid of fire and smoke, is also found in
Australia; male children are most frequently prepared in this manner. The
corpse is then packed into a bundle, which is carried for some time by the
mother. She has it with her constantly, and at night sleeps with it at her
side. After about six months, when nothing but the bones remain, she
buries it in the earth. Full-grown men are also sometimes carried in this
manner, particularly the bodies of great warriors."

W. H. Brown, in "On the South African Frontier," describes a burial in
Mashona-land: "When a member of the community dies, he or she, as the case
may be, is usually buried under a shelf of rock in a reclining position,
with arms folded and legs doubled up. In some districts, where heaps of
rocks are scarce, I have seen graves made in large ant-heaps. As a rule, a
small canopy or thatched roof is built over the grave, and under this it
is common to see placed, as an offering, a pot of beer and a plate of
sadza. The beer evaporates, and the ants eat the sadza; but, to the
Mashona mind, the disappearance is due to supernatural causes. At the
burial the near relatives of the deceased cry aloud. I was camping one
night near a village where a child died. The obsequies took place next
morning between dawn and sunrise. The mother cried loudly while the
ceremony was proceeding, but her wailing ceased soon after the funeral,
and there was no more noise made over it. I went into the village about
two hours later, and saw some men, women, and children quietly sitting
around the hut in which the death had taken place, and looking very
solemn. The child was about two weeks old, and the cause of death was
attributed by the Mashonas to the fact that the mother had not given beer
to her grandfather when he wanted it at his death.

"If a woman's husband dies, and she afterwards procures another, the new
man takes up his abode in the hut of the dead one, becomes owner of his
assegais and battle-axes, and assumes his name. Whether or not the second
husband is supposed to enter into possession of the spirit of the
deceased, I could not discover. Some Mashonas have told me that they
believe that the spirits of their departed relatives enter the bodies of
animals, particularly those of lions.

"At the end of the lunar month during which a death has taken place, the
surviving partner, man or woman, kills a goat, and its meat is cooked, as
well as quantities of other food, and a large amount of Kaffir beer is
brewed. The people gather from the neighboring kraals, and an all-night
feast and dance ensue.

"Monthly 'dead-relative dances,' which are called 'machae' are very
common; and if no one has been accommodating enough to die during the
month, the feast and dance may be held in honor of some one who departed
years before."

A similar dance is held in the Gabun region of West Africa, partly as a
consolatory amusement for the living, near the close of whatever
prescribed time of mourning. It is called "Ukukwe" (for the spirit), as if
for the gratification of the hovering spirit of the dead; but in many
places in that region this dance has lost all reference to or for the
dead, or even any connection with a time of mourning, and has become
simply a common amusement.

In the Bihe country of Southwest Africa,[77] "death is surrounded by many
strange and absurd superstitions. It is considered essential that a man
should die in his own country, if not in his own town. On the way to
Bailundu, shortly after leaving Bihe territory, I met some men running at
great speed, carrying a sick man tied to a pole, in order that he might
die in his own country. I tried to stop them; but they were running, as
fast as their burden would allow them, down a steep rocky hill. By the
sick man's convulsive movements I could see that he was in great pain,
perhaps in his death throes; hence the great haste. If a Bailundu man dies
in Bihe, the Bihe people have to pay the Bailundu heavily for the shameful
conduct of the Bihe demons in killing a stranger; and _vice versa_.

"When a man dies at home, his body is placed on a rude table, and his
friends meet for days round the corpse, drinking, eating, shouting, and
singing, until the body begins actually to fall to pieces. Then the body
is tied in a fagot of poles and carried on men's shoulders up and down
some open space, followed by doctors and drummers. The doctors demand of
the dead man the cause of his death, whether by poison or witchcraft; and
if by the latter, who was the witch? Most of the deaths I have known of in
Negro-land were from pulmonary diseases, but all were set down to
witchcraft. The jerking of the bier to and fro, causing the men bearing it
to stumble hither and thither, is taken as the dead man's answer; thus, as
in the case of spirit-rapping at home, the reply is spelled out. The
result of this enquiry is implicitly believed in; and, if the case demands
it, the witch is drowned."

Among the Barotse of South Africa[78] "funerals take place at night, and
generally immediately after death, while the body is still warm. If the
person, when alive, possessed the skin of an animal, they wrap the body in
it, and also in a plain mat, and then bury it near the hut. But death
inspires them with a mortal terror, and thus the hut of the dead man is
nearly always abandoned. Anything that has been used for the burial, such
as the wood on which the corpse was carried, is left near the grave. It is
the fashion to display great external signs of grief, howls and cries of
lamentation and the like. Formerly the graves of chiefs were distinguished
by elephant tusks turned toward the east. All cattle belonging to the
deceased are killed; and any animal of which he was particularly fond,
such as the cow whose milk he drank, is killed first. They bury in the
kraal itself those who died in the kraal; but whenever it is possible, the
dying are taken out and laid in the fields or forest. There are two
reasons for this: first, they think that away from other people is a
better chance of the invalid making a recovery; and, secondly, wherever
the person dies he must be buried; therefore, if possible, far from their
habitations. When a man dies, visits of condolence are paid to the
relatives, the visitors bringing a calf or a head of cattle as a mark of
sympathy, which is killed and eaten as a kind of consolation. The night
after the funeral is passed in tears and cries. A few days later, the
doctor comes and makes an incision on the forehead of each of the
survivors, and fills it with medicine, in order to ward off contagion and
the effect of the sorcery which caused the death. They place on their
tombs some souvenir of the profession or vocation of the defunct; for
example,--if he had been a hunter, horns or skins; if a chairmaker, a
chair; and so on. Over the grave a sacred tree is planted. The tree is a
kind of laurel called 'morata.'... A man will kill himself on the tomb of
his chief; he thinks, as he passes near by, that he hears the dead man
call him and bid him bring him water. These natives believe in
transmigration of the soul into animals; thus, the hippopotamus is
believed to shelter the spirit of a chief. Nevertheless, they do not
appear very clear that the soul cannot be in two places at once; else, if
a chief has become a hippopotamus in the Zambesi, why should one slay
one's self to bring water to his tomb?"

Perhaps Declè was not aware of a widespread belief in a dual soul,
consisting of a "spirit," that, as far as known, lives forever in the
world of spirits, and a "shadow" that for an uncertain length of time
hovers around the mortal remains. Some, as already mentioned in a previous
chapter, also name a third entity, the "life,"--that which, being "eaten"
by sorcerers, causes the living being to sicken, and which the sorcerer,
if detected, can be compelled to return to its owner. Miss Kingsley
thought also she had discovered a belief in a fourth entity, the
"dream-soul." But this, though doubtless believed in as that which
sometimes leaves the sleeping body and goes on distant wanderings, is the
same as the "spirit," during whose temporary absence the body continues
its breathing and other physical motions, in virtue of the presence of its
second and third soul-entities.

The funeral practices of all the tribes, with very few exceptions, over
all Africa, however much they may and do vary, contain all of them, as
shown by the preceding quotations, a decided belief in, and fear of, the
intelligent and probably inimical activity of the spirits of their dead.
They include also the custom of the burial with the dead man of more or
less of his property, together with the destruction of such things as
cannot be conveniently placed in the grave,--clothing, crockery, utensils,
wives, slaves, trees of fruitage, etc.

Even among the civilized and enlightened, while of course there would be
no excessive destruction of property, nor murder of widow or slave, an
extravagant amount of wearing apparel is stuffed into the coffin (which is
sometimes made large for that purpose) as a sign of the importance of the
dead, and of the sacrifice the love and grief of the living are willing to

The residence of the transmigrated spirit is probably not a permanent one.
The Wa-nya-mwesi of East Africa "believe in transmigration both during
life and after it. Thus, according to them, a sorcerer can transform
himself into a wild animal to injure his enemies; but in such cases the
change is not permanent, and the soul does not remain in its new

Leaving out of view the immense difference, caused by the absence of
Christianity, in the moral life of native Africa, as compared with that of
the United States, there is no one thing that more painfully strikes me,
in the low civilization of the former, than their customs for the dead. It
would occupy too much space to recount at length all the reasons the
natives give for their sometimes apparently heartless ceremonies. The true
explanation lies in their belief in witchcraft and their fear of spirits.

From the testimony of travellers, burial customs are much the same all
over Africa. What I have written is my personal knowledge of what prevails
on the West Coast, in the equatorial regions, and especially in the
portion lying along the course of the Ogowe River,--a river that was first
brought to public notice through the writings of Paul Du Chaillu, the
journeys of a British trader, Mr. R. B. N. Walker, and subsequently by the
thorough explorations of Count P. S. De Brazza.

There are in Africa social distinctions of rich and poor, higher and lower
classes, just as there are, and always will be, all the world over, the
claims of communism to the contrary notwithstanding. These distinctions
follow their subjects to the grave,--just as, in our own civilization, one
is laid in the sculptured cemetery and another in the Potter's Field.

The African burial-grounds are mostly in the forest, in the low-lying
lands and tangled thickets along the sea-beach, or the banks of rivers.
Hills and elevated building-sites are reserved for villages and
plantations. If a traveller, in journeying along the main river of the
country, observes long reaches of uncleared thickets, he will probably be
correct in suspecting that these are burial-grounds. His native crew will
be slow to inform him of the fact or to converse on the subject, unless to
object to an order to go ashore there.

Some of the interior tribes bury all their dead under the clay floors of
their houses. The living are thus actually treading and cooking their food
over the graves of their relatives.

This mode of burial is reserved as a distinction, in the case of some
coast tribes, for a very few of their honored chiefs, or for a specially
loved relative.

Over or near the graves of the rich are built little huts, where are laid
the common articles used by them in their life,--pieces of crockery,
knives, sometimes a table, mirrors, and other goods obtained in foreign
trade. Once, in ascending the Ogowe, I observed, tied to the branches of a
large tree extending over the stream from the top of the bank, a wooden
trade-chest, five pitchers and mugs, and several fathoms of calico prints.
I was informed that the grave of a lately deceased chief was near, that
these articles were signs of his wealth, and were intended as offerings to
spirits to induce them to draw to the villages of his people the trade of
passing merchant vessels.

A noticeable fact about these gifts to the spirits is that, however great
a thief a man may be, he will not steal from a grave. The coveted mirror
will lie there and waste in the rain, and the valuable garment will flap
itself to rags in the wind, but human hands will not touch them. Sometimes
the temptation to steal is removed by the donor fracturing the article
before it is laid on the grave.

Actual interment is generally given to all who in life were regarded as at
all worthy of respect. Native implements for excavating being few and
small, the making of a grave is quite a task; it is often, therefore, made
no deeper than is actually sufficient for covering the corpse. This,
according to the greatness of the dead or the wealth of the family, is
variously encased. Sometimes it is placed in a coffin made of the ends of
an old canoe; or, more shapely, of boards cut from the canoe's bottom and
sides; or, even so expensively as to use two trade-boxes, making one long
one by knocking out an end from each and telescoping them.

Sometimes the corpse is cast out on the surface of the ground, and perhaps
a pile of stones or brushwood gathered over it. Sometimes it lies
uncovered. Sometimes they are cast into the river.

Many years ago, I was ascending the Ogowe River in my boat, painfully
toiling against the current. I had unwisely refused the wish of my crew to
stop for our mid-day meal at a desirable ulako (camping-ground), as the
hour was too early; and I determined to go on, and stop at some other
place. But I regretted presently; for, instead of finding forest and high
camping-ground, we came to a long stretch of papyrus swamp; and, after
that, to low jungle. We pulled on for another mile, the sun growing
hotter, along the unsheltered bank, and we growing faint with hunger as
the hour verged to noon. Becoming desperate, I directed the crew to stop
at the very first spot that was solid enough for foothold, intending to
eat our dry rice without fire. Presently we came to a clump of oil-palms.
Their existence showed solid ground, and I seized the rudder and ran the
boat ashore. The crew objected, hungry though they were, that "it was not
a good place"; but they did not mention why. I jumped ashore, however, and
ordered them to follow, and gather sticks for fire. As they were rather
slow in so doing, and I overheard murmuring that "firewood is not gotten
from palm trees" (which is true), I set them an example by starting off on
a search myself.

I had not gone far before I found a pile of brushwood, and, rejoicing at
my success, I called out to the crew to come and carry it. While they were
coming, I stooped down and laid hold of an eligible stick. But an odor
startled me; and the other sticks that I had dislocated falling apart,
there was revealed a human foot and shin, which, from the ornaments still
remaining about the ankle, I suppose was a woman's. My attendants fled;
and I re-embarked in the boat, sufficiently unconscious of hunger to await
a late meal that was not cooked until we reached a comfortable village a
short distance beyond. My crew then explained their slowness to obey me at
that clump of palm trees, by saying that they knew it looked like a

A less respectful mode of burial (if, indeed, the term be not a misnomer)
is applied to the poor, to the friendless aged who have wearied out the
patience of relatives by a long sickness, and to those whose bodies are
offensive by a leprous or otherwise ulcerous condition. Immediately that
life seems extinct (and sometimes even before) the wasted frame is tied up
in the mat on which it is lying, and, slung from a pole on the shoulders
of two men, is flung out on the surface of the ground in the forest, to
become the prey of wild beasts and the scavenger "driver" (Termes
bellicosa) ants.

Of one tribe in the upper course of the Ogowe, I was told, who, in their
intense fear of ghosts, and their dread of the possible evil influence of
the spirits of their own dead relatives, sometimes adopt a horrible plan
for preventing their return. With a very material idea of a spirit, they
seek to disable it by beating the corpse until every bone is broken. The
mangled mass is hung in a bag at the foot of a tree in the forest. Thus
mutilated, the spirit is supposed to be unable to return to the village,
to entice into its fellowship of death any of the survivors.

Some dead bodies are burned, particularly those of criminals. Persons
convicted on a charge of witchcraft are "criminals," and are almost
invariably killed. Sometimes they are beheaded. I have often had in my
possession the curved knives with which this operation is performed.

Sometimes torture is used: a common mode is to roast the condemned over a
slow fire, which is made under a stout bed-frame built for the purpose. In
such a case almost the entire body is reduced to ashes. When I was
clearing a piece of ground at Belambila in the Ogowe in 1875, for the
house which I afterward occupied, my workmen came on a pile of ashes,
charcoal, and charred bones, where, they assured me, a criminal had been
put to death.

A barely mentionable method of disposal of the bodies of the dead is to
eat them. That is possible only in a cannibal country. That it was actual
was known among the Gabun Fang fifty years ago, and among my Ogowe Fang
twenty-five years ago. None ate of their own dead; adjacent towns
exchanged corpses. Women were not allowed to partake. The practice was
confined to the old men. One such was pointed out to me at Talaguga in
1882. He robbed graves for that purpose.

Among the coast tribes of the Gabun region of West Africa cremation is not
known, nor are corpses thrown out on the ground. Under the influence of
foreign example, the dead are coffined, more or less elaborately,
according to the ability of the family; and the interment is made in
graves of proper depth. In some of these tribes a locality of low, dark,
tangled forest, not suitable as site for a village or for a plantation, is
used as a public cemetery.

Among the tribes of Batanga in the German Kamerun territory, though the
people are civilized, the old unsanitary custom of burying in the
kitchen-gardens immediately in the rear of the village, and sometimes
actually in the clay floor of the dwelling itself, is still kept up, even
by the more enlightened natives. The Christians are not in numbers
sufficiently large in any family to control all the burial ceremonies of
its dead members. The strange spectacle is therefore presented of a
mixture of Christian ritual and fetich custom. In my own experience at
funerals of some children of church-members at Batanga, the singing of
hymns of faith and hope by the Christian relatives alternated with the
howling of half-naked heathen death-dancers in an adjoining house. And
when I had read the burial service to the point of beginning the march of
the procession to the grave, perhaps only a few rods distant, the heathen
remained behind; and while I was reading the "dust to dust" at the
grave-side, they would be building a quick fire of chips and dried leaves
on the exact spot where the coffin had last stood in the village street.
The ashes they would gather and incorporate into their family fetiches, to
insure fertility to the mother and other near female relatives of the dead

Also, in the Gabun region, there is the remains of a custom, practised
especially by the Orungu tribe of Cape Lopez, of a pretended quarrel
between two parties of mourners on a question whether or not the burial
shall actually be made, even though there is no doubt that it will be, and
the coffin is ready to be carried. This contest concluded, a second
quarrel is raised on a question as to which of two sets of relatives, the
maternal or the paternal, shall have the right to carry it. Very recently
this actually occurred at the town of Libreville, and on the premises of
the American Presbyterian Mission, the fight being shamefully waged by
young men who formerly had been professing Christians. They had been given
permission to bury a young man in our Protestant cemetery. The missionary
in charge of the station heard a great hubbub on the path entering the
mission grounds, as if a fight was in progress. Going to investigate, he
found an angry contest was being carried on, under the old heathen idea
that the spirit of the dead must see and be pleased by a demonstration of
a professed desire to keep him with the living, and not to allow him to be
put away from them. The contest of words had almost come to blows, and the
victors had set up a disgraceful shout as they seized the coffin to bring
it to the grave.

Another custom remains in Gabun,--a pleasant one; it may once have had
fetich significance, but it has lost it now, so that Christians may
properly retain it. Just before the close of the kwedi, friends (other
than relatives) of the mourners will bring some gift, even a small one,
make a few remarks appropriate to it and to the circumstances of the
receiver, and give it to his or her mourning friend. It is called the
"ceremony of lifting up," _i. e._, out of the literal ashes, and from the
supposed depths of grief. For instance, if the gift be a piece of soap,
the speech of donation will be, "Sit no longer in the dust with begrimed
face! Rise, and use the soap for your body!" Or if it be a piece of cloth,
"Be no longer naked! Rise, and clothe yourself with your usual dress!" Or
if it be food, "Fast no longer in your grief! Rise, and strengthen your
body with food!"


As to the status of the departed in the spirit-world, though all those
African tribes from old heathen days knew of the name of God, of His
existence, and of some of His attributes, they did not know of the true
way of escape from the evils of this present life, of any system of reward
and punishment in the future life, nor of any of the conditions of that
life. That they had a belief in a future world is evidenced by survivors
taking to the graves of their dead, as has been described in the preceding
pages, boxes of goods, native materials, foreign cloth, food, and
(formerly) even wives and servants, for use in that other life to which
they had gone. Whatever may have been supposed about the locality or
occupations of that life, the dead were confidently believed to have
carried with them all their human passions and feelings, and especially
their resentments. Fear of those possible resentments dominated the living
in all their attempts at spiritual communication with the dead.

As to the locality of the latter, it was not believed that all of them
always remained in that unknown other world. They could wander invisibly
and intangibly. More than that, they could return bodily and resume this
earthly life in other forms; for belief in metempsychosis is a common one
among all these tribes. The dead, some of them, return to be born again,
either into their own family or into any other family, or even into a

Who thus return, or why they return, is entirely uncertain. Certainly not
all are thus born again. Those who in this present life had been great or
good or prominent or rich remain in the spirit-world, and constitute the
special class of spirits called "awiri" (singular, "ombwiri").

But these awiri are at liberty to revisit the earth if they choose,
taking a local habitation in some prominent natural object, or coming on
call to aid in ceremonies for curing the sick. Other spirits, as explained
in a previous chapter, are sinkinda, the souls of the common dead; and
ilâgâ, unknown spirits of other nations, or beings who have become
"angels," all of these living in "Njambi's Town."

As to Father Njambi Himself, the creator and overseer of all, both living
and dead, every kind of spirit--ombwiri, nkinda, olâgâ, and all sorts of
abambo--is under His control, but He does not often exercise it.




One of the effects of witchcraft beliefs in Africa is the depopulation of
that continent. Over enormous areas of the country the death rate has
exceeded the birth rate. Much of Africa is desert--the Sahara of the
north, and the Kalahari of the south--with estimated populations of only
one to the square mile. Another large area is a wilderness covered by the
great sub-equatorial forest,--a belt about three hundred miles wide and
one thousand miles long, with an estimated population of only eighteen to
the square mile (among whom are the Pygmy tribes); and these not scattered
uniformly, but gathered chiefly on the banks of the watercourses, the only
highways (except narrow footpaths) through that dismal forest.

The entire population of Africa, including all nationalities,--Copts of
Egypt, Moors and Berbers of the north, Arabs of the east, Abyssinians,
Pygmies, and Cannibals of the centre, Negroes, both Bantu and Negroid, of
the west, south, centre, and east,--probably do not number two hundred
million. Of these, the Negroes probably do not amount to one hundred
million. German authorities variously estimate the population of their
Kamerun country at from two to five million, and they have been vigorously
reducing it by their savage punitive expeditions in the interior. The
French authorities of the Kongo-Français estimate theirs at from five to
ten million.

The population of the great Kongo River was much overestimated after the
opening of that river by Stanley. Its people were massed on the river
banks, and gave an impression of density which subsequent interior travel
has not verified. To walk slowly in an hour over a mile of road that
constitutes the one street of a town; to count the huts, and allot such or
such a number to each, would give a sufficiently accurate census of one
thousand or perhaps two thousand to that town. But that place is the
centre of travel or traffic of that region. A half-day's journey on any
radius from that town through the surrounding forest would confront the
traveller with scarcely any other evidences of human habitation. Towns of
the thousands are not the usual sight; rather the villages of one hundred,
and the hamlets of twenty, excepting in the Sudan, in the Yoruba and other
countries of the Niger, and in the large capitals of Dahomey and other
Guinea kingdoms. There walled cities of from fifty to one hundred thousand
inhabitants are known.

These congested districts help to lift the average that would be made low
by the paucity in the wilderness and desert portions. Probably the
population of the entire continent was much greater two hundred years ago.
Depopulation was hastened by the export slave-trade. Livingstone estimated
that, on the East Coast, for every slave actually exported, nineteen
others died on the way. The foreign slave-trade has long ceased, except
from the Upper Nile down through Egypt and Arabia, and from the Sudan
across the Sahara to Morocco. But far worse than Arab slave-trade are the
diabolical atrocities, committed during the last fifteen years and
actually at the present time, in the Kongo, under white officers of the
miscalled "Free State," and with the knowledge and allowance of the King
of Belgium.

But, aside from all these and other civil and political causes, the fetich
religion of Africa has been a large part of its destruction. It has been a
Moloch, whose hunger for victims was never satisfied: as illustrated in
the annual sacrifice of hundreds and thousands by the priests of the kings
of Dahomey and Ashanti; and the burial victims at the funerals of great
kings, as in Uganda and all over the continent. If the destruction of such
human victims is not so great to-day as it was twenty years ago, due to
enlightenment by Christian missions and forceful prohibition by civilized
governments, the spirit of and disposition to destruction is not
eradicated; it is only suppressed. It is so deep seated and ingrained as a
part of religion, that it is among the very last of the shadows of
heathenism to disappear after individuals or tribes are apparently
civilized and enlightened. Under transforming influences the native has
been lifted from dishonesty to honesty, from untruth to truth, from
immorality to virtue, from heathenism to Christianity; and yet there still
clings to him, though he no longer worships the fetich, a belief in and
fear of it. The presence of foreign governments can and does prevent
witchcraft murder for the dead; but if these governments were withdrawn
from English Sierra Leone, French Kongo-Français, and other partitions of
Africa, the witchcraft ordeal and murder would be at once resumed. And no
wonder. Inbred beliefs, deepened by millenniums of years of practice, are
not eliminated by even a century of foreign teaching. Costume of body and
fashion of dress are easily and voluntarily changed; not so the essence of
one's being.

Under the assurance that a consecrated charm can be made for the
accomplishment of any purpose whatever, it results that almost every
native African heathen, in hours of fear or anger or revenge, has made, or
has had made, for himself amulets, or has performed rites intended to
compass an injury to, and perhaps the death of, some other person. Should
that other die, even as long a time as a year afterward, it will be
believed that that fetich amulet or act caused the death.

It follows, therefore (although even heathen natives do, in rare cases,
say of a death, "Yes, Anzam took this one," _i. e._, that he died a
natural death), that almost universally at any death which we would know
as a natural one, surviving relatives and friends make the charge of
witchcraft, and seek the witch or wizard, by investigation involving, in
the trial, torture, or ordeal by poison, fire, or other tests. For every
natural death at least one, and often ten or more, have been executed
under witchcraft accusation.

I have pleaded for the lives of accused when I believed them innocent, and
whenever I was informed that an investigation was in progress, I said to
the crowd assembled in the street, "When you kill these three people
to-day, do I see three babies born to take their place in the number of
the inhabitants of your village?"

The Balengi on the Benita River, among whom I travelled in 1865-70, were
then a large tribe. It is now very small, exterminated largely by
witchcraft murders for the dead. The aged, defenceless, and slaves are
generally selected as victims. But no one is secure. Relatives of a chief
who during his life may have seemed envious of his power, are often
suspected and put to death.

For the determination of a doubtful cause of decease post-mortems are
made, but not on any rational basis or with any knowledge of anatomy. In
the autopsy of an ordinary person the object is to find among the bowels
or other internal organs some sign which the doctor-priest may declare to
be the path of the supposed sorcery-injected destroying spirit. In case of
a magician, the object is to see whether his own "familiar" had "eaten"
him. Cavities in the lungs are considered proof positive that one's own
power has destroyed him. The fimbriated extremities of the fallopian tubes
of a uterus are also declared to be "witch." Their ciliary motions on
dissection are regarded as a sign that the woman was a witch. In proof,
the native doctor said to me, "See! those are the spirit-teeth. Don't you
see how they move and extend in desire to catch and eat?" It was in vain
that I declared to him that if that was true then every woman all over the
world was a witch, and that he was bound to go ahead and kill them all;
for that God had made no woman without those things. (Was this "doctor's"
idea the same reason for which the old anatomists called those fimbriæ
"morsus Diaboli"?)

In Garenganze, among the Barotse,[80] "the trial for witchcraft is short
and decisive. If one man suspects another of having bewitched him,--in
fact, if he has a grudge against him,--he brings him before the council,
and the ordeal of the boiling pot is resorted to. My proposal is that if
they consider it a fair trial of 'whiteness' or 'blackness' of heart, as
they call it, then let both the accuser and the accused put their hands
into the boiling water. The king is strongly in favor of this proposal,
and would try any means to stop this fearful system of murder which is
thinning out many of his best men; but the nation is so strongly in favor
of the practice that he can do nothing. An old friend of mine, Wizini, who
took quite a fatherly care and interest in me, for some peculiar reason of
his own, was charged with witchcraft. He pleaded earnestly to be spared
the terrible trial, and was reprieved because of his years, but banished
from his people and country for life, for no other reason than that a
neighbor had an ill feeling against him. Had he been first to the king
with his complaint, he might have gotten his neighbor burned or banished
instead of himself.... Their punishments are very cruel. Burning alive is,
among the Barotse, a common occurrence; also tying the victim hand and
foot and laying him near a nest of large black ('driver') ants, which in a
few days pick his bones clean."

But it is well to repeat my own qualification of most statements about
"African" customs, which Arnot makes in connection with the above, that,
"when manners and customs are referred to, the particular district must be
borne in mind. Africa is an immense continent, and there is as much
variety in the customs of the different tribes as in their languages.
Certain tribes take delight in cruelty and bloodshed; others have a
religious fear of shedding human blood, and treat aged people with every
kindness, to secure their good-will after death. By other tribes the aged
would be cast out as mere food for wild animals."

The testimony of Declè[81] as to the tribes of South-Central Africa is:
"You would suppose that the African expected everybody to live forever,
since his one explanation of death is an immediate recourse to witchcraft.
It is hardly an exaggeration to say that every natural death entails a
violent one as its consequence. Along with witchcraft and the inevitable
accusation of sorcery when one dies, goes the custom of 'muavi,' the
ordeal by poison.... It is plain what complete domination this practice
has got over the native mind. The reason is that he thoroughly believes in
its efficiency. My own porters have constantly offered to submit to the
ordeal on the most trivial charges. Of course, this thorough belief in
'muavi' hands the native over completely defenceless to the witch doctor.
The doctor can get rid of anybody he likes to. Besides this, he is a kind
of public prosecutor; that is to say, that when he accuses any man or
woman of sorcery, he is not obliged, like any ordinary accuser, to take
the poison himself."

The "ordeal" or test of the innocence of a person accused of practising
witchcraft or of having caused the death of any one (except in places
where Christianity has attained power), is almost the same now as that
described by Rev. Dr. J. L. Wilson, and subsequently by Du Chaillu, as
existing fifty years ago on the entire West Coast of Africa. On the Upper
Guinea coasts it is called the "red water." "It is a decoction made from
the inner bark of a large forest tree of the mimosa family." At Calabar a
bean was used, an extract of which since has been employed in our
pharmacopœia, in surgical operations of the eye.

In the Gabun country the bark and leaves of a small tree called "akazya"
are used. Farther south, in the Nkâmi (miswritten, "Camma") country, it is
called "mbundu."

The decoction itself is supposed to have almost sentience,--an ability to
follow, in the various organs of the body, like a policeman, and detect
and destroy the witch-spirit supposed to be lurking about.

Accused persons sometimes even demand that they be given the ordeal. This
an innocent person could fearlessly do, feeling sure of his innocence,
and thinking, as any honest person in a civilized country charged with
theft would feel, that it was perfectly safe to have his house searched,
sure that no stolen article was secreted there. So here the ignorant
native is willing to take this poison, not looking on it as what we call

People who know that they have at times used witchcraft arts will
naturally be unwilling to undergo the test; but if the charge is made
after a death, an accused is compelled to drink. "If it nauseates and
causes him to vomit freely, he suffers no injury, and is at once
pronounced innocent. If, on the other hand, it causes vertigo, and he
loses his self-control, it is regarded as evidence of guilt; and then all
sorts of indignities and cruelties are practised on him.... On the other
hand, if he escapes without injury his character is thoroughly purified,
... and he arraigns before the principal men of the town his accusers, who
in their turn must submit to the same ordeal, or pay a large fine to the
man whom they attempted to injure.... There is seldom any fairness in the
administration of the ordeal. No particular quantity of the 'red water' is
prescribed." The doctor, by collusion and family favoritism, may make the
decoction very weak; or, influenced by public feeling inimical to the
accused, he may compel him to swallow a fatal amount; or he may save his
life by a subsequent emetic.[82]


African cannibalism has been regarded as only a barbarism; but for many
years I have strongly suspected that it had some connection with the
Negro's religion. It may be a corollary of witchcraft.

Declè intimates the same:[83] "I do not mean such cannibalism as that of
certain Kongo tribes, or of the Solomon Islanders, who kill people to eat
them, as we eat game. With such tribes I did not come in contact. But
there is another form of cannibalism less generally known to Europeans,
and perhaps even more grisly, which consists in digging up dead bodies to
feast on their flesh. This practice exists largely among the natives in
the region of Lake Nyasa.[84] I know of a case in which the natives of a
village in this region seized the opportunity of a white man's presence to
break into the hut of one of these reputed cannibals, and found there a
human leg hanging from the rafters. This incident shows that cannibalism
is practised; but also that it is not universal with the tribes among whom
it is found, and is condemned by the public opinion of those who do not
practise it. But public opinion in Africa is not a highly developed
power.... The real public opinion is witchcraft. And, indeed, in the case
of cannibalism, the real public opinion tends to shield the perpetrators,
because they are reputed to be sorcerers of high quality."

Rev. Dr. H. C. Trumbull, in his "Blood Covenant" (1893), while gathering
testimony from all nations to illustrate his view of the universality of
blood as representing _life_, and the _heart_ as the seat of life, as a
part of the religious rite of a covenant, comes incidentally on this same
idea of cannibalism as having a religious significance, or at least, as I
have expressed above, as a corollary of witchcraft. This will explain why
the African cannibal, in conquering his enemy, also eats him; why the
heart is especially desired in such feasts; and why the body of any one of
distinguished characteristics is prized for the cannibal feast. His
strength or skill or bravery or power is to be absorbed along with his

Trumbull[85] quotes from Réville, the representative comparative
religionist of France: "Here you will recognize the idea so widely spread
in the two Americas, and indeed almost everywhere amongst uncivilized
people (nor is it limited to the uncivilized), that the heart is the
epitome, so to speak, of the individual,--his soul in some sense,--so
that to appropriate his heart is to appropriate his whole being."

A constant charge against sorcerers in West African tribes is that they
have made a person sick by stealing and eating the sick one's "heart," and
that the invalid cannot recover till the "heart" is returned.

Also, see Trumbull:[86] "The widespread popular superstition of the
Vampire and of the ghoul seems to be an outgrowth of this universal belief
that transfused blood is revivifying. The bloodless shades, leaving their
graves at night, seek renewed life by drawing out the blood of those who
sleep, taking the life of the living to supply temporary life to the
dead.... An added force is given to all these illustrations of the
universal belief that transferred blood has a vivifying power, by the
conclusions of modern medical science concerning the possible benefits of
blood-transfusion. The primitive belief seems to have had a sound basis in
scientific fact."

Histories of our American Indians are full of incidents showing how the
heart of a captive who in dying had exhibited bravery in the endurance of
torture, was promptly cut in pieces and eaten, to absorb his courage.

"The Ashanti fetichmen of West Africa, apparently acting on a kindred
thought, make a mixture of the hearts of enemies mingled with blood and
consecrated herbs, for the vivifying of the conquerors."

"In South Africa, among the Amampondo, one of the Kaffir tribes, it is
customary for the chief, on his accession to authority, to be washed in
the blood of a near relative, generally a brother, who is put to death on
the occasion, and has his skull used as a receptacle for blood."[87]


Another outcome of witchcraft belief is the formation of secret societies,
both male and female, of crushing power and far-reaching influence,
which, in one aspect of their influence, the governmental, were the only
authority, before the intrusion of foreign powers, which could settle a
fierce personal dispute or enforce intertribal peace. But their
possibilities for good were overbalanced by their actualities of evil.

Among these societies I have, in a previous chapter, mentioned as
governmental agencies the Egbo of the Niger Delta, Ukuku of the Corisco
region, and Yasi of the Ogowe. There is also in the Gabun region of the
equator, among the Shekani, Mwetyi; among the Bakele, Bweti; among the
Mpongwe-speaking tribes, Indâ and Njěmbě; and Ukuku and Malinda in
the Batanga regions.

A detailed account of the ceremonies of an initiation into Malinda is
contained in Chapter XVI.

In a previous chapter I have mentioned my own coming in contact with Ukuku
and Yasi.

All these societies had for their primary object the good one of
government, for this purpose holding the fetich in terror; but the means
used were so arbitrary, the influences employed so oppressive, and the
representations so false, that they almost all were evil. Most of them are
now discontinued as a tribal power by the presence of foreign governments,
the foreign power having actually come in conflict with some of them, as
in the case of England recently with the Aro of Nigeria; or, where they
still exist, they have degenerated to mere amusement, as Ukukwe, in Gabun;
or are kept up as a traditional fashion, as Njěmbě.

But they all exist, as described by Rev. Dr. Wilson a generation ago, and
are at this very present among the tribes of the interior, where foreign
government is as yet only nominal.

Mwetyi "is a great spirit, who is supposed to dwell in the bowels of the
earth, but comes to the surface of the ground at stated seasons, or when
summoned on any special business. A large flat house of peculiar form is
erected in the middle of the village for the temporary sojourn of this
spirit. The house is always kept perfectly dark, and no one is permitted
to enter it, except those who have been initiated into all the mysteries
of the order, which includes, however, almost the whole of the adult male
population of the village.... When Mwetyi is about to retire from a
village, the women, children, uninitiated lads, and any strangers who may
be there at the time, are required to leave the village."

"Indâ is an association whose membership is confined to the adult male
population. It is headed by a spirit of that name, who dwells in the
woods, and appears only when summoned by some unusual event,--at the death
of a person connected with the order, at the birth of twins, or at the
inauguration of some one into office.... If a distinguished person dies,
Indâ affects great rage, and comes the following night with a large posse
of men to seize the property of the villagers without discrimination. He
is sure to lay hands on as many sheep and goats as are necessary to make a
grand feast, and no man has any right to complain.... The institution of
Indâ, like that of Mwetyi, is intended to keep the women, children, and
slaves in subjection."

"Njěmbě is a pretty fair counterpart of Indâ, but there is no
special spirit nor any particular person representing it." Its power
resides in the society as a body, and rests on the threat of the
employment of fetich medicines to injure recalcitrant persons. Only women
are admitted to it. A very considerable fee is demanded for admission to
membership. Formerly it was considered an honor to be allowed to be
initiated; now, to perpetuate itself, it compels young women to enter it,
especially if they have made derogatory remarks about Njěmbě. The
initiation then becomes a kind of punishment. Strange to say, young women
thus compelled to enter accept the society, and become zealous to drag
others in. The initiation occupies about two weeks, and is accompanied
with harsh treatment. Njěmbě has no special meeting-house. They
assemble in a cleared place in the centre of a jungle, where their doings
are unseen by outsiders by night or day. Nothing is known of their rites,
except that they dance in a nude state, and the songs of their dances are
openly heard, and are often of the vilest character.

"They pretend to detect thieves, to find out the secrets of their
enemies," to direct women in pregnancy, and in other ways claim to be

"The object of the institution originally, no doubt, was to protect the
females from harsh treatment on the part of their husbands."

As a rule, the Mpongwe women say that every woman should be in the
Njěmbě Society; so, at a certain age of a girl, they decide that she
shall "go in." But she is not always put through all the ceremonies at
once. She may be subjected to only a part of the initiation, the remainder
to be performed at another time.

The special occasion for an initiation may be perhaps because the spirit
of some recently dead member wants a new one to take her place; or if any
young woman has escaped being initiated during her youth or if she is
charged with having spoken derisively of Njěmbě, she may be seized
by force and compelled to go through the rite.

The entire process so beats down the will of the novices and terrorizes
them, that even those who have been forced into it against their will,
when they emerge at the close of the rite, most inviolably preserve its
secrets, and express themselves as pleased.

Just before the novices or "pupils" are to enter, they have to prepare a
great deal of food,--as much as they can possibly obtain of cassava, fish,
and plantains. Two days are spent, before the ceremonies begin, in cooking
this food. They make big bundles of ngândâ (gourd seed) pudding, others of
ground-nuts and odika (oily kernel of the wild mango), pots of odika and
fish boiled, boiled hard plantains, and ripe plantains beaten into rolls
called "fufu." This food is to be eaten by them and the older members of
the society the first night.

Those older ones, as a part of the hazing which they always practise,
deceive the new ones by advising them in advance: "Eat no supper this
evening. Save up your appetite. All this food you have prepared is your
own, and you will be satiated at the feast to-night." This is said in
order to play a hard joke on them. But sometimes a more tender-hearted
relative will pity them, and will privately warn them to eat something,
knowing that they will be up all night, and that the older members intend
to seize and eat what these "pupils" had prepared for themselves, allowing
the latter to be faint with hunger.

That evening the society goes into the adjacent jungle, the spot selected
including a small stream of water. There they clear a small space for
their ceremonies. They dance all night, part of the time in this camp, and
part of the time in the street of the town, but always going back to the
camp at some early morning hour.

On the second day they come to town, dance there a little while, and then
go back to the forest. They beat constantly and monotonously, without
time, a short straight stick on a somewhat crescent-shaped piece of board
(orěga) that is slightly concave on one side. It makes a clear but not
a musical note; is heard quite far, and is the distinctive sign of the
Njěmbě Society. No other persons own or will strike the orěga

In the part of the ceremonies that are public in the village street, a man
is invited to assist by beating on a drum, a matter in which women here
are not expert. This drum does not exclude the orěga, several of which
may be beaten at the same time; at least one must be kept sounding during
the whole two weeks by one or another of the candidates, or if these
become exhausted, by some other member of the society.

One of the first public preparations is the bending of a limber pole
(ilala) as an arch, or two branches, their tops woven together, over the
path entering the village. They are wreathed with lycopodium ferns, and at
their bases are stuck a young, short, recently half-unfolded palm-leaf,
painted with Njěmbě dots of white, red, and black. At the distance
of a few hundred feet may be another ilala; indeed, there may be several
of them on the way to the camp.

While dancing during the first few days, the society occupies itself with
preparations, unknown to the public, for their "work" in the camp. Thither
come older members from afar, especially those related to the candidates.

Certain women skilled in the Njěmbě dances and rules are called
"teachers." The first step which an already initiated member takes to
become a "teacher" is to find and introduce a new recruit, with whom she
must again go through all the rites of initiation more severely than at
her first experience. She makes herself perfect in the lessons impressed
on her by impressing them on the new pupil. The prospective "teacher" has
thus to endure, in this second passage through the rites, all and more
than is put on the novice. Little as is known of these rites, it is
certain they are severe.

In the singing, each song is known by its own descriptive motions. The
motion mentioned is to be actually performed, however difficult or
immodest it may be. Generally the immodest portions are reserved for the
seclusion of their camp; but the words sung at the camp can be heard at
the village, so that all hear them,--men, women, and little children.

One common public song has for its refrain, "Look at the sun"; while that
song is being danced, the candidate must gaze steadily at the hot sun,
even if it be blinding. Most of the "rules" (and the teacher may invent as
many new ones as she chooses) are purposely hard in order to make the
candidate suffer, and as part of the process of breaking her will, and
ensuring secrecy by a reign of terror.

Also most of the nights the candidate (or several of them if there are a
number) must spend hours in keeping a fire burning in some part of the
forest. That fire, once started, must be kept burning day and night during
the whole two weeks. A girl who in ordinary times would be afraid to go
out into the forest alone at night, will, under the Njěmbě
initiation, go out in storm and rain to see that the fire is not
extinguished. Sometimes the teacher will lighten the task for her by
accompanying her; or some one, pitying, will help to gather the dead wood
with which the fire is kept smouldering.

There are also rules for the breaking of which there are fines, _e. g._,
"When you are dancing in public during the initiation, do not laugh
aloud." Another rule is that no salutation is to be given or received, nor
the person or even the clothing of a visitor touched by a candidate.

The teacher must be quick to imitate, in this her second "degree" or
passage through the rites, the rapid motions of the skilled older one who
is teaching her and her new recruit.

In order to increase the severity, the pupil, though she may be already
wearied, is required to repeat her dance before every newcomer or
spectator. The teacher will start the beat of the orěga and take a few
steps of the dance, and then stop and rest comfortably, the tired pupil
taking the orěga and continuing the dance.

If pupils are sulky or shy, their teacher and other older members will
scold them: "Go on! dance! You may not stand or rest there! Go on! You!
this girl with your awkwardness! Do you own the Njěmbě?" Sometimes a
pupil is sulky or stubborn, or, disheartened, begins to cry. No mercy is
shown her. Others, in anxiously trying to follow motions, will make absurd
mistakes, and bring down on themselves the derision of the spectators.
Some pupils really like the dancing, and endeavor to learn quickly. Such
as these are praised: "This one knows, and she will some day be a

It is expected that the relatives of the pupils will be present and
encourage them with some little gifts.

It is remarkable how well the secrets of the society are kept. No one has
ever been induced to reveal them. Those who have left the society and have
become Christians do not tell. Foreigners have again and again tried to
bribe, but in vain. Traders and others have tried to induce their native
wives to reveal; but these women, obedient to any extent on all other
matters, maintain a stubborn silence. Nothing is known outside of the
society of their doings in their camp, except that they are all naked, lay
aside all modesty, make personal examinations of each other's bodies, sing
phallic songs, and indulge in the hardest, severest, and most violent
insults and curses heaped up in assumed wrath as jokes on each other. It
is really a school in which to learn the fine art of using insults and
curses which will be utilized outside the society, upon other persons on
occasions of real anger. No man can equal these women in their volubility
and bitter tirades when really angry. It is Billingsgate in its glory.

After keeping up the ceremonies for a number of days, the society chooses
one for their "last." The day preceding it, they go out in procession with
baskets, kettles, and basins, from village to village, still singing, the
song being adapted for their errand of begging, and still beating the
orěga, to get offerings of food, or gifts of rum, tobacco, plates, and
cloth. (In a civilized religious worship this would be the taking up of
the collection.) At each village on their route any member of the society
will direct one of the new pupils to dance, as an exhibition of her
recently acquired ability. She does not hesitate, but asks, "Which dance?"
The teacher replies, "I will show you," and starting a few steps measured,
she stops, and the designated pupil takes it up.

During the initiation the pupils are required to go bare-footed; and if
they have been wearing dresses, the dresses are taken off and only a
native cloth worn. But a slight concession has occasionally been made in
favor of some mission-school girls when forced into Njěmbě, who,
accustomed to dresses, were allowed to wear them when walking in this
public collecting procession.

The night of the day on which they come back from this collecting of gifts
is the "last night." Dancing is then done by all, both by the teachers and
the pupils.

It is not known who is leader. One is spoken of as the "Mother," but it
is not known who she is. The chief teacher is seen whenever they come from
their camp, and is known by the colored chalk markings different from


The next morning, the morning of the "last day," all go out fishing, young
and old, along the river or sea beach. This fishing is done among the
muddy roots of the mangrove trees. They gather shell-fish of different
kinds. But whatever they do or do not obtain, they do not return till each
one has caught a small common snake which lives in holes at the mangrove
roots. The sound of the orěga (which is still constantly beaten) seems
to act as a charm, and the snake emerges from its hole and is readily
caught; or the hand is boldly thrust into the hole in search of the
reptile. In starting out on this fishing the new members do not know that
they are to handle snakes. They go as on a happy fishing excursion.
Really, it is their final test. They are told to put their hands into
these holes, and not to let go of the "fish" they shall seize there. The
novice obeys, but presently screams in alarm as she feels a snake-like
form wriggling about her hand. Her teacher terribly threatens her; she
begs to be excused, dares not let go, and is compelled to pull out the
snake twining about her arm. They all then return to the camp, each with
her snake in her basket. It is not known what is done with these snakes.

The teacher is to be paid for her services. As the pupils come from
different villages, each one has to ask her teacher's permission to go to
her relatives to collect the fee. This is done a few days before the final
day. They are allowed to go, but with an escort to watch them that they
break no rule of the initiation. They do not go into the houses, nor do
they speak. They stand in the street. Those who escort them have to do the
talking, thus: "We have come to collect our money, as the Njěmbě
will soon be done." If they get a plenty, the pupils are glad; otherwise
they have to stand in the hot sun uncovered, except by their crown-like
wreath of lycopodium fern. It is a trying and humiliating position for any
girl whose people are poor or unwilling. She must stand there till some
one of her people shall contribute what the escort deems sufficient.

Having collected each her fee for the teacher, the pupils go back to her
at the village, and seat themselves on the ground under the eaves of the
houses on one side of the street, each with her pile of goods near her.
The teacher eyes these piles, and selects the girl who apparently has the
most, to be the first to begin to pay. Just previous to this, stalks of
amomum are laid down in the street, parallel to each other, about eighteen
inches apart, in number according with the teacher's random guess of the
number of articles in the chosen pile. Then she lays the articles of the
pile, one by one, on the amomum stalk. Then another of the teachers seizes
the hand of the girl who owned these goods, and swinging her from side to
side, runs with her rapidly over that line of goods, herself stepping
carefully on the interspaces, but apparently trying to confuse the girl
into stepping on and breaking some one of the articles, _e. g._, a mirror
or a plate. This ordeal safely passed, the goods of that girl are accepted
and put aside near the teacher. The goods of each of the other new girls
are treated in the same way, and laid, one by one, on the amomum stalks.

The number of some girl's articles may not equal the standard set by the
first, and there may be not enough to cover every stalk. In that case the
teacher will allow some article, _e. g._, a head of tobacco-leaves, to be
opened and its separate leaves used to piece out the number. Nevertheless,
she will demand that something be added. It is an anxious time for the
pupils, watching to see whether their fee is accepted. Sometimes the
teacher, seeing that a girl's pile of goods is small, will not even
attempt to count or divide it, but, looking at it, sneeringly says, "I see
nothing here! Sit you there in the sun till some one brings you more!"

The last act of the "last day," before adjourning, is a public dance
called Njěgâ (Leopard). For that, the members of the society, and most
spectators, dress up in fine clothes. It is performed in the afternoon,
and visitors go to see it. The "Leopard" is done by the teachers, two at a
time. All these pairs must have their faces painted, each in a different
style, no piece of skin left untouched.

In beginning the Leopard dance, one of the pair imitates a leopard
sneaking around the corners of the houses; while the other one, waiting,
has collected perhaps a dozen of the members as her "children," whom she
as their "mother" is to guard from the "leopard." This teacher-mother
begins a song, "Children! there is the leopard in shape of a person,"
adding as a refrain the word, "Mbwero! mbwero! mbwero!" which is repeated
rapidly as a warning that the leopard is coming, ending with, "my
children!" They sing, and step backward and forward to a drum
accompaniment. While these "children" are in great pretended excitement,
the leopard is advancing slowly, steadily, and nearer from the ogwěrina
(rear of the houses) into the street, with extended tongue, and growling.
When the mother sees this, her dance step grows quicker, and she backs and
motions to her children behind her, they imitating all her steps. The
leopard advances with a swaying step in time with the music, and then
suddenly dashes forward, and catches one of the children, and sets her
aside. This is kept up by the leopard till most of the children are
caught, only one or two being left. The mother then seems very much
exhausted, with a sad slow step; but the leopard at last catches the
others. Now that her children are all dead, the mother is aroused to fury.
The conflict remains between her and the leopard. And "mother" must
finally kill "leopard." The dance becomes very much more rapid; the two
approach nearer and nearer. Mother has a stick like a sword, and finally
she kills leopard with a light blow. This coup is received by a shout from
the spectators of "o-lo-lo!"

Then another pair are selected to go through the parts of mother and
leopard again. Sometimes one will refuse to act, or to be mated with the
other one. Then, like a singer in civilized lands, she is met with
entreaties from the crowd, "Do act! You know so well how to do it!" And
then she yields. If at the last there is remaining only one teacher who
has not done the act, one of those who has already performed will mate
with her.

At night, the last work of the society is to put out their fire. If the
leader has come from a distant village, she wants to go, and she will
extinguish the fire that night; or, if she lives near, she may choose to
wait several days longer. But during that time the dancing and singing are
not kept up, for the society has adjourned.

Whatever else is unknown of the objects of Njěmbě, it is known that
it is a government. It was formerly much more powerful than it is now. At
Libreville, Gabun, thirty years ago, no woman dared to speak against it.
Mission school-girls, feeling themselves secure on the mission premises,
sometimes in their school-girl talk foolishly made disparaging remarks
about it. When this reached the ear of Njěmbě, those girls would
some day be caught when they were visiting their villages, and forced
through the rites. Parents did not dare interfere, and missionaries had no
authority to do so.

In one case, however, a missionary did make a successful interference. The
girl did not belong to Mpongwe (the tribe of Gabun); she was a slave-waif
that had been picked up by the mission, and therefore, in a sense, the
mission's daughter. The senior missionary, Rev. William Walker, was a
tall, powerful, utterly fearless man, and his custom was always to carry a
heavy cane. That day, the Njěmbě lessons that were being given to
the abducted girl had only begun in the village street; she had not yet
been taken to their secret camp. Mr. Walker strode among the women and
laid hold of the unresisting girl. When some women attempted to drag her
away, he brought down his cane heavily at random over any head or shoulder
within reach of his long arm; and the girl was glad to be led back to the
mission. The rescue was successful. Mr. Walker's use of force was
justifiable as against Njěmbě's forcible abduction of the girl; and
his parental position in the case would have justified him if the women
had made any complaint against him before the local French magistrate on
charge of assault.

In a somewhat similar case, more recently, Njěmbě sued a missionary,
he having assaulted them when they refused to remove their distressingly
noisy camp from a too great proximity to the mission grounds. The
magistrate dismissed the case, resenting Njěmbě's existence as a
secret society, and its assumption of exercise of governmental authority.

Recently also a native man was successful in thwarting Njěmbě. A
certain native Christian woman had escaped being forced into Njěmbě
during her youth; and by her being very much in mission employ during her
adult years, Njěmbě had ceased to threaten her. Her daughter, of
about eighteen years of age, though not a Christian, had also, by her
mother's care of her, escaped, though often threatened. A cousin of this
daughter had been put through the rite while her father was away on a
journey. And now this cousin was trying to induce the daughter to enter.
The daughter refused, and perhaps may have made some slighting remark.
This remark her cousin reported to Njěmbě; and some intimations were
made that the young woman would be seized. The father of the cousin had
formerly been a church-member, is educated and gentlemanly. Though he had
fallen away from the church, he had no desire to see his niece dragged
down. He spoke severely to his daughter about the excitement she was
trying to raise, and threatened to call in the aid of the French Chief of
Police. The firm stand taken by him and also by the young woman's mother
was efficient in preventing her seizure by Njěmbě. Both these
parents are of unusual strength of character and advance in civilization.
Without their efficient backing, this young woman would have been forced
into Njěmbě.

Rev. J. L. Wilson,[88] wrote of Njěmbě almost fifty years ago:
"There is no spirit, so far as is known, connected with this association,
but all its proceedings are kept profoundly secret. The Njěmbě make
great pretensions, and as a body are really feared by the men. They
pretend to detect thieves, to find out the secrets of their enemies; and
in various ways they are useful to the community in which they live, or,
at least, are so regarded by the people. The object of the institution
originally, no doubt, was to protect the females from harsh treatment on
the part of their husbands; and as their performances are always veiled in
mystery, and they have acquired the reputation of performing wonders, the
men are, no doubt, very much restrained by the fear and respect which they
have for them as a body."

Most of the above description is, after so many years, true now, except
that the power of and respect for the society is lessened by the
permeating leaven of a Christian mission and by the dominance of a foreign
government; but even in that same region, in portions where these two
forces are not in immediate contact with the community, Njěmbě still
is feared.

It is true, also, that there is no special spirit belonging to
Njěmbě, but when the society has occasion to investigate a theft or
other crime, it invokes the usual ilâgâ and other spirits.

It is also still true that in the tribes where Njěmbě exists women
have much more freedom from control by men than in tribes where it does
not exist. But even if it has been thus a defence to women against man's
severity, it undeniably has been an injury to them by its indecent
ceremonies and phallic songs. Such things may make men fear them, but also
make it impossible for men to respect them.

Those songs I myself have heard when the Njěmbě camp was in a jungle
near to a village. The male generative organ was personified, and, in the
song addressed to it, the name of a certain man, who was known by the
singers to be at that very time in the adjacent village, was tauntingly
referred to. Even immoral men were overwhelmed with shame at the
shamelessness of the women. And yet those same women, when their
Njěmbě adjourned, resumed in their individual capacities their usual
apparent modesty which, as a collective body, they had cast aside. Little
has been printed of Njěmbě's secret proceedings more than Dr. Wilson
wrote fifty years ago.

Paul Du Chaillu makes a short statement that he was allowed to witness a
part; and he describes a hut containing a few almost nude old women
sitting around some skulls and other fetiches. Doubtless he saw what he
asserts. But, unusual as were his opportunities, and large as was his
personal influence with his "Camma" (Nkâmi) native chiefs, it is positive
that what was shown him was only a little of Njěmbě, if indeed it
was Njěmbě at all.

Other white men, with, indeed, perhaps less tact than he, but of greater
money power and larger trade opportunities, failed to see anything.

Some twenty-five years ago two Germans (now dead) trading in the Gabun
determined secretly to spy out Njěmbě.

The merchant, the head of the trading-house, was a well-educated
gentleman, and his clerk was an active, intelligent young man. Both knew
native customs well, and both spoke the Mpongwe language fluently. Each
had a native wife, and being generous and liberal-handed, had many native
friends; but they had been unable to bribe any Njěmbě women, even
their own wives, to reveal anything.

One dark night when the society was in session in a small jungle not far
from their trading-house, they went secretly and cautiously through the
bushes. They had not approached near enough to the circle of women around
the camp-fire to actually recognize any of them (it would have been
difficult to recognize their painted faces even by daylight); and they
really did not see anything of what was being done. Somehow their approach
was discovered, either by information treacherously carried from some one
in their retinue of household servants, or by being seen by one of the
pickets of the camp, or by the breaking of a branch as they crept through
the trees, or, possibly, by their white odor carried on the wind,--odor
which to Africans is almost as distinct as is Negro odor to the white

Njěmbě raised a frenzied cry, and started to seize them. The two men
fled desperately through the thick bushes. The clerk was recognized, and
his name was called out, and the other was assumed to be his employer.
They escaped to the safety of their house. Njěmbě did not dare
assault it, French policemen being within call; but next day word was sent
by the society denouncing them both, laying a curse on them, and plainly
saying that they should die. If the threat had been that the means of
death would be magic, these gentlemen would have laughed; but the women
did not hesitate to say that they would poison them in their food. This
would be entirely possible, even without collusion among the several men
and boys that ranged from steward to cook and waiters as their household
servants; though, if need were, some of these servants would sooner be
treasonable to the white master than dare to refuse Njěmbě. The case
was serious. The older man, as a dispenser of wealth to the entire
community, was, even in Njěmbě's eye, too valuable to be killed; his
wife, herself a Njěmbě woman, interceded for him, and the curse was
removed from him on the payment of a large fine. But the curse was doubled
over the poor clerk. Njěmbě would listen to no appeal, nor accept
any bribe for him, as they had actually seen him at their camp.

It is a fact that shortly after this this clerk did fall into a decline,
with strange symptoms which no doctor understood nor any medicines seemed
to touch. He became weaker and weaker, and his life was despaired of.
Njěmbě openly boasted that it was killing him.

I do not know why an appeal was not made to the local French authorities.
Perhaps because the merchant did not wish to give more publicity to his
escapade; perhaps because it would be difficult to prosecute a society, no
individual Njěmbě woman appearing to be responsible.

To save his clerk, the merchant offered to pay a very large sum.
Njěmbě having had a partial revenge, having demonstrated its power,
and standing victorious before the community, was induced to accept. It
was never known publicly how much was paid. The curse was withdrawn, and
the clerk immediately began to recover; but it was some months before the
evil was entirely eradicated from his system.

Beyond Dr. Wilson's and Du Chaillu's short statements about Njěmbě,
I have seen nothing else in print, except the mere mention of the
existence of the society by several African travellers. What I have
written in the above I have obtained piecemeal at various times from
different men and women, Christian and heathen; but all of them spoke with
hesitation, and under promise that I should mention no names.


There are native poisons. It is known that sometimes they are secretly
used in revenge, or to put out of the way a relative whose wealth is
desired to be inherited. This much I have to admit, as to charges of
"bewitching" and so-called "judicial executions," therefore, that in the
case of some deaths they are actual murders, and that the perpetrator
deserves to be executed. But it is rare that the proof of guilt is clear.
I have to be guarded in my admission of an accused person's guilt, lest I
give countenance to the universal belief in death as the result of fetich
agencies. I explain to my native questioner: If what the accused has done
in fetich rite with intent to kill had any efficiency for taking away
life, I allow that he shall be put to death; if he made only fetiches,
even if they were intended to kill, he is not guilty of this death, for a
mere fetich cannot kill. But if he used poison, with or without fetich,
then he is guilty.

But even so, the distinction between a fetich and a poison is vague in the
thought of many natives. What I call a "poison" is to them only another
material form of a fetich power, both poison and fetich being supposed to
be made efficient by the presence of an adjuvant spirit.

Not all the deaths of foreigners in Africa are due to malaria. Some of
them have been doubtless due to poison, administered by a revengeful
employee. Very many white residents in Africa treat their servants in
oppressive and cruel ways. Even those who are not cruel are often
autocratic and arbitrary. In a country that has little law to hinder, and
no public opinion to shame them, some white men treat the natives almost
as slaves, cheating them of their wages, cursing, kicking, striking,
beating, and otherwise maltreating and even mutilating them. Some are kind
and just; but even they are at times severe in enforcing their authority.
So it could occur that even a kindly-disposed foreigner might have his
life attempted by an evil-disposed employee whose anger he had aroused.

In general, the Bantu natives of Africa are patient, long-suffering, and
not easily aroused to violence, but taking their revenge, if finally their
endurance is exhausted, by robbing their master of his goods or otherwise
wasting his trade; abandoning him in sickness, so that he dies really of
neglect, or, when his boat upsets in the surf of the sea, making no effort
to rescue him.

The Bantu tribes are less revengeful and more amiable than the Negroes of
Upper Guinea, or the tribes of Senegal and of the Sudan, with their
mixture of Arab blood and Mahometan beliefs.

An English traveller recently, in the Igbo country of Nigeria, in
discussing the native belief in occult forces, says: "It is impossible for
a white man to be present at their gatherings of 'medicine men,' and it is
hard to get a native to talk of such things; but it seems evident to me
that there is some reality in the phenomena one hears of, as they are
believed everywhere in some degree by white men as well as black. However
that may be, the native doctors have a wide knowledge of poisons; and if
one is to believe reports, deaths from poison, both among white and black
men, are of common occurrence on the Niger. One of the white man's often
quoted proverbs is, 'Never quarrel with your cook'; the meaning of which
is that the cook can put something in your food in retaliation if you
maltreat him.

"There is everywhere a belief that it is possible to put medicine on a
path for your enemy which, when he steps over it, will cause him to fall
sick and die. Other people can walk uninjured over the spot, but the
moment the man for whom the medicine is laid reaches the place, he
succumbs, often dying within an hour or two. I have never seen such a case
myself; but the Rev. A. E. Richardson says he saw one when on the journey
with Bishop Tugwell's house-party. He could offer no explanation of how
the thing is done, but does not doubt that it is done. Some of the best
educated of our native Christians have told me that they firmly believe in
this 'medicine-laying.'"

The most distinct instance of attempt at poisoning which I have met was
related to me in March, 1902, by Mr. H. L. Stacey, of the English
trading-house of J. Holt & Co. Ltd. I took the following statement from
his own lips, and he gave me liberty to use it publicly. He has since
died, and his death was sudden.

Mr. Stacey was a gentleman of courteous manner and of good education;
fearless, universally kind, and generally just in his treatment of the
natives. He was a Christian in his belief, and endeavored to be one in his
life. His truthfulness is beyond doubt, thus making his statement entirely

He had his headquarters at Bata, with native sub-traders scattered north
and south and up the Benita River, some twenty-three miles south of Bata.
There came to him for employment a Lagos man, by name Croly or Crowley. He
spoke English well, could read and write, had quite a display of manner,
and made himself very useful by his apparent devotion, faithfulness, and
honesty. All this deceived Mr. Stacey, who thought he had obtained a
valuable servant; and rewarded him by giving him a sub-factory at Lobisa,
a few miles up the Benita River. To have a factory of one's own is the
goal of the ambition of every white trader's employees.

Mr. Stacey had also a Benga sub-trader on the river at Sěnje, some ten
miles above Lobisa. This Benga went to Bata and reported to Mr. Stacey
that Crowley was wasting his goods in riotous living and extravagant
giving. While the Benga was away, Crowley falsely told the native Fang,
who had been paid in advance by the former to collect india-rubber for
him, that the Benga had been dismissed, was in jail, and would never come
back, and induced them to sell to himself the rubber they had collected
for the Benga. When the Benga returned to his post, and asked his Fang to
pay their debt, they told him of the deception Crowley had practised on
them. There was, therefore, a triangular quarrel, the Benga suing the Fang
for their debt to him, the Fang denouncing Crowley for his cheat, and
Crowley angry at the Benga for informing Mr. S. on him.

Just at this stage of affairs Mr. S. came on one of his usual visits of
inspection to Sěnje. The Fang immediately sent secretly a deceptive
message down to Crowley, saying that Mr. S. wished to see him. As soon as
he came, the Fang began to fight him. Notwithstanding Crowley's dishonesty
to him, Mr. S. magnanimously defended his life, locked him for safety in
the Benga's bedroom, and then made the quarrel a quadrilateral by
protesting to the Fang against their assaulting his premises. His
contention with them was "talked" in public "palaver," and finally was
amicably settled. During the "talk" a lad came to Mr. S. excitedly, saying
that Crowley was spreading "medicine" in the bed of the Benga, with intent
to kill the latter. This aroused again the indignation of the Fang. But
Mr. S. laughed down their anxiety, telling them that he was not afraid of
"medicine" (he thought it was only fetich); that fetich could not kill a
white man; and that, to prove it, he would that night sleep in that bed,
and the Benga should sleep elsewhere. When all was settled, he got Crowley
quietly away, and sent him down river to his Lobisa house, with
expectation of dismissal. At night Mr. S. awoke with a great pain in his
abdomen, a great sense of constriction in his chest, skin hot, and body
tortured with shooting pains. Only his head was clear and free from any
distress. The symptoms were not those of malarial fever. The next day his
limbs were paralyzed. The natives said that Crowley had scattered in the
bedding and through the mosquito net a poisonous powder.

Mr. S. was taken helpless in his canoe down river, on the way passing very
near Lobisa, to a house on the sea-beach near the river's mouth. Believing
that Crowley had attempted the life of the Benga, Mr. S., while lying
sick, sent word to the adjacent Spanish Government Post for two soldiers
to come and arrest Crowley. (Mr. S. had been informed that C. was on his
way to him.) For C., when he saw Mr. S. lying sick in his passing canoe,
surmised what had happened, and was afraid the Fang would follow him to
Lobisa and assault him there. So he had closed his house and fled,
following Mr. S. He was coming with a double purpose: first, to plead with
Mr. S. against dismissal; second, as he promptly had heard of Mr. Stacey's
sleeping in the poisoned bed and being sick, he feared arrest and was
ready also to make the murder plan complete, if his plea for mercy was
denied. To this end he came prepared with a handful of the powder.

Before he had reached the house where Mr. S. was, the two soldiers had met
and arrested him, and were taking him to jail. He asked permission first
to be allowed to see his "master." So they brought him to the sick-room,
where he made many protestations of friendship and devotion, and plead for
mercy. Mr. S. rebuked the soldiers for hesitating in their duty, and for
having brought their prisoner there, and bade them take him away to the
magistrate; then he fell back on his pillow exhausted, and lay with closed
eyes, only semi-conscious. The soldiers went out of the room, leaving C.
clinging to the bed. He fell on his knees by Mr. S.'s head, as if still to
beg for pardon. Mr. S. felt C.'s hand insinuated under the bed cover near
his pillow, and suddenly opened his eyes, to find C.'s closed hand near
his face. He struck away the hand. A quantity of dark powder fell on the
pillow near his nose. Half suffocated, by an effort he shouted to the
soldiers, who came and took C. away. Mr. Stacey's little waiter-boy, who
had also come in at the shout, was horrified to see the poison-powder on
the pillow. He snatched away the pillow, threw the powder out of doors,
and told the soldiers. They, without waiting for official judgment at the
Post, gave C. twenty-five lashes at once. Farther blows, twenty-five at a
time, were given him while waiting in jail for Mr. S. to get well enough
to appear against him. Subsequently the _Chef de Poste_ appointed a day
for the hearing; but Mr. S., in his devotion to the trade interests of his
employers, asked that the day be postponed, as his sub-traders needed just
then much supervision. So the _Chef_ dismissed the matter, seeming to
think that if Mr. S. regarded his trade as of more importance than the
defence of his life, it was no business of the government to hold the
prisoner; and took no farther interest in it.

Having been given, in instalments, an aggregate of two hundred lashes, C.
was discharged. He wandered about that region gathering a little food,
without friends, feared and hated, and not allowed by some even to enter
their villages.

The reputation of the Lagos powder as a powerful agent in destroying life
has been known for years among the equatorial coast tribes. Reports of it
are well known among white men on the steamers. It is believed in, not as
a superstition, nor as a fetich, but as a powerful poison. Clerks and
other workmen from Lagos are not welcomed in the Gabun region, as are
clerks from other parts of Upper Guinea, for fear of their carrying that
poison with them.


As a result of the universal employment of fetiches in African tribes,
there is no confidence between man and man. Every one is in distrust of
his neighbor; every man's hand against his fellow.

"The natives of Africa, though so thoroughly devoted to the use of
fetiches, acquire no feeling of security in consequence of using them.
Perhaps their only real influence is to make them more insecure than they
would have been without them. There is no place in the world where men
feel more insecurity. A man must be careful whose company he keeps, what
path he walks, whose house he enters, on what stool he seats himself,
where he sleeps. He knows not what moment he may place his foot or lay his
hand upon some invisible engine of mischief, or by what means the seeds of
death may be implanted in his constitution."[89]

Because of this lack of confidence, the natural affections and the duties
of the dearest relations are perverted. Wives afraid of husbands, and
husbands afraid of wives; children afraid of parents, and parents afraid
of children; the chief of the village uncertain of his people; and the
entire community that must live and eat and associate together, living and
eating and associating with a constant secretly entertained suspicion of
each other.


While in some of the rites performed by the native doctor-priest there is
real diabolism, _i. e._, communication with Satan, and certain wonders are
performed through the Prince of the Power of Darkness, I am disposed to
believe that in most cases the "doctor" is self-deceived, certainly in
many cases I believe him to be a deliberate deceiver. The native so-called
"prophet" is probably an artful mind-reader; and the fortune-teller, like
our own fortune-tellers, a skilful observer of the subject's tones,
manner, and unguarded admissions in conversation which give ground for
shrewd guessing.

Arnot[90] says: "These professional diviners are no doubt smart fellows,
arch-rogues though they be. The secret of their art lies in their constant
repetition of every possibility in connection with the disaster they are
called upon to explain until they finally hit upon that which is in the
minds of their clients. As the people sit around and repeat the words of
the diviner, it is easy for him to detect in their tone of voice or to
read in their faces the suspected source of the calamity.

"A man had a favorite dog which was attacked by a leopard, but succeeded
in escaping with one of its eyes torn out. To ascertain the reason of this
calamity, the owner sent to call one of these diviners. When he arrived,
to test him, he was told that a disaster had befallen my acquaintance, and
was asked to find out by divination what it was. The diviner with his
rattles and other paraphernalia, and dances, and other movements to occupy
attention, after the manner of jugglers, asked leading questions of the
spirit he was professing to consult, but really he was watching the faces
of his audience for their unconsciously given assent or dissent. Thus, in
succession, he found that the misfortune, whatever it was, was not to a
human being; then not to certain families; then to some object possessed
by a certain man; then that it was not about an ox nor about a goat; then
that it was about a dog; then, after certain other possibilities, was it
connected with a leopard? So excited were the audience that they forgot
that they had been 'giving themselves away,' and when the diviner asked
the spirit, 'Was it a leopard?' they shouted with admiration at his
supposed skill. After a whole day of such proceedings the diviner
triumphed by announcing 'that the spirit of the father of one of the man's
wives had been grieved at the man's long absence from his town and family,
and had employed the leopard to tear the dog's eye as a gentle reminder
that it was time he should go back to his own village.'"

In connection with the Yoruba custom of parents of twins having images
carved of their dead twins, "the carving of those images is a flourishing
and money-making trade. If the parents of the dead child are in
comfortable circumstances, the carvers tell them that they have seen in
their dreams the dead twin, and that he or she has asked them to send such
and such clothes, articles of food, money, etc.

"Sometimes they say the twins appeared to them in the forest when they
went to cut the Ire-wood to be carved, and bade them not to venture it. In
such cases special sacrifices must be offered before taking any steps. In
this way months pass before the carving is complete; during which time
the carvers demand of the parents whatever they feel they are capable of
supplying them with."[91]

In the Corisco region, some thirty years ago, I knew a native sorcerer who
achieved quite a reputation because he could perform the thimble-rig
juggler-trick of making a leaf appear and disappear between two plates.

One of my associates in the Ogowe, the late H. M. Bachelor, M.D., had
brought with him from the United States a few tricks of "parlor magic." He
quite astonished my school-children by swallowing and subsequently
vomiting up a penknife, and by passing a threaded needle through the thigh
of one of the boys. Dr. B. did the tricks so artistically that even I did
not detect the deception about the penknife; and the boy solemnly asserted
that he felt the needle travelling through his leg. The exhibition was a
happy one in revealing to the natives how an evil-disposed sorcerer would
be able to deceive them.

A lady of the West African Mission of the American Board says: "I once
witnessed the performance of a witch-doctor on one of my visits among the
villages. The chief of the country was sick, and the doctor was giving him
a massage treatment. By sleight of hand he seemed to draw from the
patient's side chicken's claws, feathers, bones, sticks, pebbles, etc.
Some "witch," it was supposed, had caused these things to grow in the
man's body with intent to kill. It was evident to the astonished crowd
which had gathered around, that their king would probably get well, now
these things were removed. The doctor's bill was promptly paid,--a
thousand balls of rubber, ten pieces of cloth, and a large pig. An ox was
slaughtered, and a beer drink indulged in to celebrate the occasion and to
appease any offended spirit."


The insane being supposed to be physically and mentally possessed by an
intruding spirit, their actions are necessarily not considered to be the
outcome of their own volitions. This view does not always, in the native
mind, relieve a lunatic of the burden of the consequences of his acts.

There is great diversity, therefore, in the treatment of the insane in
different districts and in different tribes. In some regions a tribe holds
to the following reasoning: This person is possessed by a spirit. That
spirit is occupying his body and using his voice and limbs for some
reason. If we interfere with this person's doings, then we will be
interfering with the spirit and may bring evil on ourselves. Therefore it
is considered proper to make offerings and some degree of worship to the
incarnated spirit. But it is not true that the lunatic himself is an
object of worship. The gifts and sacrifices are made solely to and for the
spirit; the prayer of the petitioners being that it may refrain from
inciting the possessed person to do them evil, and in the hope that it may
conclude to depart and leave the patient and them alone.

In other places this same belief of possession leads to a very different
logical conclusion. The thought is: This person is possessed by an evil
spirit; if we allow him to remain, that evil spirit will do us only evil;
let us put this man, who is thus being utilized for evil, out of the way,
and perhaps in so doing we may get rid of the possessing spirit also. So
the lunatic is put to death. The manner of death sometimes chosen is a
cruel one, as if thereby the spirit itself might also be injured or
incapacitated to do further evil. Observe that this cruelty is not
directed against the demented human being, but against the indwelling
spirit. The maniac in being put to death is sometimes beaten with clubs,
sometimes burned, sometimes drowned, as if the evil possessing spirit
might itself be fractured or charred or sunk.

The forms of lunacy I have seen are mild, rarely maniacal. The lunatics I
have met in the Gabun region were both men and women. Among women I have
thought a cause was uterine complications; among both men and women,
excessive use of tobacco; in two cases of men the cause was
hashish-smoking. These last were characterized by a deep melancholy; all
the others were marked by absurd hallucinations. Undeniably, in two cases
in Gabun, the paroxysms were influenced by the stage of the moon.

The only medication of which the natives know is exorcism by fetich with
drum and dance, baths and purgatives. When a person is discovered to be
crazy, he is taken to the doctor, who gathers medicinal barks and leaves,
makes a very hot decoction, and puts it under a seat on which is placed
the patient. Both seat and patient are covered by a cloth, and he is
subjected to a severe sweating process. During this time the doctor calls
out to the supposed possessing spirit, "Who are you? who are you?" Perhaps
the sick man will say (his voice supposed to be under control of nkinda),
"I am So-and-so." The doctor replies, "Eh! you So-and-so! leave him, or I
will catch you and put you in prison." The prison is a section of
sugar-cane stalk with its leaves twined together; and the doctor is
believed to be able to confine the nkinda there. And it remains there
indefinitely; but it may be released by the will of the doctor, who will
choose to free it some day unless he is paid not to do so. Sometimes the
crazy person has so many sinkinda that he becomes a maniac, losing all
sense of shame or even of hunger. In such a case he is tied till he
becomes quiet and the doctor announces that the sinkinda have all gone
out. The patient is then washed, and the doctor with song and drum calls
on good sinkinda to come and enter, and directs them to take care of the
man's body.


When the Negro was brought to America as a slave, he brought with him a
variety of African things, some good, some bad.

When hurried upon the slave-ships in the Kongo or at Lagos, the slave tied
into a little package, hung among his other fetich treasures, seeds of his
favorite foods. At least one of these seeds survived, in the West Indies
and thence to the United States, with a native name "gumbo." It is the
okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), that exists all over Africa, and has spread
over the United States.

Ground-nuts--"pea-nuts" (Arachis hypogea), which botanists claim to be a
native of South America--have been grown from time immemorial all over
Africa, and, in the Loango country bordering on the Kongo River, by the
Ashira and some other tribes are used as their staple article of food,
rather than the plantain (Musa sapientum), or "manioc," cassava (Jatropha
manihot). It is an important export from those regions and from the Gambia
to-day. If the nut itself was not carried from Africa to America, its
native name was; that name is "mbenda," and it was corrupted to "pindar"
in parts of the Southern States.

The evil thing that the slave brought with him was his religion. You do
not need to go to Africa to find the fetich. During the hundred years that
slavery in our America held the Negro crushed, degraded, and apart, his
master could deprive him of his manhood, his wife, his child, the fruits
of his toil, of his life; but there was one thing of which he could not
deprive him,--his faith in fetich charms. Not only did this religion of
the fetich endure under slavery; it grew. None but Christian masters
offered the Negro any other religion; and, by law, even they were debarred
from giving him any education. So fetichism flourished. The master's
children were infected by the contagion of superstition; they imbibed some
of it at their Negro foster-mother's breast. It was a secret religion that
lurked thinly covered in slavery days, and that lurks to-day beneath the
Negro's Christian profession as a white art, and among non-professors as a
black art; a memory of the revenges of his African ancestors; a secret
fraternity among slaves of far-distant plantations, with words and
signs,--the lifting of a finger, the twitch of an eyelid,--that
telegraphed from house to house with amazing rapidity (as to-day in
Africa) current news in old slave days and during the late Civil War;
suspected, but never understood by the white master; which, as a
superstition, has spread itself among our ignorant white masses as the
"Hoodoo." Vudu, or Odoism, is simply African fetichism transplanted to
American soil.

"It is almost impossible for persons who have been brought up under this
system ever to divest themselves fully of its influence. It has been
retained among the blacks of this country, and especially at the South,
though in a less open form, even to the present day, and probably will
never be fully abandoned until they have made much higher attainments in
Christian education and civilization. In some of the plantations of the
South, as well as in the West Indies, where there has been less Christian
culture, egg-shells are hung up in the corners of their chimneys to cause
the chickens to flourish; an extracted tooth is thrown over the house or
worn around the neck to prevent other teeth from aching; and real
fetiches, though not known by this name [perhaps "mascots"?], are used
about their persons to shield them from sickness or from the effects of

While on a furlough in the United States in 1891, I visited a town in
Southern Virginia, and by invitation of the Negro pastor of the African
church addressed them on foreign missions. Somewhat at a loss what
attitude to take toward a Negro audience in speaking to them of Africa, I
candidly asked the pastor what I should say. He bade me speak exactly as
if I was addressing an educated white assembly. I did so. In describing
native African virtues and vices, I mentioned their fetichism, and
remarked that it was the same that obtained in the United States; and lest
my hearers might think I was personally attacking them, I added, "down
South in Georgia and Louisiana." The bench of elders sitting just in front
of me broke out, "And jist around hyar, too."

I had read Cable's "Creole Tales." One of his characters is sick with a
strange vague affection whose symptoms medicine had failed to reach. He is
superstitious, and one morning he wakes in horror at finding a dead frog
secreted under his pillow. That fetich was no novelist's conjecture; it
was true to life. About 1894 or 1895, while I was alone in charge of Gabun
Station, for three successive mornings when I opened the front door, I
found a dried frog leaning against the threshold. I did not care enough
about it to inquire its significance or to ascertain who put it there.
Since then I have found that it is not used as a fetich by people of the
Gabun region, but probably by Upper Coast people. I remember that at that
time I had three Bassa workmen from Liberia whom I suspected of stealing
and who then suddenly deserted my service. I think they placed the frog
there, either to injure me or to prevent my following up their theft.


An attractive survival of African life in America are "Uncle Remus's"
mystic tales of "Br'er Rabbit." They are the folk-lore that the slave
brought with him from his African home, where in village hut and forest
camp often have been told to my own ears similar weird personifications
before Harris had actually written them. There being no rabbits in West
Africa, "Br'er Rabbit" is an American substitution for "Brother" Njâ
(Leopard), or Brother Ihěli (Gazelle), in Paia Njambi's (the Creator's)
council of speaking animals.



The view-point of the native African mind, in all unusual occurrences, is
that of witchcraft. Without looking for an explanation in what
civilization would call _natural_ causes, his thought turns at once to the
supernatural. Indeed, the supernatural is so constant a factor in his
life, that to him it furnishes explanation of events as prompt and
reasonable as our reference to the recognized forces of nature. Mere
coincidences are often to him miracles.

In the large mass of materials which I gathered from all native sources of
information for the formulation of the philosophy of fetichism, as
presented in the former part of this work, I found many remarkable tales
some of whose incidents were probable, and which to me were explicable on
natural grounds, but which my native friends believed were the effect of
witchcraft power. I did not dispute them. To do so would either have
closed their lips or made them omit the witchcraft element from any
subsequent stories they might narrate to me. I thus secured these tales as
a purely native product.

I did not use a note-book, fearing that its presence would hamper the
freedom of the story-teller, but listened carefully and wrote down the
interview immediately at its close. Not all knew that I was writing for
publication. That knowledge would have interfered with the simplicity of
their utterances. Of my several informants, some were ignorant, some
heathen, some Christian, only a few well educated. Of the most intelligent
of my informants, two allowed me to take notes as they were speaking, and
I really wrote from dictation; they considerately spoke slowly, so that I
should miss nothing, while I wrote rapidly and at the same time had to
translate their language into English. Of those two, one was able to give
part of the interview in English. The thoughts in these stories are
entirely native. So are most of the words. I tried to retain the
narrators' own structure of sentences, sacrificing a little of English for
the sake of native idioms. The prevalence of short words is due to my
effort at exact translation of their own words. Occasionally I have used
longer words of Latin origin because I had forgotten their word, and in an
effort to repeat their idea. The shortness of the sentences is due to the
natives' graphic and animated style of speaking. Long sentences are
foreign to their mode of speech.

The following two stories are illustrative of the native belief, mentioned
in Chapter IV, that we possess not only our physical body, but also an
essential or "astral" form, in shape and feature like the body. This form,
or "life," with its "heart," can be stolen by magic power while one is
asleep, and the individual sleeps on unconscious of his loss. If the
life-form is returned to him before he awakes, he will be unaware that
anything unusual has happened. If he awakes before that portion of him has
been returned, though he may live for a while, he will sicken and
eventually die. If the magicians who stole the "life" have eaten the
"heart," he sickens at once, and will soon die.


A certain man loved a woman whom he expected to marry. He visited her
regularly. Whenever he intended to visit her, he always notified her thus:
"I will be coming such a day" or "such an hour." Then she would say,
"Yes." But it happened on a particular day when he told her, "I'll be
coming to-night," she said, "No, not to-night, wait till next night." He
replied, "No, for I will come to-night." But she refused, "No, I do not
want you to come to-night." Then he asked, "What is your objection?
Hitherto you have let me come when I pleased. What is the matter
to-night?" So she said, "I do not want you to come, because I will be
absent to-night." "Where are you going?" he asked. To this she gave as
answer only, "Don't come! I don't want you to come!" So the man said, "All
right! I will not come. If you don't want me, then I'm not coming." So he
left her, very much surprised at what she had said, and began to think
something was going wrong; he thought he would like to know for himself
what it was.

This woman was one of those who belonged to the Witch Society, and engaged
in its plays. But the man had not suspected this, and did not know that
she was one of those who played.

The native belief is that when a witch or wizard has seized some one to
"eat" his "life" or do him other harm, if there be a non-society witness
hidden or in the open, the odor of that witness weakens the witch power,
and the attempt at witchcraft fails.

This man, not suspecting the real state of the case, but in order to know
what was going on with the woman, came softly and hid near her house,
where he might be able to see whether any one went in or came out. Soon he
heard the door of her house open. He saw her come out of the house without
any clothing, and she quietly pulled the door to after her and closed it,
and then walked away from the place. All this the man saw, but he said
nothing. He stood outside waiting, waiting until she should return. After
a long while, as he was tired standing, he thought he would go into the
house and hide himself somewhere. It was not long after this that he heard
a little noise outside, and looking through the apertures of the bamboo
wall saw her and others with her, men and women. Some of them were
carrying the form of a man on their shoulders. Others spread out on the
ground green plantain leaves, and stretched the form on the leaves. Each
of the party had a knife, and they began their work of cutting the form
into pieces. While thus occupied, they saw that their knives would not
penetrate. Some of them began to step around, peeping into recesses as if
they were looking for something. Still trying to cut, their knives seemed
dulled; no one of them could succeed in cutting out a single piece. So
they stopped, and began to sharpen their knives, and again tried to cut,
using more force in their efforts. They worked rapidly, for they had to
hasten, as there were signs of approaching day.

As they still were unable to make any incisions after the sharpening of
the knives, they thought it very strange, and began to suspect that some
one was near witnessing what they were doing. So some of them began to
search in different directions; they sniffed to detect the odor of a
person. This they did over and over again, and came back, and again
sharpened their knives, and again they failed. And then they would again
go around, sniffing for a human being.

At last, as it was near morning, they had to give up their intention of
cutting into this form. So they had to take it up again on their shoulders
and carry it back to where they had brought it from, and lost their feast.

Then the woman came back to her house, very much disappointed and excited.
Though it was still dark, it was so near daybreak that she did not go to
bed, but took a light, and began to hunt all through her house, having at
last begun to suspect that perhaps her lover was there. Finally she found
him where he was hiding. She was very angry, saying, "Who told you to come
here? What brought you? And when did you come? Did I not tell you not to
come to-night?" But he turned on her, saying, "But where have you yourself
been? And what have you yourself been doing? I came here expecting to find
another man here. But that is not what I saw!"

She trembled, saying, "Have you been here a long time?" And he
significantly said, "Yes, I have!" Then, furious, she said, "Now you have
seen all that we were doing, and you have found me out! And as you have
discovered that I am engaged in witchcraft, and lest you tell others about
it, you shall see that I will put an end to your life! You shall not go
out of this house alive!" So she pulled out her knife. But the man was
quite strong, and though he had no weapon, made a hard fight. He was
stronger than the woman, was able to get away from her, and left the house
just before daylight.

From that day their friendship was broken; neither cared again to see the
face of the other. The man informed on the woman. But she was not
prosecuted; for no one was able to make specific complaint that they had
lost their "heart-life." That form had been restored to its person
unrecognized and uninjured. No one out of the society, not even the victim
himself, knew of the attempt that had been made on him.


A man of the Orungu tribe in the Ogowe region had several wives, of whom
the chief, commonly called the "queen" or head-wife, had no children. This
was a grief to her and a disappointment to the husband. But one of his
younger women, who had now become his favorite, had a baby, and the
head-wife was jealous of her.

The husband still retained the older one as the bearer of the keys and in
direction of the other women, though he was beginning to doubt her, as he
suspected her of witchcraft. But he said nothing about it, not being sure.

It is believed that witches can enter houses without opening doors or
breaking walls, and can do what they please without other people knowing
of it at the time. So one night this man and his young wife were sleeping
in the same bed with their little babe. Suddenly, after midnight, the
mother happened to wake up startled. She missed her baby from the bed. She
looked and looked all over the bed from head to foot, and did not find it.
Then she was frightened, woke up her husband gently, and told him in a
whisper, "The child is missing! I don't see the child!"

The husband told her to get up and light a gum-torch (for there were coals
smouldering on the clay hearth used as a fireplace), that they might look
for the child. She did so, and both hunted, looking under the bedstead and
elsewhere, but did not find the child. Then they examined the windows and
door; for perhaps the child had been taken out by some one. The door and
windows were all properly fastened. The mother was very much troubled; but
her husband, keeping his own counsel, advised her not to scream or make a
noise, but said, "Let us go back to bed, but not to go to sleep; and let
the room be dark again." So the wife put out the torch, leaving the room
in darkness; and they returned to bed. Then the husband said, "Maybe we
can prove or see something before morning" (for he suspected); and he
added, "Whoever or whatever has taken the child out so secretly, will
secretly bring it back. So we must not sleep, but watch."

So both lay awake in bed for a few hours. Then, just before morning, while
it was still dark, they heard a little noise outside near the house, like
the rustling of wings and the panting of breath. They were both anxious,
and had their eyes wide open. Soon they saw the room flashed full of a
bright light from the roof. [Witchcraft people are noted for having a
light which they can thus flash.] Then the wife, as soon as she saw the
light, quietly nudged her husband; and he returned the pressure, to let
her know that he was aware, and also to intimate that she should continue
silent as himself; and they pretended to be sleeping soundly.

Soon they saw the figure of a woman descend from the low roof, but with no
hole in the roof. The figure came to the bedside and lifted up the edge of
the mosquito-net with one hand, in the other holding a child. As soon as
she attempted to put the baby back in its place, between the father and
mother, the father, as he was the stronger, and nearer to the figure on
the outside of the bed, got up quickly, and seized both hands of the woman
before she had time to let go of the child and escape from the room. He
said aloud to the mother, "Get up! Your baby has been missing. Now light
the light, and we will see the person face to face who has taken the child

The young mother did so, and they discovered that it was the head-wife who
had brought in the child.

Then, when the father felt the body of the babe, it was limp and burning
with fever.

As it was so near daylight the father did not delay, but began at once to
make a fuss, and shouted for the people of the village to gather together.
And he began a "palaver" (investigation) immediately. When all the people
had assembled to hear the palaver, both the father and the mother related
what had passed during the night, about their missing the child, and its

The head-wife, being accused, was silent, having nothing to say for
herself; for she was both ashamed and afraid to confess that she had been
eating the life of the baby. But all the people knew that such things were
done, and they believed that this woman had done with the baby whatever
she wanted to do while she had it outside that night.

Then the father of the child tied up the head-woman, and said to her, "Now
I have you in my hands, I will not let you go until you give back the
baby's life, and make it well again." [The belief is that if the
"heart-life" has not been eaten the victim can recover.] This she was not
able to do, for she had eaten its "heart." So the next day the baby died.
And the husband executed that head-woman by cutting her throat.

       *       *       *       *       *

The above incident was told me at Libreville by a very intelligent Mpongwe
as having actually occurred in the Gabun region. It is fully believed that
walls are no obstacle to the passage of the bodies of those possessing the
power of sorcery. The "light" spoken of I have seen. I do not know what it
was. From a small point it would flash with starlike rays. It was carried
by a man, who disappeared when pursued. A Christian native told me that he
once pursued it, and caught the bearer with a torch concealed in a hollow
cylinder; the flashing was caused by his thrusting it in and out of the


(On an itineration in my boat on the Ogowe interior, in 1890, I came to a
village of the Akěle tribe, whose inhabitants were in an intense state
of excitement. All the men were brandishing guns and spears or daggers;
women were gesticulating and screaming; the loins of all were girded for
fight; and a few only of the older men and some strangers were appealing
for quiet.

Among the latter was a native trader of the Mpongwe coast tribe. His trade
interests made for peace. I knew him, as he had received some education in
our Gabun school.

I saw that in such confusion it would be useless to attempt to ask a
hearing for my gospel message. I did not wait to inquire the cause of the
day's commotion, and passed on to another village.

Subsequently the Mpongwe man told me the story. Though slightly educated
and enlightened, he was not a Christian and believed in fetiches. His
account, therefore, was from the heathen standpoint. I cannot repeat his
own wording, but the outline of the story is exactly his.)

In that village were two slave women, each married to a free husband. Each
was expecting to become a mother,--No. 1 in three months, and No. 2 in six
months. They were friends; and, unknown to their husbands, were members of
the Witchcraft Society, and were accustomed secretly to attend and take
part in the society's midnight meetings and plays. Just what is the nature
of those plays is not quite certain, but it is known that wild orgies of
dancing constitute a part of them.

These two women, that they might be freer for their dancing and other
movements, were accustomed, in going to the meetings, to divest themselves
temporarily of their unborn babes. This they were able to do by witchcraft
power, in virtue of which the possessor can pass, or cause any one else
to pass, uninjured through any material object, as a ray of light passes
through glass.

This they did on their way to the meeting-place on the edge of the forest.
They laid their babes on the grass in a secluded spot, and resumed them on
their return. As they did so, No. 1 observed that hers was a male, and No.
2 that hers was a female. They did this many nights in succession.

Subsequently No. 2 began to be envious of No. 1 in the possession by the
latter of a male child. The husband of No. 2 had been very anxious for a
son. She knew that if she could present him with a son he would be very
proud, and would enlarge her position and privileges in the family. So,
one night, she did not wait for her friend No. 1 to return with her, but,
excusing herself from the play, came back on the path alone. Coming to
where the two babes were lying, she deliberately exchanged her own girl
for the boy of No. 1.

The latter stayed very late at the play,--so late that, as she hasted
home, fearful lest the morning light should find her on the path (a
dangerous thing to a witch-player), on coming to where the babes had been
deposited, she snatched up the remaining one without examining it, and,
supposing it to be hers, resumed the natural possession of it.

Shortly after this, the nine months of No. 1 were fulfilled, and she bore
a child which, to her surprise, she saw was a female. She made no remark,
as she immediately suspected what had been done. She waited three months,
until the days of No. 2 also were fulfilled. At the birth of the child of
No. 2 there was great rejoicing by the husband in the possession of a son.
He made a great feast, and called together a large gathering of people.
Among them was not invited the woman No. 1; for she and No. 2 were no
longer friendly, though neither of them had said anything.

In the midst of the rejoicings No. 1 made her appearance, though
uninvited, and striding among the guests, went silently into the bedroom,
carrying a three-months-old female babe. She went to the side of the bed
of No. 2, laid down the female child, saying, "There's your baby!"
snatched up the male infant, saying, "This is mine!" and strode out of the
room into the street and on the way to her house.

A scream from No. 2 startled the crowd of guests; word was passed that the
boy was being stolen, and No. 1 was pursued and brought back; but she
desperately refused to give up the boy. The whole village was at once
thrown into confusion.

That was the state of affairs on the day that I arrived there. My
informant told me that he and others induced the crowd to quiet, by saying
that the matter could better be settled by a talk than by guns, by sitting
down in council than by standing up in fight.

On being brought before the council or palaver, No. 1 was calm and firm.
She still held to the boy-baby. She said she was willing to be judged, but
demanded that No. 2 should also be made to confront the council. The sense
of guilt of the latter made her weak and unable to face the friend she had

Charged with stealing, No. 1 made a bold speech. She said, "Yes; I have
taken my own! If that be stealing, I have stolen!" And then she told the
whole truth of the witchcraft plays of herself and No. 2. The latter,
overcome with shame for her crime, did not deny; she admitted all. And No.
1 closed her defence by saying, "So this other woman has nothing about
which to make complaint. She has her child, and I have mine, and that
settles the matter."

The crowd was amazed, and the husbands were ashamed at finding that their
wives were witches. The husband of No. 2 was no longer disposed to fight
after his wife had admitted that the boy-baby was not her own. The matter
was dropped, as no one was really harmed. Neither husband was disposed to
fine the wife of the other for her witchcraft, as both were guilty.

The guests ate the feast, but the host had no satisfaction in its now
useless expenditure except that it was considered sufficient reparation to
the husband of No. 1 for his own wife's original theft.


(The incidents narrated in the following three stories, The Wizard
House-Breaker, The Wizard Murderer, The Wizard and his Invisible Dog, my
informant asserted were actual occurrences; Nos. IV. and VI. occurring in
the Gabun region, and the parties known. The witchcraft part of the
stories consists in the strange light which wizards and witches are said
to possess; it is under their control to display or hide, and it gives
them power to overcome time and space. The scene of No. V. is on the Ogowe

There were a husband and wife who had been married a number of years. She
had a child, a little boy. The husband had a brother; and this brother had
taken a strong fancy to the woman, and wanted to possess her. Secretly he
was asking her to live with him. But the woman always refused, saying,
"No, I do not want it!" Then this brother's love began to change to anger.
He cherished vexation in his heart toward the woman, and asked her, "Why
do you always refuse me? You are the wife, not of a stranger, but of my
brother. He and I are one, and you ought to accept me." But she persisted,
"No, I don't want it!"

The brother's anger deepened into revenge. He possessed nyemba (witchcraft
power), and determined to use it.

One day this woman had to go to her plantation; and she arranged for the
journey, taking her little boy with her. Before she left the village to go
to the plantation, she told the townspeople, "I will remain at the
plantation for some days, to take care of my gardens; for I am tired of
losses by the wild beasts spoiling my crops." But the other women said,
"Ah! your plantation is too far; it is not safe for you to be by
yourself." But she said, "I cannot help it; I have to go." She was brave,
and persisted in her plan, and made all preparations. On a set day, with
her basket on her back, her child on her left hip, and her machete in her
right hand, she started. She went on, on, steadily; reached the
plantation, and rested there the remainder of that day with her child.
After her evening meal she shut the door of the hut and went to bed. The
door was fastened with strings and a bar, for the plantation hamlets had
no locks.

She awoke suddenly about midnight, and thought she heard a noise outside.
She listened quietly. Then she heard the sound again. Presently she
discovered by the noise that some one was trying to climb upon the top of
the hut, for the roof was low. Soon, then, she observed that this person
was trying to break open the palm-thatch of the low roof. She still lay
quietly. But she remembered a big spear which the husband always kept in
one of the rooms of that hut; so she slowly got out of bed, and very
softly went to the corner of the room where the spear was standing, and
returned to bed with it.

The breaking of the thatch continued. Soon she saw the room filled with a
strange light, and then she saw a man trying to enter the roof head
foremost. She bravely kept still, and watched his head and shoulders
enter. She could not see his face, and did not know who he was. But she
did not wait for certainty; she thrust the spear upward at the man's head.
Immediately the figure disappeared, and she heard a heavy thud as he fell
to the ground into the street outside.

She now began to be frightened; she no longer felt safe, and dreaded what
might happen before morning. So she began to get ready to return to town
that very night. She girded her loin garment, fastened the cloth for
carrying her child, took her machete, hasted out of the hut, and started
for her village. In her fear she ran, and rested by walking. Thus,
alternately running and walking, she reached the village so exhausted and
weak with loss of sleep that when her husband's door was opened she fell
fainting on the floor. He and others were alarmed, and asked, "What?
What's the matter?" As soon as she was able to speak, she told the whole
story. They asked her, "Did you see the person? Do you know him?" She
said, "No; only one thing I know: it was a man, and he fell into the

So, when daylight came, the husband and others went to the plantation to
see whether they could find the man. When they reached the plantation,
they were very much surprised to see that the man was this brother. He was
lying dead, with the spear in his neck.

The husband was not vexed at his wife for the death of his brother; he was
pleased that she had so well defended herself.


(My informant asserted that this really happened in the Ogowe.)

The parties are a husband and wife, their two little children, and a
younger brother of the husband. One of the children, a boy, was a lad old
enough to understand affairs.

The brother-in-law loved the woman, and secretly tried to draw her
affections to himself; but to all his solicitation she gave only
persistent refusal. Thus matters went on, he asking and she refusing; and
then his love turned to hatred.

It happened one day that the husband and wife had a big quarrel of their
own. The wife was so angry that she said she would leave him, take the
children, and go to her father's house. But that home was far away, and
could not be reached in one day. Other women tried to prevent her going,
as she would have to spend the night in the forest on the way; but she

Leaving her clothing and other goods, she started off with the two
children, a little food, and her machete. Trying to make the journey in
one day, she walked very fast. But when the sun had set, and soon darkness
would fall, the lad said, "Mother, as we cannot reach there to-night,
don't you think we'd better stop and arrange a sleeping-place before
dark, and let the spot be a little aside from the public path?" The mother
said, "Yes; that is good!" Then she gave the babe to the lad to hold,
while she with her machete began to cut away bushes and clear the ground
for a convenient sleeping-spot. After she had cut away some bushes, the
lad watching her, saw that she was clearing a space larger than was needed
for herself. He asked her, "Do you intend that we all shall sleep in that
one place,--you and baby and I?" The mother said, "Yes." But he said,
"Why, no! Fix two places,--I by myself, and you and baby in another
place." The mother replied, "No, I cannot let you sleep alone in this
forest; I want you near me." However, the lad insisted: "But if anything
happens to us in the night, then we will be lost all together. I am not
willing that we should be all in the same place."

So the lad began to search for a place for himself, and came to a big tree
which was not very far from his mother's chosen spot. He called her to
him, and said, "I have found a good place. Just you clear for me behind
this big tree, and dig a trench for me to lie in, just below the level of
the ground." The mother did so.

After the two spots were cleared, they ate their little evening meal, and
night came. Then the lad said, "Now I go to lie in the trench, and you
sprinkle leaves over me to hide me, and then you go to your
sleeping-place. And if anything happens to me at night, I promise I will
not cry out; I will remain silent. And you promise that if anything
happens to you, you also will not cry out, nor call to me." The mother
agreed, and both went to sleep.

Not long after this, both were awakened by a strange flashing light, and
the mother saw some one coming to the place where she was lying. Then the
light was suddenly extinguished; and she saw a man near her, and
recognized that he was her brother-in-law. She was exceedingly alarmed,
knowing that he did not come with good intent. In her fright she hoped to
gain time by pretending to be friendly with him. So she exclaimed, "Oh! My
young husband! Now you have come after me, so that your brother's wife
will not have to sleep in the forest alone. Now we will make friendship
and be good friends." But he replied in anger: "Friends, you say? You
shall see what kind of friends I will make with you to-night! You, the
woman who hates me! Where is the lad?" She, determined to shield the
child, said, "The lad did not come with me; he preferred to stay in town
with his father." The man replied, "You are not telling me the truth. Tell
me where the lad is!" But she persisted in her statement, "He is left in
town with his father."

Then the man walked about in search of the lad, going even very near to
where he was lying awake in the trench. But the leaves hid him, and his
uncle did not discern that the ground had been disturbed. Returning to the
woman, he said, "Good! you are telling the truth. I don't see the lad. But
now I am ready to attend to you. You shall see." So he approached the
woman to seize her. She was so paralyzed with fear that she neither
attempted to run away, nor, though her machete was lying near, did she lay
hold of it. Even had she done so, she was too weak with her journey to
defend herself. The man snatched up the babe that still was sleeping, and
looking around for a rough, projecting root, violently flung the babe
against it. It made no cry; and both he and the mother supposed it was
instantly killed. Then he drew his machete, which he had made very sharp,
and began to cut and slash the woman. She pleaded and cried for help; but
there was no help near. She fell, covered with wounds, and died on the
spot. All this the lad saw and heard. After killing the mother, the man
began again to search for the lad, but did not find him; and, as it was
now after midnight, he left the place to go back to town.

Soon after he was gone, the lad, exhausted with terror and fatigue, fell
asleep. But he awoke again in the early daylight. Arising from his trench,
he went with grief and distress to see the two corpses. Looking at his
mother's blood-covered form, he saw that she was dead. Looking at his
baby brother lying on the root, he took up the little form, sobbing, "Only
I am alive. Even this little child was not spared. Am I to go on my
journey all alone?" Examining the limp body still further, it seemed still
to show signs of life; and he said to himself, "I think I will try to save
it. I am strong enough to carry it to my mother's people, to whom I shall
tell this whole story."

So he took up the cloth in which his mother had carried the child,
adjusted it for himself, placed the unconscious form in it, and started on
his journey. A short distance beyond brought him to a brook. Before he
crossed it, he stooped to take a drink of water. Then examining the little
body again, he felt that it was not stiff and was still warm. Said he,
"Ah! perhaps it has a little life! I better give it a drink." So he tried;
and the baby drank. He rejoiced. "So perhaps it will be alive. I better
bathe it." And he did so. Then he crossed the brook, and journeyed on.
Before he reached his grandfather's village, he crossed another brook, and
bathed the babe, and gave it a drink as at the first brook.

On his arrival at the village the people were surprised to see him without
his mother. His grandfather at once wanted to know his story and why he
had come there alone. Said he, "Please, before I tell my story, try to
save this baby."

After the people had looked to the baby's needs and saw that it might
live, they gathered together to listen to what the lad had to say. When
they had heard his account, they started back with him to find his
mother's corpse. They took it up and carried it to her husband's village,
there to hold palaver over the death. As soon as they reached the village,
instead of announcing themselves as visitors to the husband, they went
straight to the brother-in-law's house. They found him sitting in the
veranda. They laid the corpse at his feet. This so startled him that a
look of guilt showed on his face. Looking at the party who had brought the
corpse, he saw among them the lad; and at once he felt sure that this lad
had been a witness of his crime. He lost his self-control, and began to
scold, "What do you put this thing at my feet for? Take it away!"

Then all the townspeople gathered around him, being horrified at the news
of the woman's death. The husband called them all to a council, and the
palaver was held at his house. There the grandfather and the lad told the
whole story.

The brother-in-law began to enter a denial; but the husband said, "No, you
are guilty! and because we are brothers, and we are one, the guilt is also
mine; and I will confess for you. You are guilty. Your actions show it.
Why did you become so angry as soon as you saw the corpse at your feet?"

But the wife's family said to the husband, "We have no quarrel with you.
We want only the person who killed our sister, and a fine of money for our

Then the husband said, "You are right; this man killed her. Take him, and
for a fine take his slaves and other property. He has deliberately
deprived me of a wife, and my children of a mother. Take all he owns." It
was so done; and the assemblage dispersed.


(This, my informant asserted, actually happened at the town of Libreville,

One night a young woman was alone in her house. She was married; but, that
particular night, the husband was absent.

After she had gone to her bed for the night, she slept, but not very
soundly. Half awake, she thought she heard something moving in the front
reception-room (ikenga). She had lowered the lamp in her bedroom, but it
still gave enough light for her to see. She slightly opened the
mosquito-net on one side and began to look and listen. But she saw no one
nor anything unusual in her room. But as the door between her bedroom and
the reception-room was slightly ajar, she looked toward its opening, and
thought she saw a figure moving in that room. She felt sure there was some
one there. So she stepped softly out of the bed, and peeped through the
narrow opening of the door. Sure enough, there was a man.

She was frightened, but controlled herself. She was puzzled to know how he
had got into that room, whose outer door she knew she had fastened before
she went to bed. She crept quietly back to her bed, and then began to
shout, "Who is that? How did you get in? I see you!" There was no answer.
The figure ceased moving, and stood still. The woman again cried out, "Who
are you? When did you come in? What do you want?" The man replied in a low
voice, "It is I!" She rejoined, "Who is 'I'? Are you only 'me'? Who are
you? How did you succeed in entering? Go out!" So he apparently opened the
door and went out. She was so frightened that she did not immediately
follow him, nor did she make a public outcry.

Awhile afterward she recovered self-control, and arose and went into the
outer room, and assured herself that the outside door was fast, as she had
left it. She believed he had entered the closed door by witchcraft art.

The next morning she told her village people the story; but she was afraid
to mention the man's name (for she knew who he was), because many people
thought he possessed power as a wizard, and she feared he would revenge
himself on her. She told his name only to her mother.

Not long afterward he came again to her house when she was alone at night,
but did not enter. He came to the outside wall against which he knew her
bedstead stood. Lying there, she could see his form through the cracks in
the bamboo wall. She saw this as she happened to awake from sleep. She saw
his figure standing still, and she heard a sound as of the tinkling of a
bell moving about, such as natives tie to the necks of their dogs in
hunting. The wizard had brought with him this time a small invisible beast
to whose neck the invisible but audible bell was attached; and she heard
a sound along the bottom of the wall, as if the animal was scratching a
hole for its master's entrance. This time she was so alarmed that she
screamed aloud to the people of the village; and then, through the chinks
in the wall, she saw passing by in the street the figure of the same man.

The very next day the woman began to be sick of a fever. For several days
she was quite ill, and people began to be alarmed for her. Her sickness
grew very much worse. Her people sent for a Senegal man, living in
Libreville, who had quite a reputation as a doctor in that kind of
sickness. When this doctor came, she was able to speak only in a low
voice, and she recounted to him what had happened. He asked her to mention
the precise spot on which the man had stood outside of the wall of her
house. She described to her mother the particular spot, and the mother
took the doctor to show him. He scraped up clay from the place and mixed
it in a small bowl of cold water. He directed that after she had been
given a bath morning and evening this muddy water should be rubbed over
her body. She said that when it was thus rubbed over her skin, her flesh
temporarily felt as if it was paralyzed.

Her sickness continued more than a month, and then she recovered. Soon
after her recovery the man who had attempted to enter her room, and who
was suspected of having caused her sickness by witchcraft art, suddenly
left Gabun, and went to another country.


Antyande, a Mpongwe woman of the town of Libreville, Gabun, is a leader of
a company of ten or a dozen women in a certain native dance called
"ivanga," which is performed only by women. Some dance it only as an
exhibition of their gymnastic skill; others mix with it fetich and
witchcraft arts, and claim that their movements are under spirit power.
Antyande, more than the other women of the company, uses witchcraft in her
performances. She seems almost to glide through the air, alighting on the
knees of sitting spectators without giving them the impression of weight,
gyrating on small stools without moving the stools from their position,
and making many other wonderful physical contortions in an exceedingly
graceful and easy manner. She even goes to graveyards at night,
accompanied by three or four men and women, to get what they call the
spirits of the dead. It is said by some of the men who have gone there
with her that they do not understand what she does, but that it is so very
strange and awful that they are afraid. The reason why she goes for these
abambo (ghosts) of the graves is that she may be spry and alert, and able
to do with her body whatever she pleases. She claims also to be
accompanied by a leopard and a bush-cat that are visible to her but not to
others. As these animals are noted for their quick and agile movements,
and are under her witch-power control, they are able to impart to her
these qualities.

In January, 1902, she was dancing her ivanga, and there was a woman among
the spectators who had been drinking to the point of intoxication. In her
foolishness she determined to help Antyande by assuming to be directress
to keep the spectators in order. But, being drunk, she could not do so;
she only made disorder. In attempting to make matters straight she only
made them crooked. Antyande asked her to get out of her way. Many, also,
of the spectators begged the woman to cease interfering; but she would
not, and finally she vexed Antyande by spoiling her movements in getting
too close in front of her. Antyande's patience was exhausted, and she
suddenly revealed a secret that astonished many even of her intimate
acquaintances, saying, "Whoever is related to this drunken woman, please
tell her to get out of my way while I am dancing, because my dance is not
a mere gymnastic exercise. I have leopards and bush-cats about me, and if
she comes too near me, and the tails of these animals should twist around
her legs, then she will get a sickness: and if that happens, her people
must not hold me responsible for it, for I have given you this warning."
This surprised many of the people; for they had supposed she was nothing
more than an unusually graceful dancer, and that her success was purely
physical. Now, publicly, she admitted that the power in her limbs and body
causing her graceful undulations was a supernatural one. So some of the
women laid hold of the drunken woman, and induced her to get out of the


While dancing, Antyande wears a wide belt called "ekope," which is made
with white and red stripes, and adorned with fringes of small bells in
bands like sleigh-bells. It is known that her ekope has been heard and
seen moving as if in the rhythm of a dance in her own room when she was
not visibly there. Those who heard the sound of its bells would think she
was there practising the dance; but when they went to look, they saw it
moving, but did not see her. A few months afterward, a report came at
night to the villages that Antyande was very much excited and could not
sleep; that she had gone to her room for the ekope, and that it was not
there. So she began to make a great fuss, and begged her associates to
keep watch and go with her to search for the missing ekope. Some of these
friends were willing; others were not, and these went to their beds. She
then went to other villages and told the people there: "My ekope has gone
out on a promenade. Have you seen it?" These people were among the chief
dancers of her band. But they told her they did not know where the ekope
was. So she began to ejaculate a prayer: "Oh, please, you went out for a
walk; come back to me, for if you do not return, then I am lost. It will
be death to me." Just before daylight, as she was still wandering about
with her friends, and singing ivanga songs to attract her ekope, suddenly
she and two of her friends heard the tinkling of the bells among the
bushes lining a certain road which passes by a Roman Catholic chapel. They
all went in the direction of the sound of the bells, and entering a
cluster of the bushes, they saw the ekope moving to and fro. She was so
glad to see it, and she bade one of her companions to go and get it. But
the woman was afraid, and refused, saying, "Me! Oh, no! Go and get it
yourself!" So she went to it, singing her ivanga song, seized it, and
brought it to her house.

As she is noted for her grace and skill in that particular dance, another
woman, by name Ekâmina, asked her to give her power such as hers, as she
also wished to be leader of another band of ivanga dancers. Antyande
assented, saying, "Well, do you want spirits with it?" The other replied,
"Yes, I want two." So the two women, with a young man to escort them, went
at night to the graves and obtained the two desired spirits. It is these
which give them spirit power. When under their influence, their bodies are
thrilled with a new essence which makes them very light and causes them to
act and speak as if insane. The two women came back to Antyande's village,
and she performed all the magic ceremonies that Ekâmina wanted.

Some time after this, when Ekâmina had practised much and had danced
publicly several times, people began to say to her that she danced very
well, and soon she was invited to give exhibitions in various places.

One day it happened that the two women had arranged to dance on the same
night, each with her own party, at villages quite distant from each other.
Antyande asked Ekâmina to give up her play for that night and join with
her, "for," said she, "I want to make mine grand; and you wait for yours
another day." But Ekâmina was not willing. Antyande tried to get her to
change her mind, and was very much displeased because she refused. Ekâmina
said, "I will not give up, for my dance is by special invitation at
Añwondo village, so I have to go." (Libreville is three miles long; one
end is called "Glass," and Añwondo is at the other end.) Ekâmina lived at
Glass, and on her way to Añwondo she had to pass the village of Antyande.
The latter said to herself, "As Ekâmina is not willing to do as I wish,
and I was the one who gave her this power, I will watch her as she passes,
and see what I will do." So, when Ekâmina passed at night with her party
to Añwondo, Antyande watched her chance as Ekâmina neared her. She went
behind her, and did some magic act which would make the latter powerless
to dance and not be aware of her loss of power. When Ekâmina reached
Añwondo and commenced her play, she was not able to dance at all. She
tried till midnight, and failed. She suspected that Antyande was the cause
of the failure, for the latter had not been friendly since their
unsatisfactory talk. So she took a portion of her party that same night
back to Antyande's village, told the latter her trouble, and begged her,
"Please, if you have taken away the power, give it back, so I may finish
the dance to-night." Antyande said, "No; you would not listen to me. I am
a chief dancer, and you are praised as the same. Go and dance!" Ekâmina
said, "But please give me back the power; I am not able to dance without
it." Antyande replied, "No, go to the graveyard and get other spirits
there for yourself." So there was no dance done by Ekâmina that night.


People believe that Asiki (singular "Isiki") were once human beings, but
that wicked men, wizards and witches, or other persons who assert that
they have memba (witchcraft powers), caught them when they were children
and could not defend themselves, nor could their cries for help be heard
when playing among the bushes on the edge of the forest. These wicked
persons cut off the ends of the children's tongues, so that they can never
again speak or inform on their captors. They carry them away, and hide
them in a secret place where they cannot be found. There they are
subjected to a variety of witchcraft treatment that alters their natures
so that they are no longer mortal. This treatment checks their entire
physical, mental, and moral growth. They cease to remember or care for
their former homes or their human relatives, and they accept all the
witchcraft of their captors. Even the hair of their head changes, growing
in long, straight black tresses down their backs. They wear a curious
comb-shaped ornament on the back of their head. It is not stiff or
capable of being used as a comb, and is made of some twisted fibre
resembling hair. The Asiki value it almost as a part of their life.

These Asiki will sometimes be seen walking in paths on dark nights, and
people meet them coming toward them. It is believed that in their meeting,
if a person is fearless by natural bravery, or by fetich power as a wizard
or witch, and dares to seize the Isiki and snatch away the "comb," the
possession of this ornament will bring him riches. But whoever succeeds in
obtaining that "comb" will not be allowed to remain in peaceful possession
of it. The poor Isiki will be seen at night wandering about the spot where
its treasure was lost, trying to obtain it again.

It happened in the year 1901 that there was a report, even in civilized
Gabun, about these Asiki,--that two of them were seen near a certain place
on the public road at that part of the town of Libreville known as the
"Plateau," where live most of the French traders and government officers.
A certain Frenchman, who is known as a freemason, in returning from his 8
P. M. dinner at his boarding-house to his dwelling-place, observed that a
small figure was walking on one side of the road, keeping pace with him.
He accosted it, "Who are you?" There was no answer; only the figure kept
on walking, advancing and retreating before him.

Also, a few nights later, a Negro clerk of a white trader met this small
being on that very road, and near the spot where the Frenchman had met it,
and it began to chase the Negro. He ran, and came frightened to his
employer's office, and told him what had happened. His employer did not
believe him, laughed at his fears, and told him he was not telling the
truth. The very next night the Frenchman, the trader, and other white men
and Negro women were sitting in conversation. The trader told the story of
his clerk, whereupon the Frenchman said, "Your clerk did not lie; he told
the truth. I have myself met that small being two or three times, but I
made no effort to catch it." The women told him of the comb-ornament which
Asiki were believed to wear, and of the pride with which Asiki regarded
it, and the value it would be to any one who could obtain it. Then the
Frenchman replied, "As the little being is so small, the very next time I
see it I will try to catch it and bring it here, so that you can see it
and know that this story is actually true."


On a subsequent night they two--the Frenchman and the trader--went out to
see whether they could meet the Isiki. They did not meet with it that
night; but a few evenings later the Frenchman went alone, and met the
Isiki near the place where it had first been seen. The Frenchman ran
toward it and tried to catch it; but it being very agile eluded his grasp.
But, though he failed to seize its body, he succeeded in catching hold of
its "comb," and snatched it away, and ran rapidly with it toward his
house. It did not consist of any hard material as a real comb, but was
made of strands resembling the Isiki's hair, and braided into a comb-like
shape. The little being was displeased, and ran after him in order to
recover the ornament. Having no tongue, it could not speak, but holding
out one hand pleadingly and with the other motioning to the back of its
head, it made pathetic sounds in its throat, thus inarticulately begging
that its treasure should be given back to it. On nearing the light of the
Frenchman's house it retreated, and he showed the ornament to other white
men and some native women. (So positive was my informant that the names of
these men and women were mentioned to me.) He said to the trader, "You
doubted your clerk's story. Have you ever seen anything like this in all
your life?" They all said they had not. It was reported that many other
persons hearing of it went there to see it.

From that night the little being was often seen by other Negroes. It was
always holding out its hand, and seemingly pleading for the return of its
"comb." This made the Negroes afraid to pass on that road at night. The
Frenchman also often met it; it did not chase him, but followed slowly,
pleading with its hands in dumb show, and occasionally making a grunting
sound in its throat. This it did so persistently and annoyingly that the
Frenchman was wearied with its begging, and determined that the next night
he would yield up the "comb." But he went prepared with scissors. He found
the little being following him. He stopped, and it approached. He held out
his hand with the ornament. As the Isiki jumped forward to snatch at it,
the Frenchman tried to lay hold of its body; but it was so very agile
that, though it had come so near as to be able to take the comb from the
Frenchman's hand, it so quickly twisted itself aside as to elude his
grasp. He however succeeded in getting his hands in its long hair, and
snipped off a lock with his scissors. The Isiki ran away with its
recovered treasure, and did not seem to resent the loss of a portion of
its hair. This hair the Frenchman is said to have shown to his companions
at their next evening conversation, and I was given to understand that he
had sent it to France. It was straight, not woolly, and long.

These Asiki are supposed not to die, and it is also believed that they can
propagate; but so complete has been the parent's change under witchcraft
power that the Isiki babe will be only an Isiki and cannot grow up to be a
human being.

It is asserted that Asiki are now made by a sort of creative power (just
as leopards and bush-cats are claimed to be made, and used invisibly) by
witch doctors.

       *       *       *       *       *

I am only writing these tales, I am not explaining them. Some of the
statements in the above story are too circumstantial to be denied. But
there is a wide margin for uncertainty as to what one might see after the
conviviality of an 8 P. M. West African dinner. In my sudden leaving of
Gabun in June, 1903, I had not time to interrogate the men and women named
as having seen the Isiki's tress of hair.


(The incidents of this story really occurred, and independent of the
fetich belief in okove power, are true. At the request of my native
informant the names of the two tribes are suppressed, for the sake of the
living descendants of the two kings.)

There was an old king of one of the principal tribes of West Equatorial
Africa who had great power and was held in great respect and fear; there
was none other his equal.

He had brothers and cousins. One of these cousins had a servant, a slave,
who had been bought from an interior tribe. It happened that this man had
not always been a slave, but in the tribe from which he had been sold he
was a freeman. The charge on which he had been sold by his own tribe was
that of sorcery and witchcraft murder, the death penalty for which had
been commuted to sale into slavery. He was deeply versed in a mystery of a
certain fetich or magic power called "Okove." He possessed it so
powerfully that no one was able to overcome him in contests of strength,
and people were greatly afraid of him.

So his owners intended to get rid of him by selling him out of the
country. To do this, they planned to catch him in the daytime; for he
exercised his okove power chiefly at night, when he could change himself
into a powerful being ready to overcome any one who should resist him.

One night when this great king, who also possessed the okove power (though
it was not generally known), went out to inspect, he saw a big tall man
walking up and down near his premises. The king said to him, "Ho! who are
you?" The man answered, "It is I." The king asked, "Who is I?" The man
replied daringly, "I have already told you that I am I." So the king asked
again, "Who are you? Where did you come from? And what are you doing
here?" The man said, "I go everywhere, and do what I please at other
people's places, and so I have come here." The king commanded him, "But,
no, not at this place. This is mine. Go back to your own!"

The slave gave answer, "No! that is not my habit. No one can master me!"

The king again ordered him, "Go!" He flatly refused, "No!" The king then
said plainly, "Are you not willing to leave my premises?"

He replied, "No, I never turn away from any one. I go away when I please.
When I am ready, I will go back to my place." At this the king,
restraining himself, slowly said, "Be it so!" and turned away, leaving the
slave standing in his yard.

The next day the king sent word for his cousin the owner of the slave to
come; to whom, when he had arrived at the house, the king told how he had
seen the man at night. And he inquired, "What does he do? Why does he
leave his place on the plantation and come to my place at night?" The
cousin was surprised to hear this, exclaiming, "So! indeed! he comes here
at night?" Then he went back to his house, and calling the slave, asked
him about this matter. "Do you go around at night, even to the king's
place?" The man said, "Yes." His master said, "Why do you do that? Do you
hear of other lower-caste people daring to go to the king's at night?" He
answered, "No; but it is I who do as I please." His master told him, "No;
you better return to the plantation, and live among the other slaves." He
replied "I will go, but not now." His master asked him, "But what are you
waiting for?" He only repeated, "Yes; but not now."

The very next night, on the king's going out as usual, he found this slave
again at his place, and said to him, "So! you here again?" The man
replied, "Yes; just what I told you last night, that I do what I please,
and I can master anybody." Then the king said, "I warn you plainly, clear
off from my place!" He replied, "No, I do not intend to clear out; but I
am ready for a fight."

The king asked, "You really want a fight with me?" The man answered, "Yes,
I am ready for it." Said the king, "It is well."

The fight began, each with his full okove power. In such contests, the
power is able to change the contestants' bodies to many forms. The slave
was quick in his use of them. His first change was to the form of a big
gorilla. This also the king met. As the fight went on, the next form was
into that of leopards. The fight went on, with frequent changes; the slave
always being the first to change. After a while the slave seemed to be
growing tired, and the king asked him, "Are you through?" He answered,
"No, only resting." Again the fight was resumed. Finally, the slave took
an eagle's form; the king did the same.

Presently the slave seemed to hesitate, and the king said, "You said you
wanted a fight. Well, let us go on with it." They continued; but the slave
seemed to be exhausted, and the king said, "Now, are you willing to leave
the place?" He answered, "No; my fatigue is not yet so great as to make me
leave your place." The king had held his power in reserve, and had been
tolerant of the man's audacity; but he now resumed his human form, took
his gun (the slave had none), and aiming it, off it went, and wounded him.
Being wounded, the slave had to acknowledge that he was overcome, and he
had to go. When morning came, the slave was not able to get up to go about
his work, and remained in bed. The gun-shot wound was a small one, and he
was conscious that he was dying of some other cause. He sent some one to
the master's house to ask him to come. When his master came, he said, "Ah!
master! I have something to say to you. Please plead for me!" The master
said, "Plead for you! For what?" The slave then told him, "I went around
last night to the king's place. He told me to leave, and I was not willing
to do so. So we had a great fight. And I am conquered. But please plead
for me, that he may make me well."

The master replied, "Did I not advise you not to go there, but rather to
stay at your plantation?" He assented. "But please plead, and I will stay
at the plantation."

The master answered, "I do not think the king will be willing to help
you." Nevertheless, being a cousin, he went privately to the king, and
told him all that the slave had told him. The king refused, saying, "No,
I am not going to do anything for him. He must die." The next day the
slave was dead.

(Another illustration of that king's okove power was narrated to me.)

There had been ill-feeling between this king's tribe and an adjacent
inferior tribe who had killed two of the king's chief men without cause,
coming suddenly upon them at night in their fishing-camp. The king's
people were very much troubled about it, and asked to be led to war. But
the old king said, "You young people don't know anything. If you go to
war, there will be much blood shed on both sides. Leave the matter with
me. I will attend to it myself."

So at night he went by himself to the town of the king of the offending
tribe, and remained there waiting in ambush on the path. Early next
morning four of the women belonging to that town had gone to their gardens
with their baskets to get food. The old king followed them secretly. After
all of them had filled their baskets, two lifted them upon their backs and
started to return to their town. The other two were just stooping (as is
the custom in lifting burdens, leaning forward on one knee in order to
place their backs against the basket, with a strap passing around the
basket and over their foreheads), when the king came behind then and
struck their necks with his okove. They instantly died in that stooping

The two women who had gone on ahead reached their town without knowing
what had happened to the other two. They waited in town a long time for
the two absent ones to come. But when they did not make their appearance,
the people began to ask those women about the other two. They said they
knew nothing about the delay, only that they had left them ready to come
and preparing to lift their baskets. The townspeople, anxious because it
was late in the day, went out to search for the women. They found them on
the path, dead by their baskets. They examined their bodies for some mark
or wound or sign of a blow. There was none. This very much perplexed them,
for they did not suspect the cause of their death. They carried the dead
bodies to town. The next night the king went again to that same town, and
he happened to meet the other king at the boat-landing of the town. So the
old king made complaint to the other why the servants of the latter had
killed his two chiefs. The other made no reply, having no justification of
what his people had done.

Then the old king said, "As your people have done this, there is war
between us"; and he struck him with his okove. And he added, "Do you know
that I have already begun war with your people? Did you not find two of
your women dead yesterday at your gardens? I killed them. But I am not
through with you. I want you to pay a fine, and I want the man who killed
my two chiefs, for the lives of the two women are not equivalent to those
of my two chiefs."

The other king felt he was conquered by some unseen power, and did not
resist. He agreed to give up the murderer and pay a fine. The next day he
had the murderer caught and brought before a council. He told them that
the old king of the other tribe wanted the life of that man and a sum of
money for the lives of his two chiefs.

They began to collect on the spot goods and food of all kinds, and many
things of little value, with which to make simply the appearance of a full
canoe. They tied the prisoner, put him in the canoe, and went with him and
the goods to the old king. He received them.

But at night he went again to the other king, and began to rebuke him,
saying that what he had sent was not sufficient. The other made a protest:
"I have given you enough,--the lives of the two women, the one man, and
goods equivalent to two more lives. I have thus given you five for your

But the old king, in tribal pride, reckoned the sex and social position of
his two men greater than any five of an inferior tribe, and said, "How
dare you speak to me like that? You shall surely die!" He struck him with
his okove, and went away.

The next day the other king was not able to leave his bed and sent for
many of his people to come, saying that he had a special word to speak to
them. They came, and he told them all about the death of the two women,
and all that had occurred between him and the old king. "And now," he
said, "I am dying. We are overcome. It is useless to resist. I want you to
remember, as long as the world stands, never to fight or quarrel with the
tribe of that king."

Then he turned his face to the wall and died.


(To a village on the St. Thomè or left bank of Gabun Bay, or "River," away
up a winding mangrove stream, and on the edge of the forest that was
broken by pieces of prairie, I went, in February, 1903, to visit a friend,
a sick Christian woman, who was in the care of a relative of hers named

There were only five huts in the village. At the first one from the edge
of the prairie, which was assigned to me in which to sleep, on a bench
outside under the low eaves, was a roughly carved wooden idol, about
fourteen inches in height. From the dressing of the hair of its head, I
supposed it to be intended for a female. Its loins were covered with a
narrow strip of cloth. Near it was what could scarcely be recognized as a
dog, its head looking more like a pig's, and its tail more like an
alligator's. The figures were chalked and painted; and near them were a
few gourd utensils for eating and drinking, and some medicinal barks.

Subsequently, at night, in a curtained-off corner of my room, I saw three
low baskets, in each of which was a pair of wooden images not six inches
high. They were chalked, and adorned with strips of various-colored cloth.
In each basket also was a wooden hourglass-shaped article that seemed
intended for a double bell. Pieces of medicinal barks filled up the spaces
in the baskets. The images were relics of ceremonies held over twins born
long ago in the family.

At the other end of the village, in a very small roughly built hut, open
on one side, were two other idols,--one, a male, standing and chalked and
painted. The female in an ornamented box was not visible; near them was a
nondescript animal.

The story of these idols, as told me by my friend (who has since died), is
more especially connected with this pair.)


It was made by a Loango man, a fetich doctor, very many years ago. The
Mpongwe family that to-day owns these relics had sent south to Loango, to
the Fiât or Ba-Vili tribe, to bring to Gabun for this special purpose this
celebrated magician.

When he arrived, the chief of the family who had summoned him went with
him off to the forest, with all the medicines, and so forth, which the
Loango man had brought. This occurred on that same left side of the
"river" where I was visiting.

The magician began to explain everything in the way of directions about
the medicines that were to be put into the hollow of the abdomen of the
idol (and which to-day is still covered by a small round mirror fastened
over it). After explaining all these matters, he gave also all the orunda
(prohibitions), _viz._: The idol must not be allowed to fall on its face;
it must have a small hut for shelter from rain and sun: it must be given a
light at night, at least of coals of fire. After this, he began to carve
the idol. After making the male of the pair, and before making its female,
he made a duplicate of the male, exactly like it, except that it was only
an imitation without any magic power; and, instead of medicines, only
powdered charcoal was put into the hollow in its abdomen, which, however,
was to be covered with glass, exactly as the real one.

When these two idols were finished, the two men, the magician and the
chief of the family, went with them far into the forest. The Loango said,
"I will put these here, and when we go back to your town I will give the
power of olâgâ [a certain kind of spirit] to one of your women. If she
receives it properly, she herself, without knowing our path, will come to
this forest, and will make no mistake in choosing the real idol from the
imitation; and she will bring it to me in the town." (It is a rule with
the native sorcerers that if the one who aspires to the power should make
a mistake in this choosing, she must pay a fine of from $60 to $100.)

When all was arranged, the Loango man said, "Now let us go back to town."
So they turned back. But when they had gone half of the way, he said to
himself, "This Gabun man now knows everything, and where the idols are,
and which is the real one. It is his sister who wishes to receive the
power; he will go and tell her everything, and she will make no mistake,
not by reason of her possessing power, but by his private information." So
the Loango said, "Go you to the town, await me there; I will come soon."
And he turned back into the forest by himself, took up the two idols from
where he had laid them down, went in another direction and hid them there,
and then returned to town.

He then gave the power to the woman, and said, "Go and bring the olâgâ."
She started, went with only a little power, and was going at random; but
before she had gone half-way, she came under the full power. Then she
turned her face right and left, and gave an olâgâ yell, seeking to know
which way the power would lead her. At once then she knew which was the
way; and she went running and shouting frantically, under the influence of
this power, to the precise spot, and took up the real idol, making no
mistake about the imitation one. Holding it aloft, she returned, shouting
and dancing, under the Delphic frenzy. She entered the town singing and
dancing in the street, and then laid the idol at the feet of the Loango
man. He took it, and knew it was the right one. He then went to the forest
and brought also the other, the duplicate. When he returned, he went with
it and the real one to the ogwěrina (backyard) to show to the Gabun man
the slight difference in the two (which he knew by a private mark). In
doing this he had to take off the little mirrors and show the difference
between the medicines and the charcoal. And he again closed the mirrors.
Then, just to test the woman, the magician said to her, "Go and bring me
the idol I have left in the ogwěrina." She went there, still under the
power, and with a frenzied scream seized the right one and brought it to
him. He was half glad and half disappointed; for had she mistaken, he
would have received more money.

Then the townspeople held a great dance, and the Loango taught them
special songs for the olâgâ. The female of the pair of idols had also been
made about the same time as the male, but with no special ceremony.

All being finished, the magician named his fee for his services, was paid,
and went back to Loango.

This idol was intended as a family fetich, to protect the family at night,
and to kill any one who would attempt to injure any of the members. The
name of this male of the pair was Okâsi.

The name of the other one, that was under the eaves of the hut in which I
slept, was Kâkâ-gi-bâlâ-dyambo-gi-bâlâ-vě. These are Shekyani words,
and mean "A-great-log-may-rot-but-a-spoken-word-dies-never." That meant
that if an enemy came and injured any one in the town, the wrong would
never be forgotten and would surely be avenged. That idol might almost
stand for a statue of Vengeance.

The above proverb comes from a tale of a cruel old Shekyani chief.


Once there was a very powerful Shekyani chief named Ogwedembe. He had many
sons and daughters and slaves and slave children and nieces and nephews.
He had also a brother. His principal delight was in fighting and killing.

Ogwedembe used to go out on excursions, and would say to his company, "Now
we are out of town." That meant that all restraint was cast aside, and
that he was ready to kill the first person they might meet, even without a

One day when they were out and were passing through a thick forest, they
saw a man up a tree who had come for palm-wine and had filled two of the
gourd-bottles used for that purpose. So Ogwedembe shouted to him, "Indeed!
what are you doing there? Have you not heard that Ogwedembe and his
brother are out of town? Come down quickly and meet us here!"

The man did not dare disobey, and came down. Ogwedembe took the gourds,
and said, "You may have one; I and my brother will drink the other." After
the drinking, Ogwedembe stripped the man of his clothing, leaving him
standing naked and trembling. In his terror the man did not attempt to

Ogwedembe drew his knife, and repeated his questions, "Who told you to
come here? Did you not know that Ogwedembe and his brother were out in the
forest? Now I will fix you; and you can carry the news to your town that
Ogwedembe and his brother are in the forest."

He then seized a portion of the man's body, and with his butcher-knife
horribly mutilated him. The man started, bleeding, to go to his town, and
died on the way.

The section of country in which Ogwedembe's portion of the Shekyani tribe
lived was south of Gabun, toward the Orungu people at the mouth of the
Nazareth branch of the Ogowe River. Sometimes he and his brother would
travel in their war canoes all the way from their place, and, passing
Gabun, would go on northward to attack the Benga of Cape Esterias without
cause and in sheer ruthlessness.

Some of his daughters and sisters were married to Mpongwe chiefs at Gabun.
At times his daughters and nieces would go and visit him. They would be
received with firing of guns and other great demonstrations, and on
leaving would be laden with presents.

About twenty years ago one of his sisters, named Akanda, died in the prime
of life. She lived at Gabun, her husband a Mpongwe. (She was the mother of
Adova, my hostess, who is apparently about sixty years of age, and has a
younger brother apparently about thirty years of age.) So, when that
sister died, Ogwedembe came to Gabun, on the St. Thomè side, to the
funeral. My sick friend happened to be there at the time (for, by family
marriage, she is a cousin to Adova) and saw the old chief.

Ogwedembe, according to native custom, demanded of the husband a fine for
his sister's death (as if due to lack of proper care of her). When that
was paid, as a sign that no ill-will was retained, Ogwedembe was to give
the widower another wife.

During this discussion Ogwedembe kept saying, "I wish my sister had not
been married to a Mpongwe, for it is not your custom to shed blood for
this cause. But I feel a great desire to kill some one. If this had been a
Shekyani marriage, I would have gone from town to town killing as I
chose." The Mpongwe replied, "But we have no such custom." He answered,
"Yes, I know that. I only said what I would like to do, though your tribal
custom will not allow me to do it."

His demand of a fine being finally yielded to and paid, to show his
peaceful intentions, he gave the husband one of his daughters, a widow who
had with her two children,--a son and a daughter,--and who afterward bore
him other children.

Ogwedembe's bloody instincts were suppressed at that funeral, and he
remained awhile after the close of the mourning ceremonies, making
friendly visits among his Mpongwe sons-in-law, and then went back to his
Shekyani country.

A short time after that the eldest daughter of that woman Akanda (my
hostess Adova) and her husband Owondo visited Ogwedembe. He made a great
welcome for them, with dancing and rejoicing of various kinds. Every day
he sent his people to fish and hunt, to obtain food for Adova and the
children she had with her.

Before Adova left, Ogwedembe called his principal wife and his
grandchildren, and said, "When I die, you who are here in Shekyani, do not
remain here, but go to Gabun and live with Akanda's children all the rest
of your life." When he finally died, they obeyed and came to St. Thomè,
of Gabun, bringing their idols with them.

The one female image that was under the eaves of the house in which I
slept was for guarding their families; but the three sets of twins were to
prevent their mothers from becoming barren.


(It was an ancient and universal custom that a refugee, by clasping the
knees of the king of any other tribe, could claim his protection. The king
was bound to accept the claim. The obligation he thus assumed was sacred.)

While Adova was there at Shekyani country, visiting Ogwedembe, there came
to him an Orungu man with a little slave boy, carrying a box. As soon as
they entered the town, both of them came to Ogwedembe, and kneeling and
clasping his feet, claimed his protection, and promised voluntarily to be
under his authority.

The old chief, without asking the cause of their flight or their reason
for coming to him, assented, and summoned the town to make the Ukuku
(Spirit-Society of Law) ceremony of installing the man and his slave boy
as members of their Shekyani tribe.

Adova and her husband were very kind to this adopted "brother," and he at
once became exceedingly intimate with them.

At night this new man had been assigned to the house occupied by
Ogwedembe, in a room near him, so that he could watch him that he should
not run away, now that he belonged to Ukuku. But it was not known that
this man possessed all the power of nyemba (sorcery). Ogwedembe also had
power for fighting, and a certain amount of knowledge that warned him not
to be deceived by sorcerers.

After two days, on the third night, this man rose, and tried to go to
Ogwedembe's room, to put some witchcraft medicine on him. But Ogwedembe
saw him coming, rose, seized his staff, walked toward the man in the
darkness, and struck him violently on the head. The man fell. But neither
of them uttered any word, nor made any outcry.

Very early in the morning Ogwedembe got up, went out, and sat on the
veranda of his house. He called to Adova, "Come, I want to tell you
something." She came, and he said, "I had a bad dream last night. If any
one comes to you to-day to ask you to make medicine for a sore head, do
not do it." "Who is it?" she asked. He refused. "No, I will not tell you.
But I know that before to-day is over some one will come to you, but do
not help him."

The Orungu got up late that day and looked and felt dull. When he left his
room, he sent his boy to call Adova. The boy went. She came to him. He
said, "Can't you find medicine for a headache? I did not sleep well. My
head pains too much." She said, "I do not know a medicine for that kind of
headache." The old chief was sitting near, and, looking significantly at
the Orungu, said to Adova, "Yes, that is right."

The next night the man said, "I do not wish to sleep here to-night. I will
go to an adjacent village, and will be back in the morning." "Well, go,"
assented Ogwedembe, "but be sure to be back in the morning." And the man
said, "Yes."

Scarcely had he left the town to go to the other village, when there came
to Ogwedembe three people from a certain Orungu town carrying a message
from their Orungu chief, thus: "The chief sent us, saying, 'Please give up
this man who came to you and who claimed your protection. Give up the man.
You do not know his habits; they are the habits of a worm that in eating
spoils only the best. He, with his sorcery, always aims at killing the
greatest. If you do not give him up, there will be war; for our chief has
had this same demand made on him from a third chief whose people this man
has been killing, and our chief will have to make war with you.'"

Ogwedembe laughed. "You say 'war' to me? That is nothing to me. You cannot
do it. War cannot touch me."

When the message of the Orungu chief was being sent to Ogwedembe, some of
the attendants on the delegation had awaited half-way on the route, and
only the three had brought the message. Ogwedembe said to these three
messengers, "Go and call your chief, and we will talk about it."

The chief came. (All this while the man was away at the other village, not
having kept his promise to return.)

Ogwedembe said to the Orungu chief, "It is impossible. The law is sacred.
I will not give him up." But in his heart he felt, "I am protecting a
sorcerer who has tried to kill me; better I take the money for his
extradition, and send him away." He and the chief went on discussing. The
point was made that the sorcerer having himself broken his obligation, by
attempting to injure his adopted father, relieved that father of his Ukuku
duty of protection.

Ogwedembe began to yield, and to name the number of slaves that should be
given him as the price of giving up the man. The Orungu chief demurred to
the price: "It is too much!" So Ogwedembe brought down the price to six
slaves,--three slaves, and three bundles of goods equal to the price of
three slaves. And it was so settled. Then the Orungu chief said, "I will
go in haste to my town to get you the goods; but as to the three slaves,
this man's boy must be counted as one of them."

There was a dispute over this, Ogwedembe claiming that the boy was not
guilty of any crime, and that his right to protection still existed. The
Orungu insisted that the boy, being a slave, must follow the fortunes of
his master, must be extradited as one with him, and then would of their
own will be released by them from the penalty of his master's guilt.
Ogwedembe consented. So the Orungu chief and his people went to get the
goods, on the promise that Ogwedembe would have the man caught and ready
to be delivered to them.

At once Ogwedembe sent word to the man to fulfil his promise of returning
to the town, and told his sons to be ready early next day to have the man
caught and tied, ready for delivery on arrival of the goods.

Next day Ogwedembe, seeing the man coming to him, came out of his house to
meet him, and speaking ewiria (hidden meaning), called out to his people,
"Sons, have you tied up the bundle of bush-deer meat?" "Oh yes, father,
we'll have it ready just now," as they came running to him. Then they
suddenly fell upon the man, dragged him inside the house, began to strip
off his clothing, and tied him. He at once knew that there was no mercy,
and he did not resist; but he said to his boy, "Call me Adova and her

But she knew he was naked, so she told her husband to go and hear what the
man had to say. Owondo went, and the man said, "Owondo, I have no friends
here; only you and Adova have been kind to me, so I call you my friend.
Untie this small strip of cloth I have about my waist. I have four silver
dollars there. I am going to die. These dollars are of no use to me; you
and your wife take them. My box is in Adova's care; she must have the few
things in it." So Owondo untied the girdle, took the money, and went out.

Shortly afterward the Orungu people came, bringing the goods and slaves,
and took away the man. He was taken by the three messengers to the
half-way camp, where they had left their attendants. There were no houses
there for shelter, and only their mosquito-nets as tents. They stopped
there with the intention of passing the night, and next day of going on to
their Orungu town.

When it came evening they began to prepare their sleeping-places, and at
bedtime one by one they went to lie down. A large branch from an
overhanging tree fell very near the bed of one of the Orungu leaders,
which was adjoining that of the sorcerer. So they all said, "Ah! we see
what is being done by his arts. If this has begun so soon, who knows what
will happen before morning? Let us start at once."

So they all made ready that very night, and went out of the forest, down
to the beach, and got into their boat (as they had come part of the way by

Not long after they had started the sea became very rough. Soon the boat
capsized, broke to pieces, and all their goods were lost. They all escaped
ashore, but the sorcerer was missing. They waited on the beach until
daylight, and then found his loin cloth washed ashore. (His hands had been
tied.) They believed that he had caused the storm, and was willing to die
with them in the general destruction rather than survive to be put to
death by the torture to which sorcerers were usually subjected.

So these people sent back word to Ogwedembe and to the nearer villages to
let them know what had happened to them, and they returned to their Orungu
country by land.

The little slave boy, who had been left with Ogwedembe as one of the three
to be given as the price of extradition, was shortly afterward given by
him as a present to the sick friend I was visiting that day. She stated
that he was a most faithful servant and affectionate attendant on her
infant daughter. He stayed with her, and died in her service a few years
later, about 1883; and she mourned for him, for she had treated him, not
as a slave, but as a son.


(In the presence of theosophy, telepathy, thought-transference,
astrophysics, and wireless telegraphy, the following Benga legend has at
least a standing-place. It was written more than forty years ago by an
educated native in the Benga dialect. I translate it into English,
preserving some of the native idiom.)

Unago and Ekela were great friends. They lived, Unago at Mbini in Eyo
(Benito River); Ekela at Jěkě in Muni (the river Muni, opposite
Elobi islands in Corisco Bay. The two rivers are at least forty miles
apart; Ekela is supposed to make the journey in two hours.)

They were accustomed, if one killed a wild animal, to send for the other.
One day Unago killed a hog. Then he sent for his friend Ekela. He at Mbini
said, "Oh, Chum Ekela! start you out very early in the morning hither.
Come to eat a feast of pig." And his children would say, "Father, your
friend at Jěkě, and you right here, will he hear?" Said he, "Yes, he
will hear." And so Ekela, off there, would say to his children, "Do you
hear how my friend is calling to me?" His children answered, "We do not
hear." Says he, "Yes, my friend has called me to eat pig there to-morrow."

Before daybreak Ekela takes his staff and his fly-brush and starts. When
the sun is at the point of shining at Corisco, he reaches Mbini. Unago
says to his children, "Did I not say to you that he can hear?"

And so they eat the feast; the feast ended, they tell narratives. In the
afternoon Ekela says, "Chum, I'm going back." Unago says, "Yes."

Having left him after escorting him part of the way, this one goes on, and
that one returns. When Ekela, going on and on, reaches clear to
Jěkě, then day darkens. When his children see the lunch which he
brings, then they believe that he has been at Mbini.


(Manga means "the sea"; secondarily, "the sea-beach"; thirdly, by
euphemism, "a latrine," or "going to a latrine." For the sea-beach is used
by the natives for that purpose, they going there immediately on rising in
the morning. They stay, of course, but a short time. If one should stay
very long, this proverb would be used of him, because Ekela, when he went,
stayed and made a journey of fifteen or twenty miles.)

Ekela was accustomed, if he started out early to the seaside in the
morning, to say, "I am going to manga"; then he went on and on, clear on
to Hondo (a place at least fifteen miles distant). Passing Hondo, his
"manga" would end only wherever he and his friend Unago met. There having
told their stories, they then each returned. This one went to his village,
and that one to his village. When Ekela was about to go back to his
village, then he would leave his fly-brush at the spot where he and his
friend had been; and when he would arrive at home, he would say to his
children, "Go, take for me the fly-brush which was forgotten of me, there
at the sea, on the place where I was. Follow my foot-tracks." When the
children went, it was step by step to Hondo, and the foot-tracks were
still farther beyond.

The children, wearied, came back together unto their father, and said, "We
did not see the brush." When he went another morning, then he himself
brought it.


(Manjana was my cook at Batanga in 1902. He is a young married man with
several small children. He is of a mild, kindly disposition, obliging and
smiling, without much force of character, slightly educated, civilized in
manner and dress, but without even a pretence of Christianity; at heart a
heathen, though a member of the Roman Catholic church, into which he
consented to be baptized as the means of obtaining in marriage his wife,
who had been raised in that church.

His Romanism sat lightly on him, for he voluntarily attended my Protestant
evening-prayers, taking his turn with others in reading verses around in
the chapter of Scripture for the day; then he liked to take part in the
general conversation which followed about native beliefs and native

Yâkâ, or family fetich, is no longer, at Batanga, a matter of dread, even
to the heathen; so Manjana was not afraid to tell me freely what happened
when he was initiated into it as a lad. I wrote down his story hastily, as
soon as he left that evening. I later wrote it out in full, while it was
all fresh in my memory. I could not exactly reproduce his graphic native
words, so I did not attempt them. The description is my own. But I
followed exactly the line of his story, and used only his thoughts. He

"I knew that a house was being built on the edge of the forest, a short
distance from our village. I and other lads and young men assisted the
strong adult men who were building it. But I did not then know for what
purpose or why it was being built. I remembered afterward that no girls or
women were either assisting or even lounging about it, watching the
process of building and chatting with the workmen, as when other houses
were built. I did not know that they had been told not to look there. I
remembered afterward that the house was located separately from the other
houses of the village, but that did not just then strike me as strange.
Somewhat similar houses had been built, as temporary sheds in making a
boat or canoe. Such houses are built rapidly, and not with the same care
as is used in the erection of dwellings. So it did not occur to me as
noticeable that this house was finished in the short time of two weeks.
One gable of it was left open.

Nor did I connect its erection with the fact that a prominent man of our
family had died just two weeks before. I know now that, in the manner of
his death, or in things that happened immediately afterward, the elders of
the family had seen inauspicious signs that made them fear that evil was
being plotted against us. As I now know, some six or eight of our leading
adult male members of the family had had a secret consultation, and had
decided that Malanda should be invoked.

I did not then know much about Malanda. I knew the name, that it was a
power, that it was dreaded; but how or why I had not been told.

I know now that while this house was being built one or two other men were
carving an image of a male figure; also, that when the house was
completed, that very night some of those elders had secretly disinterred
the corpse that had been already two weeks in its grave, and had brought
it to that house. There they had extracted two teeth, and had fastened
them in the hollowed-out cavities representing the eyes of the image, and
had hidden them there by fastening over them, with a common resinous gum
of the forest, two small pieces of glass. And they had stood the image,
painted hideously, on the cover of a large box, made of the flexible inner
bark of a tree, at the closed end of the house.

Then they had cut off the head of the corpse and had scooped out its
rotten brains. These they had mixed with chalk and powdered red-wood and
the ashes of other plants, and had tied up the mixture carefully in a
bundle of dry plantain leaves. I already knew and had seen such things
regarded as very valuable "medicine," used to rub on the forehead or other
parts of the body. Then they had tied the headless corpse erect against a
side wall of the house, keeping its arms extended by cross pieces of wood.

The first that I knew that anything unusual was about to occur was early
one morning, just after the completion of the house, when the voices of
the elders were heard in the street, "Malanda has come!" The women and
girls were frightened. They knew they were not to look at Malanda. And we
lads were oppressed with a vague dread that subdued us from our usual
boisterous plays. We knew the name "Malanda." It was a power, it was
mysterious. Mystery is a burden; it might be for good or for evil.

Immediately all the adult men went into the forest. In about an hour they
returned, bearing on their shoulders a long, large log of a tree. They
cast it into the middle of the street, facing the sun. The hour was about
8 A. M.

They sternly ordered about twenty of the young men and lads to sit down on
the log. The mystery that had burdened me now fell heavier. Our mothers
and sisters were afraid to look on us, even with sympathy. These men were
our fathers and uncles and elder brothers, but their voices were harsh,
their faces set with severity, their eyes had no light of recognition as
relatives, and their hands handled us roughly. I was dazed and helpless in
my own village and among my own relatives, but not a word of pity nor a
look of even kindness from a single person! Each of the twenty also was
too occupied with his own destiny to speak to a fellow victim. As far as
our treatment was concerned we might have been slaves in another tribe.
With no will of our own we blindly did as we were bidden.

We were told to throw our heads back, bending our necks to the point of
pain, and to stare with unblinking eyes at the sun. As the sun mounted all
that morning, hot and glaring, toward the zenith, we were sedulously
watched to see that we kept our heads back, arms down, and eyes following
the burning sun in its ascent. My throat was parched with thirst. My brain
began to whirl, the pain in my eyes became intolerable, and I ceased to
hear; all around me became black, and I fell off the log.

As each one of us thus became exhausted or actually fainted, we were
blindfolded and taken to that house. On reaching it still blindfolded I
knew nothing that was there. I smelled only a horrible odor. The same
rough hands and hard voices had possession of me. Though blindfolded, I
could feel that the eyes that were looking on me were cruel.

It was useless to resist, as they began to beat me with rods. My outcries
only brought severer blows. I perceived that submission lightened their
strokes. When finally I ceased struggling or crying, the bandage was
removed. The horror of that headless corpse standing extending its rotting
arms toward me, and the staring glass eyes of the image overcame me, and I
attempted to flee. That was futile. I was seized and beaten more severely
than before, until I had no will or wish, but utter submission to the will
of whatever power it might be, natural or supernatural, into whose hands I
had fallen.

When all twenty of us had been thus reduced to abject submission, we were
treated less severely. Some kindness began to be shown. Our physical wants
were looked after and regarded. Food and drink were supplied us. I
observed an occasional look of recognition. I began to feel that I was
being admitted into a companionship. There was something manly in the
thought of being entrusted with a secret to which younger lads were not
admitted and from which all of womankind were debarred. This gave me a
sense of elevation. There were some people whom I could look down upon! It
began to be worth while to have suffered so much. I began to be accustomed
to the corpse of my relative. True, I was a prisoner; but the days were
relieved by a variety of instructions and ceremonies practised over us by
the doctor.

At first we were, in succession, solemnly asked whether we were possessed
of any witchcraft power ("o na jemba?" Have you a witch?) Elsewhere we all
would have indignantly denied having any such evil doings. But in the face
of that corpse, under the presence of the unknown power to which we were
being introduced, in the hands of a pitiless inquisition, and with the
obliteration of our own wills, we did not dare lie. Would not the power
know we were lying? We told what we imagined to be the truth; some
admitted, some denied.

The Yâkâ bundle was opened; some of its dust was added to the
brain-mixture (already mentioned). Of this compound an ointment was made.
On the breasts of those who denied were drawn commendatory longitudinal
lines of that ointment. On the breasts of those who admitted were drawn
corrective horizontal lines with the same mixture. Instructions
appropriate to our respective condition, as witch possessed or
non-possessed, were given by the doctor.

We were interested also in watching the digging of a pit in the floor of
the house. When this had reached a depth of over six feet, a tunnel was
driven laterally under one of the side walls, and opening out, a rod or
two beyond, where a low hut was built to conceal it. Into this tunnel the
doctor and three or four of the strongest of the elders carried the
corpse, and left it there for about ten days, the doctor passing much of
that time with it.

After we had been in the house almost twenty days, although still
confined, I did not feel that I was a prisoner; I was deeply interested in
seeing and taking part in this great mystery. I no longer dreaded the
dead. Even if physical pain were yet to be inflicted on me, I would take
it gladly as the price of a knowledge which ministered to manly pride. I
was being made a sharer in the rights and possession of the family

A few days after this the corpse, now reduced almost to a skeleton, was
brought up from the tunnel, and bisected longitudinally. The halves were
laid a few feet apart, parallel and a short distance away from the two
sides of the house. We were gathered in two companies against the walls,
and were told to advance toward each other, carefully stepping over, and
by no means to tread on, our half of the remains. And the two companies
met in the centre.

We now felt we were free, though not formally told so. We had made a
fearful oath of secrecy. We preferred to remain and assist in the final
order of the house. The doctor and elders now disarticulated the skeleton
(for such it was, the man being dead now at least five weeks, and the
decomposed flesh having almost all fallen away). The bones were put into
the bark box on which stood the image. They were an addition to the
contents of the Yâkâ, or family fetich. Then, at the close of three weeks'
confinement in the house, we emerged in procession, the elders bearing the
box and the image on the top, and proceeded to the village street. There
the box and image were set; and a joyous dance was started with drum and
song, with all the people of the village, male and female. A sheep or goat
was killed, and a feast prepared. While the dance was going on, the elders
around the box were bowing and praying to the image on their knees. From
time to time a man would parade by, lifting his steps high and bowing low,
and as suddenly erecting himself and strongly aspirating, "Hah! hah!" And
the village was glad, for it felt sure no evil could now come to it. I was
safe, and ready, at the next time of danger, to assist in torturing the
next younger set of lads, for was I not a freeman of the family

The box and image were stowed away in a back room of the village headman's
dwelling, who would often take a plate full of food to it, as a sacrifice,
and sometimes an offering of cloth or other goods; and the village felt

Nevertheless, the house was not torn down; it stood empty and unused. But
if, even a year later, evil still fell on the village, the elders knew
that something about the Malanda had not been rightly performed. And it
must all be done over again with the next dead adult male (never a female)
and with a new lot of neophytes.

A woman may be subjected to a part of the above ceremonies if she is
suspected of witchcraft, or if, on examination, she confess to using black
art. To purge her of this evil, and to counteract the consequences of what
she may have done, she is taken to the little hut over the end of the
tunnel, and some of the above described ceremonies are performed over her;
but she is never taken into the house, nor into the presence of the


(The following narrative was told me by a Batanga native Christian woman
who, herself less than thirty years of age, is a great-granddaughter of
the man one of whose wives was the witch of this story. I bade her, in
giving me the account, to speak, not from her present Christian standpoint
and her only slight superstitious bias, but from the full heathen
view-point. The confusing mixture of singular and plural pronouns
referring to the witch is an exact reproduction of my informant's words.)

The great-grandfather was a heathen and a polygamist. He had four wives.
One of them was a member of an interior tribe, the Boheba, more heathenish
and superstitious than his own Batanga coast tribe. Unknown to him, she
was a member of the Witchcraft Society, had power with the spirits, and
they with her, attended their secret night meetings, and engaged in their
unhallowed orgies.

The husband, though not a member of the society, had acquired some
knowledge of witchcraft art, and, though without the power to transform
himself, as wizards did, was able to see and know what was being done at
distances beyond ordinary human sight.

One night she arose from her bed to go and attend a witchcraft play. She
left her physical "house," the fleshly body, lying on the bed, so that no
one not in the secret, seeing that body lying there, would think other
than it was herself, nor would know that she was gone out. In her going
out she willed to emerge as Three-Things, and this triple unit went off to
the witchcraft play. The husband happened to see this, and watched her as
she disappeared, saw where she went, and, though distant and out of sight,
knew what she was doing. So he said to himself, "She is off at her play; I
also will do some playing here; she shall know what I have done."

Among the several things of which followers of witchcraft are afraid, and
which weaken their power, is cayenne pepper. So this man gathered a large
quantity of pepper-pods from the bushes growing in the behu
(kitchen-garden), and bruised them in a mortar to a fine soft pulp. This
he smeared thoroughly all over the woman's unconscious body as it lay in
her bedroom. He left not the smallest portion of her skin untouched by the
pepper,--from her scalp, and in the interstices of her fingers and toes,
minutely over her entire body.

Meanwhile, with the woman at her play, the night was passing. The witches'
sacred bird, the owl, began its early morning warning hoot. She prepared
to return. As she was returning, the first morning cock-crow also warned
her to hasten, lest daybreak should find her triple unit outside of its
fleshly "house." So the three came rushing with the speed of wind back to
her village. Her husband was on the watch; he heard this panting sound as
of a person breathing rapidly, and felt the impulse of their wind as she
reached her hut and came in to re-enter their house.

He saw her approach every possible part of the body, seeking to find even
a minute spot that was not barred by the pepper. She searched long and
anxiously, but in vain; and in despair they went and hid herself in a
wood-pile at the back of one of the village huts, waiting in terror for
some possible escape.

All this the husband saw silently. When morning light finally came, he
knew that this wife was dead, for her life-spirit had not succeeded in
returning to its body within the specified time. It was therefore a dead
body. But he said nothing about it to any one, and went off fishing.

As the morning hours were passing while he was away and the woman's door
of her hut was still closed, his children began to wonder and to say,
"What is this? What is the matter? Since morning light our father's wife
has not come out into the street." After waiting awhile longer, their
anxiety and curiosity overcame them, and they broke in the door. There
they saw the woman lying dead. They fled in fear, saying, "What is this
that has killed our father's wife?" They went down to the beach to meet
him as he returned from fishing, and excitedly told him, "Father, we have
found your Boheba wife dead!" The man, to their surprise, did not seem
grieved. He simply said, "Let another one of my wives cook for me; I will
first eat." Still more to their surprise, he added, "And you, my children,
and all people of the village, do not any of you dare even to touch the
body. Only, at once, send word to her Boheba relatives to come."

This warning he gave his people, lest any of them should sicken by coming
close to the atmosphere that the witch had possibly brought back with her
from her play.

By the time he had finished eating, the woman's relatives had arrived.
They were all heavily armed with guns and spears and knives, and were
threatening revenge for their sister's death.

The man quietly bade them delay their anger till they had heard what he
had to say; and took them to the woman's hut, that they themselves might
examine the corpse, leaving to them the chance of contamination.

They examined; they lifted up the body of their sister, and searched
closely for any sign of wound or bruise. Finding none, but still angry,
they were mystified, and exclaimed, "What then has killed her?" And they
seated themselves for a verbal investigation. But the man said, "We will
not talk just yet. First stand up, and you shall see for yourselves." As
they arose, the man said, "Remove all those sticks in that wood-pile. You
will find the woman there." So they pulled away the sticks; and there they
found Three-Things. "There!" said the husband, "see the reason why your
sister is dead!" At that the relatives were ashamed, and said,
"Brother-in-law! we have nothing to say against you, for our eyes see what
our sister has done. She has killed herself, and she is worthy to be
punished by fire." (Burning was a common mode of execution for the crime
of witchcraft.)

In her terror at being unable to get back into her mortal body, the
Three-Things, all the while she was hidden in the wood-pile, had
shrivelled smaller and smaller until what was left were three deformed
crab-shaped beings, a few inches long, with mouths like frogs. These,
paralyzed with fear, could not speak, but could only chatter and tremble.

So the relatives seized these Three-Things, and also carried away the
body; and, followed by all the people of the village, they burnt it and
them on a large rock by the sea.

       *       *       *       *       *

That rock I pass very often as I walk on the beach. At high tide it is cut
off from the shore a distance of a few yards; at low tide one can walk out
to it. It is only a few hundred yards from our Batanga Mission Station.



The telling of Folk-lore Tales amounts, with the African Negro, almost to
a passion. By day, both men and women have their manual occupations, or,
even if idling, pass the time in sleep or gossip; but at night,
particularly with moonlight, if there be on hand no dances, either of
fetich-worship or of mere amusement, some story-teller is asked to recite.
All know the tales, but not all can recite them dramatically. The audience
never wearies of repetition. The skilful story-teller in Africa occupies
in the community the place filled in civilization by the actor or

This is true all over Africa. In any one region there are certain tales
common to all the tribes in that region. But almost every tribe will have
tales distinctive to it. It is part of native courtesy to ask a visitor to
contribute his local story to the amusement of the evening.

Some of these tales are probably of ancient origin, as to their plot and
their characters. I am disposed to give the folk-lore of Africa a very
ancient origin. Ethnology and philology trace the Bantu stream from the
northeast, not by a straight line diagonally to the southwest, but the
stream, starting with an infusion of Hamitic (and perhaps Caucasian) blood
in the Nubian provinces, flowed south to the Cape, and then, turning on
itself, flowed northwestward until it lost itself at the Bight of Benin.
That blood gave to the Bantu features more delicate than those of the
northern Guinea Negro.

That stream, as it flowed, carried with it arts, thoughts, plants, and
animals from the south of Egypt. The bellows used in every village smithy
on the West Coast is the same as is depicted on Egyptian monuments. The
great personages mentioned as "kings" are probably semi-deified ancestors,
or are even confounded with the Creator. It may not be only a coincidence
that the ancient Egyptian word "Ra" exists in west equatorial tribes
(contracted from "rera" = my father) with its meaning of "Lord," "Master,"
"Sir." In these tales the name Ra-Mborakinda is used interchangeably with
the Divine Name, Ra-Nyambe.

But it is true that a doubt can be raised against the antiquity of some of
the tales, in which are introduced words, _e. g._, "cannon," "pistol,"
articles not known to the African until comparatively modern times. And in
the case of a few, such as No. V., the origin is in all probability
modern. In No. V. the reader at once turns in thought to "Ali Baba and the
Forty Thieves." There the internal evidence is positive, either that the
story was heard long ago from Arabs (or perhaps within the last hundred
years from some foreigner), or there may have been an original African
story, to which modern narrators have attached incidents of Ali Baba which
they have overheard within the last fifty years from some white trader or
educated Sierra-Leonian.

But it would not necessarily condemn a tale's claim to antiquity that it
had in it modern words. Such words as "gun," "pistol," "stairway,"
"canvas," and others may be interpolations. It was probably true long ago,
as is now the case, that narrators added to or changed words uttered by
the characters. Where in the plot some modern weapon is named, long ago it
was perhaps a spear, club, or bow and arrow. When Dutch and Portuguese
built their forts on the African shore three hundred years ago, some
bright narrator could readily have varied the evening's performance by
introducing a cannon into the story. Such variations necessarily grew; for
the native languages were not crystallized into written ones until the
days of the modern missionary.

In recitation great latitude is allowed as to the time occupied. Brevity
is not desired. A story whose outline could be told in ten minutes may be
spread over two hours by a vivid use of the speaker's imagination in a
minute description of details. A great deal of repetition (after the
manner of "This is the house that Jack built") is employed, that would be
wearisome to a civilized audience, but is intensely enjoyed by the
African, _e. g._, where the plot calls for the doing of an act for several
days in succession, we would say simply, "And the next day he did the
same." But the native lover of folk-lore will repeat the same details in
the same words for the second and third and even fourth day. In my
reporting I have omitted this repetition.

I have purposely used some native idioms in order to retain local color.
African narrators use very short sentences. Africans in many respects are
grown-up children. One of their daily recognized idioms finds its exact
parallel in the speech of our own children. Listen to a civilized child's
animated account of some act. They repeat. The native does so constantly.
He is not satisfied, in telling the narrative of a journey, by saying
curtly, "I went." His form is, "I went, went, there, there," etc. His
dramatic acting keeps up the interest of the audience in the twice-told


A king, by name Ra-Mborakinda, had many wives, but he had no children at
all. He was dissatisfied, and was always saying that he wanted children.
So he went to a certain great wizard, named Ra-Marânge, to get help for
his trouble.

Whenever any one went on any business to Ra-Marânge, before he had time to
tell the wizard what he wanted, Ra-Marânge would say, "Have you come to
have something wonderful done?" On the visitor saying, "Yes," Ra-Marânge,
as the first step in his preparations and to obtain all needed power,
would jump into fire or do some other astonishing act.

So, this day, he sprang into the fire, and came out unharmed and strong.
Then he told Ra-Mborakinda to tell his story of what he had come for.

The king said, "Other people have children, but I have none. Make me a
medicine that shall cause my women to bear children." Ra-Marânge replied,
"Yes, I will fix you the medicine; and after I have made the mixture, you
must require all of your women to eat of it." So the wizard fixed the
medicine, and the king took it with him and went home.

His queen's name was Ngwe-nkonde; and among his lesser wives and
concubines were two quite young women who were friends, one of whom lived
with the queen in her hut as her little manja, or handmaid.

As soon as Ra-Mborakinda arrived, he announced his possession of the
medicine, and ordered all his women to come and eat of it. But Ngwe-nkonde
was jealous of her young maid, and did not wish her to become a mother.
So, early in the morning, she purposely sent the manja away to their
mpindi (plantation hut) on a made-up errand, so that she might not be
present at the feast.

At the appointed hour the king spread out the medicine, and called the
women to come. They each came with a piece of plantain leaf as a plate,
and assembled to eat, and Ramborakinda divided out the medicine among
them. Then the other of the two young women remembered her friend the
manja, and observed that she was absent. So she quickly tore off a piece
of her plantain leaf, and divided on it a part of her own share of the
medicine, and hid it by her, to keep it for the manja, so that she could
have it on her return from the mpindi. In the afternoon, when the manja
returned, her friend gave her the portion of the medicine, and she ate it.
Soon after this, all these women told Ra-Mborakinda that they expected to
become mothers.

After a few months he announced to them that he was going away on a long
trade-journey and that he would not return until a stated time. He gave
them directions that in the meanwhile they should leave his town and go to
their parents' homes and stay there until his return.

Now it happened that all these women had homes except the little manja;
her parents were dead, but she remembered the locality of their deserted

So Ra-Mborakinda left to go on his journey, and all the expectant mothers
scattered to the homes of their parents, except the manja, who had to
follow with the queen to her people's village. But soon after their
arrival at Ngwe-nkonde's home, the latter began to treat her maid cruelly;
and finally, in her severity, she said, "Go away to your own home and
sojourn there," the while that she knew very well that her manja had no
home. Her thought and hope were that the manja would perish in the

As the maid knew the spot where her home had been, she left Ngwe-nkonde's
village, and started into the forest to go to her deserted village. On
arriving there, she found no houses nor any remains of human habitation.
But there was a very large fallen tree, with a trunk so curved that it was
not lying entirely flat on the ground. Under this enormous log she sat
down to rest, and it gave her shade and shelter. She accepted it as her
place at which to live and slept there that night. When she awoke in the
morning, she saw lying near her food and other needed things; but she saw
no one coming or going. A few days later on awaking in the morning she saw
a nice little house with everything prepared of food and clothing and
medicines and such articles as would be needed by a mother for her babe.
She stayed there, and in a few days gave birth to a man-child. Each day in
the morning she found, prepared for her hand, food and other needed things
lying near.

So she stayed there a long time till her baby was able to creep. When the
baby had grown strong, she knew it was the time that Ra-Mborakinda had
appointed for the return of his women to his town. She finally gathered
together her things for the journey next day. That night, before she had
gone to sleep, suddenly she saw a little girl standing near her, and she
heard a voice which she remembered as her mother's saying, "I give you
this little girl to carry the babe for you. But when you go back to
Ra-Mborakinda, do not allow anyone but yourself and this girl to carry the
child; if you do, the girl will disappear." So the next morning they
started on their journey, the young mother and baby and the girl-nurse.

During this while each of the other women had also born her baby, and they
were now preparing to return to Ra-Mborakinda's town. But of them all none
had born real human beings, except the manja and her young friend. All the
others had born monstrosities, like snakes, frogs, and other creatures.
Ngwe-nkonde had born two snails, of the kind called "nkâla." (It is a very
large snail.)

So that day Ngwe-nkonde was coming along with her nyamba (a long scarf)
hung over her right shoulder, and her two snails resting in the slack of
the scarf, as in a hammock, over her left hip, and supported by her left
arm. When the manja reached the cross-roads, she found the queen waiting
there. Her object in waiting there was to know whether her maid was still
in existence.

On seeing the manja, Ngwe-nkonde pretended to be pleased and said, "Let me
see the child you have born;" and she stepped forward to take the baby
away from the little girl-nurse. Manja, in her fear of her mistress and
accustomed to submit to her, forgot to resist. Ngwe-nkonde saw that the
babe was healthy and attractive, and she coveted it. She exclaimed, "Oh,
what a nice child you have born! Let me help you carry it!" The moment she
took the baby, the girl-nurse disappeared. Ngwe-nkonde deposited the babe
in her scarf, and gave the two snails to her manja, saying, "You carry
this for me!" She did this, intending to cause Ra-Mborakinda to think that
the baby was her own; she had no intention to return it to its real
mother; and the manja did not dare to complain.

So they went onward on their journey to the king's town.

All the women, as they arrived there, saluted each other, "Mbolo!" "Ai!
mbolo!" "Ai!" and each told her story and showed her baby. Then they all
brought their babies to the King Ra-Mborakinda, that the father might see
his children. In the king's presence Ngwe-nkonde took out the baby boy
from her scarf and placed it at her breast to nurse. But the child turned
its head away and would not nurse, and did nothing but cry and cry. Poor
little manja did not dare to claim her own, and she took no interest in
the snails to show them to the king. For a whole day there was confusion.
The baby boy persisted in rejecting Ngwe-nkonde's breast and kept on
crying, and the snails were moaning.

Not knowing what to make of this trouble, Ra-Mborakinda went again to
Ra-Marânge. The wizard laughed when he saw the king coming with this new
trouble, for, by his magic power, he already knew all that had happened.
"So!" he says, "you have come with another trouble, eh?" And at once he
jumps into the fire, and emerges clean and strong.

Then the king informed the wizard what his difficulty was. And Ra-Marânge
told him, "This is a small thing. It does not need medicine. Go you and
tell all your women each to cook some very nice food; then, sitting in a
circle, each must put the nice food near her feet. All the babies must be
put in a bunch together in the centre, and you will see what will happen."

So Ra-Mborakinda went back to his town and told the women to follow these
directions. They all did so, except the queen and her manja. The former
did not put the baby boy in the bunch of the other babies, but retained
him on her lap, and tried to make him eat of her nice food. But he only
resisted, and kept on crying, and the manja, in her grief and
hopelessness, had not prepared any nice food, only a pottage of greens,
which she thought good enough for her present unhappiness.

The king seeing that the wizard's directions were not fully followed by
the queen, compelled her to put the baby down in the company of the other
creatures, and then he and all the mothers sat around watching what would

Soon all the children began to creep, each to its own mother. The two
snails went to Ngwe-nkonde, and began to eat of her nice food. The little
baby boy crept rapidly toward the manja, and began with satisfaction to
eat of the poor food at its mother's feet.

That was a revelation to the king and to all the other mothers. They were
surprised and indignant that Ngwe-nkonde had been trying to steal the baby
from the manja; Ra-Mborakinda deposed her from being queen. And the other
women shouted derision at her, "Ngwe-nkonde! O! o-o-o!" and drove her from
the town. She went away in her shame, leaving the two snails behind, and
never returned.

And the king made the manja queen in her place. And the story ends.


There was a married woman, a king's daughter, by name Maria, who was very
beautiful. She had a magic mirror that possessed the power of speech,
which she used every day, particularly when she desired to go out for a
promenade. She would then take this mirror from its hiding-place, and
looking at it, would ask, "My mirror! is there any other beautiful woman
like myself?" And this mirror would reply, "Mistress! there is none."

This she was accustomed to do every day until she became jealous at the
very thought of ever having a rival.

Subsequently she became a mother, and bore a daughter. She saw that the
child was very beautiful, more so than even herself. This child grew in
gracefulness; was amiable, not proud; and was unconscious of her beauty.

When the daughter was about twelve years of age, the mother dreaded lest
her child should know how attractive she was and should unintentionally
rival her. She told her never to enter a certain room where she had her
toilet. And the mother went on as formerly, looking into her mirror, and
then going out to display her beauty.

One day the daughter said to herself, "Ah! I'm tired of this prohibition!"
So she took the keys, and opened the door of the forbidden room. She
looked around, but not observing anything especially noticeable, she went
out again, locking the door. And the next day, the mother went in as
usual, and then went out for her walk. After the mother had gone, the
daughter said again to herself, "No! there must be something special about
that room. I will go in again and make a search." Looking around
carefully, she noticed a pretty casket on a table. Opening it, she saw it
contained a mirror. There was something strange about its appearance, and
she determined to examine it. While she was doing so, the mirror spoke,
and said, "Oh, maiden! there is no one as beautiful as you!" She put back
the mirror in its place, and went out, carefully fastening the door. The
next day, when the mother went as usual to make her toilet and to ask of
the mirror her usual question, "Is there another as beautiful as I?" it
replied, "Yes, mistress, there is another fairer than you."

So she went out of the room much displeased, and, suspecting her daughter,
said to her, "Daughter, have you been in that room?" The girl said, "No, I
have not." But the mother insisted, "Yes, you have; for how is it that my
mirror tells me that there is another woman more beautiful than I? And you
are the only one who has beauty such as mine."

During all these years the mother had kept the daughter in the palace, and
had not allowed her to be seen in public, as she dreaded to hear any one
but herself praised. Then the enraged mother sent for her father's
soldiers, and delivering the girl to them, she commanded, "You just go out
into the forest and kill this girl."

They obeyed her orders, and led the girl away, taking with them also two
big dogs. When they reached the forest, the soldiers said to her, "Your
mother told us to kill you. But you are so good and pretty that we are not
willing to do it. You just go your way and wander in this forest, and
await what may happen."

The girl went her way; and the soldiers killed the two dogs, so that they
might have blood on their swords to show to the mother. Having done this,
they went back to her, and said, "We have killed the girl; here is her
blood on our swords." And the mother was satisfied.

But in the forest the girl had gone on, wandering aimlessly, till she
happened to reach what seemed a hamlet having only one house. She went up
its front steps and tried the door. It was not locked, and she went in.
She saw or heard no one, but she noticed that the house was very much in
disorder; so she began to arrange it. After sweeping and putting
everything in neat order, she went upstairs and hid herself under one of
the bedsteads.

But she did not know that the house belonged to robbers who spent their
days in stealing, and brought their plunder home in the evening. When they
returned that day, laden with booty, they were surprised to find their
house in neat order and their goods arranged in piles. In their wonder
they exclaimed, "Who has been here and fixed our house so nicely?"

So they prepared their food, ate, drank, and slept, but they did not clean
up the table nor wash the dishes.

And the next day they went out again on their business of stealing.

After they were gone, the girl, hungry and frightened, crept out of her
hiding-place, and cooked and ate food for herself. Then, as on the first
day, she swept the floors and washed up the dishes. And then she cooked a
meal for the men to have it ready against their return in the late
afternoon; and again she occupied herself with the arrangement of the
goods in the rooms. Then she went back to her hiding-place.

When the robbers returned that day and laid down their booty, they were
again surprised to find not only their house in good order, but food ready
on the table. And they wondered, "Who does all this for us?"

They first sat down to eat; and then they said, "Let us look around and
find out who does all this." They searched, but they found no one.

The next day they armed themselves as usual to go out, leaving the table
and their recent load of stealings in disorder.

When they had gone, the girl again emerged from her hiding-place, and, as
before, cooked, ate, washed up, swept, arranged, and prepared the evening

Again the robbers, on their return, were still more astonished, as they
exclaimed, "Whoever does this? If it is a woman, then we will take her as
our sister. She shall take care of our house and our goods, but none of us
shall marry her; but if it is a man, he must be compelled to join in our

The next day, when they were all going out on their ways, they appointed
one of their number to remain behind, hidden, who should watch, and thus
they should know who had been helping them.

When they had gone, the girl, ignorant that one had been left to watch,
came out of her hiding, and began to do as on the other days. When she
went outdoors to the kitchen [kitchens here are all detached] to cook, the
watcher came in sight. She was frightened, and began to run away; but he
called out, "Don't be afraid! Don't run, but come here! What are you
afraid of? You are not doing anything bad, you have been doing us only
good. Come here!" She stood and said, "I was afraid you would kill me!"

He came to her, saying, "What a beautiful girl to look at! When did you
come here, and who are you?" So she told him her story. And when she had
finished all the housework, she sat down with this man to await the coming
of the others. When the others came and saw the two, they said to him, "So
you found her?" He replied only, "Yes." Looking on her, they exclaimed,
"Oh, what a beautiful girl!" To calm her excitement, they told her, "Do
not be alarmed! you are to be our sister."

So they took all their goods and put them in her care, and herself in
charge of the house. Thus they lived for some time,--they stealing, and
she taking care for them.

But one day, at the palace, the wicked mother began to have some uneasy
doubts whether her soldiers had really obeyed her orders to kill her
daughter, and thought, "Perhaps the child was not really killed." She had
a familiar servant, an old woman, very friendly to her. To her she
revealed her story, and said, "Please go out and spy in every town. Look
whether you see a girl who is very beautiful; if so, she is my daughter.
You must kill her." The old woman replied, "Yes, my friend, I will do this
thing for you." So she went out and began her spying.

The very first place at which she happened to arrive was the robbers'
house. There being no people in sight, she entered the house, and found a
girl alone. On account of the girl's great beauty, she felt sure at once
that this was her friend's daughter. The girl gave her a seat and offered
hospitality. The old woman exclaimed, "Oh, what a nice-looking child! Who
are you, and who is your mother?" The girl, not suspecting evil, told her

Then the old woman said, "Your hair looks a little untidy. Come here, and
let me fix it." The girl consented; and the old woman began to braid her
hair. She had hidden in her sleeve a long sharpened nail. When she had
completed the hair-dressing, she thrust the nail deeply into the girl's
head, who instantly fell down, apparently dead. Looking at the limp body,
the old woman said to herself, "Good for that! I have done it for my
friend." And she went away, leaving the corpse lying there, and reported
to the mother what she had done. The mother felt sure her friend had not
deceived her.

When the robbers returned that day, they found the girl lying dead. They
were very much troubled. They began to examine the corpse, to find what
was the cause of death, but they found no sign of any wound; and instead
of the corpse being rigid, it was limp; there was perspiration on the head
and neck. So they decided, "This nice life-looking face we will not put in
a grave." So they made a handsome casket, overlaid it with gold, and
adorned the body with a profusion of gold ornaments. They did not nail on
the lid, but made it to slide in grooves. Supposing the body liable to
decay, they placed the coffin outdoors in the air; and to keep it out of
the reach of any animals, they hung it by the halliards of their
flag-staff. Every day, on their going out and on their return, they pulled
it down by the halliards, drew out the lid, and looked on the fresh,
apparently living face of their "sister."

One day while they were all out on their business there happened to stray
that way a man by name Esěrěngila (tale-bearer), who lived at the
town of a man named Ogula. Coming to the robbers' house, he saw no one;
but he at once observed the hanging golden box. Exclaiming, "What a nice
thing!" he hasted back to his master Ogula, and called him. "Come and see
what a nice thing I have found; it is something worth taking!" So Ogula
went with him, and Esěrěngila pulled down the gilded box from the
flag-staff. They did not enter the house, nor did they know anything of
its character; and they carried away the box in haste, without looking at
its contents, to Ogula's, and put it in a small room in his house.

Some days after it had been placed there Ogula went in to examine what it
contained. He saw that the top of this coffin-like box was not nailed, but
slid in a groove. He withdrew it, and was amazed to see a beautiful young
woman apparently dead. Yet there was no look or odor of death. As she was
not emaciated by disease, he examined the body to find a possible cause of
death; but he found no sign, and wondering, exclaimed, "This beautiful
girl! What has caused her to die?"

He replaced the lid, and left the room, carefully closing the door. But he
again returned to look at the beautiful face of the corpse; and sighed,
"Oh, I wish this beautiful being were alive! She would be such a nice
playmate for my daughter, who is just about her size." Again he went and
shut the door very carefully. He told his daughter never to enter that
room, and she said, "Yes"; and he continued his daily visits there.

After many days Ogula's daughter became tired of seeing him enter while
she was forbidden. So one day, when he was gone out of the house, she said
to herself, "My father always forbids me this room; now I will go in and
see what he has there." She entered, and saw only the gilded box, and
exclaimed, "Oh, what a nice box! I'll just open it and see what is

She began to draw the lid out of its grooves, and a human head was
revealed with a splendid mass of hair covered with gold ornaments. She
withdrew the lid entirely, and saw the form of the young woman, and
delightedly said, "A beautiful girl, with such nice hair, and covered with
golden ornaments!" She did not know why the girl seemed so unconscious,
and began to say, "I wish she could speak to me, so we might be friends,
because she is only a little larger than I." So she gave the stranger's
salutation, "Mbolo! mbolo!" As no response was made, she protested, "Oh, I
salute you, mbolo, but you do not answer!" She was disappointed, and slid
back the cover, and went out of the room. Something about the door aroused
the suspicions of her father on his return to the house, and he asked her,
"Have you been inside that room?" She answered, "No! You told me never to
go there, and I have not gone." Next day Ogula went out again, and his
daughter thought she would have another look at the beautiful face.
Entering the room, she again drew out the lid, and again she gave the
salutation, "Mbolo!" There was no response. Again she protested, "Oh, I
speak to you, and you won't answer me!" And then she added, "May I play
with you, and fondle your head, and feel your hair? Perhaps you have lice
for me to remove?" [one of the commonest of native African friendly
services among both men and women]. She began to feel through the hair
with her fingers, and presently she touched something hard. Looking
closely, she found it was the head of a nail. Astonished, she said, "Oh,
she has a nail in her head! I'll try to pull it out!"

Instantly, on her doing so, the girl sneezed, opened her eyes, stared
around, rose up in a sitting posture, and said, "Oh, I must have been
sleeping a long time." The other asked, "You were only sleeping?" And the
girl replied, "Yes." Then Ogula's daughter saluted, "Mbolo!" and the girl
responded, "Ai, Mbolo!" and the other, "Ai!"

Then the girl asked, "Where am I? What place is this?" The other said,
"Why, you are in my father's house. This is my father's house." And the
girl asked, "But who or what brought me here?" Then Ogula's daughter told
her the whole story of Esěrěngila's having found the gilded box.
They at once conceived a great liking for each other, and started to be
friends. They played and laughed and talked and embraced, and fondled each
other. This they did for quite a while.

Then the beautiful one was tired, and she said, "It is better that you put
back the nail and let me sleep again." So the girl lay down in the box,
the nail was inserted in her head, and she instantly fell into

Ogula's daughter slid back the lid, and went out of the room, carefully
closing the door. She now lost all desire to go out of the house and play
with her former companions. Her father observed this, and urged her to
play and visit as she formerly had done. But she declined, making some
excuses, and saying she had no wish to do so. All her interest lay in that
room of the gilded box and beautiful girl. Whenever her father went out,
she at once would go to the room, draw out the lid, and pull out the nail;
her friend would sit up, and they would play, and repeat their friendship.
Ogula's daughter, seeing that her friend's desire for sleep was weakness
for want of food, daily brought her food. And the girl grew strong and
well and happy.

This was kept up many days without Ogula knowing of it.

But it happened one day, when the two girls were thus sitting in their
friendship, they continued their play and conversation so long that
Ogula's daughter forgot the time of her father's return; and he suddenly
entered the room, and was surprised to see the two girls talking. She was
frightened when she saw her father. But he was not angry, and quieted her,
saying, "Do not be afraid! How is it that you have been able to bring this
girl to life? What have you done?"

She told her father all about it, especially of the nail. Then Ogula sat
down by the girl of the gilded box, and asked the story of her life. She
told him all. Then he said, "As your mother is the kind of woman that
sends people to kill, and I am chief in this place, I will investigate
this matter to-morrow. I will call all the people of this region, and
there will be an ozâzâ (palaver) in the morning; and you shall remain, for
you are to be my wife."

The next day all the country side were called,--the wicked mother, the
soldiers, the old woman, and everybody else (except the unknown robbers).
The palaver was talked from point to point of the history, and, just at
the last, this beautiful girl walked into the assemblage, accompanied by
Ogula's daughter.

As soon as Maria saw her daughter enter, she started from her seat, looked
at the old woman, and fiercely said to her, "Here is this girl again! not
dead yet! I thought you killed her!" The old woman was amazed, but
asserted, "Yes, and I did. I kept my promise to you!"

Then the girl sat down, and Ogula bade her tell her entire story in the
presence of all the people. So she told from the very beginning,--about
the magic looking-glass, about the soldiers, about the robbers' house, and
on till the stay in Ogula's house.

Then all the people began to shout and deride and revile, and threaten
Maria and the old woman. This frightened the cruel Maria and her wicked
friend, and they ran away to a far country, and never came back again.

So the beautiful young woman was married to Ogula, and was happy with his
daughter as a companion.

But the robbers, in their secret house, not having heard of the ozâzâ,
kept on mourning and grieving for their lost sister, not knowing where
she had gone or what had become of her. And so the story ends.

(The above story is probably not more than two hundred or two hundred and
fifty years old; the name "Maria" doubtless being derived from Portuguese
occupants of the Kongo country.)


Ra-Nyambie in his great town had his wives and sons and daughters, and
lived in glory.

He had a best-beloved daughter, by name Ilâmbe. There is a certain fetich
charm called "ngalo," by means of which its possessor can have gratified
any wish he may express. Ngalo is not obtainable by purchase or art; only
certain persons are born with it. This Ilâmbe was born with a ngalo. While
she was growing up, her father made a great deal of her and gave her very
many things,--servants and houses, according to her wishes. When Ilâmbe
had grown up to womanhood, she said, "Father, I will not like a man who
has other wives. I shall want my husband all for myself." And the father
said, "Be it so."

As years went on, Ilâmbe thought it was time she should be married, but
she saw no one who pleased her fancy. So she took counsel with her ngalo,
thinking, "What shall I do to get a husband for myself?"

She decided on a plan. Her father's people often went out hunting. One
day, when they were going out, she said to them, "If you find some small
animal, do not kill it, but bring it to me alive."

So they went out hunting, and they found a small animal resembling a goat,
called "mbinde" (wild goat). They brought it to her, asking pardon for its
smallness, and said, "We did not find anything, only this mbinde." She
took it, saying, "It is good." Then turning to one of the men, she bade
him, "Just skin this very carefully for me"; and to another of the
servants, "Bring me plenty of water, and put it in my bathroom for a
bath." Each of these servants did as he was bidden,--this one flaying the
animal, that one bringing the water. When the one had finished flaying,
and brought the entire flesh to her, she said, "Just put it into this
water for a bath." She left it there two days, soaking in the water. The
skin she put in a fire, burned it to black ashes, and carefully saved all
the ash. This she did not do herself, but told a servant to do it,
cautioning him to lose none of it. When it was brought to her, she wrapped
it up with care, and put it safely away so that none of it should be lost.

On the third day she spoke to her ngalo, "Ngalo mine, ngalo mine, I tell
you, turn this mbinde to a very handsome-looking man!" Instantly the
mbinde was changed to a finely formed man, who jumped out of the bath-tub,
dressed very richly.

Then Ilâmbe called one of her servants, and bade, "Go to my father, and
tell him I wish the town to be cleaned as thoroughly and quickly as
possible, because I have a husband, and I want to come and show him to
you; so my father must be ready to greet us."

The father summoned his servant Ompunga (Wind), who came, and at once
swept up the place clean.

Ilâmbe went out from her house with her husband, he and she walking side
by side through the street on the way to her father's house. All along
their route the people were wondering at the man's fine appearance, and
shouting, "Where did Ilâmbe get this man?" When she reached her father's
house, he ordered a salute of cannon for her. He was much pleased to see
the man with the crowd of people, and received him with respect.

Having thus visited her father, Ilâmbe returned to her own house with her
husband, the people still shouting in admiration of him. The news spread
everywhere about Ilâmbe's fine-looking husband, and there was great praise
of them. They lived happily in their marriage for a while, but trouble

Ilâmbe had a younger sister living still at her father's house. One day
Ilâmbe changed her mind about having a husband all to herself, and
thought, "I better share him with my younger sister." So she went out to
her father to tell him about it, saying, "Father, I've changed my mind. I
want my younger sister to live with me, and marry the same man with me."

Her father, though himself having many wives, said, "You now change your
mind, and are willing to share your husband with another woman. Will there
be no trouble in the future?" She answered "No!" He repeated his question;
but she assured him it would be agreeable. So she took her sister (without
consulting the husband, as he was under her control, by power of her
ngalo), led her to her house, and presented her as a new wife to her

They remained on these terms for some time without any trouble. But as
time went on, the report about that handsome man went far, and finally
reached Ra-Mborakinda's town. Another woman lived there, also named
Ilâmbe, of the same age as the other, and she was unmarried. This Ilâmbe
said to herself, "I am tired of hearing the report about this handsome
man. I will go, though uninvited I be, and see for myself." So she tells
her brother and some of his men, "Take me over there to that town, and I
will return to-day." She told her father the same words: "I am going to
see that man, and will return." When this Ilâmbe got to the other Ilâmbe's
house, the husband was out, but the wife received her with great
hospitality; and the two sisters and their visitor all ate together. Soon
the husband came, and the wife introduced the visitor. "Here is my friend
Ilâmbe come to see you." "Good," he said. Then it was late in the day, and
the visiting Ilâmbe's attendants said to her, "The day is past; let us be
going." But she refused to go, and told them to return, saying that she
would stay awhile with her friend Ilâmbe.

But really, in her coming she was not simply a visitor and sightseer; she
intended to stay and share in the husband. As her brother was leaving, he
asked, "But when will you return? and shall we come for you?" She said,
"No; I myself will come back when I please." When the evening came, the
hostess began to fix a sleeping-place for her visitor, showing her much
kindness in the care of her arrangements.

The second day the hostess observed something suspicious in the manner
with which her husband regarded the visitor; he said to his wife, "Here is
your friend. Speak to her for me. Are you willing to do that?" She looked
at him steadily, and slowly said, "Yes." So at evening she spoke of the
matter to her visitor, who at once assented.

When Ilâmbe parted with her husband before retiring, she said to him, "Go
with this new woman, but do not forget your and my morning custom." [That
was their habit of rising very early for a morning bath.] He only said,
"Yes." They all retired for the night.

The next morning the hostess was up early as usual, and had her bath, and
was out of her room, waiting. But the man was not up yet, nor were there
any sounds of preparation in his room. So Ilâmbe, after waiting awhile,
had to call to waken him. He woke, saying, "Oh, yes, yes, I'm coming!"

The next day it was the same, he staying with the new Ilâmbe and rising
late in the morning. The fourth day his wife said to him, "You have work
to do, and you do not get up to do it till late." He was displeased at her
fault-finding. When she saw that, she also was displeased.

So when he went to the bathroom she followed him there. On the way she had
secretly taken with her the roll of black powder she had kept from the day
of his creation.

While he was bathing, she turned aside, without his noticing it, and
opening the roll of the powder, took out of it a little, and held it
between her finger and thumb.

While he was dressing, she came near, stooped down, and rubbed the powder
on his feet. They suddenly turned to hoofs. He began stamping his hoofs on
the floor, surprised, and saying, "Wife, what is this?" She said, "It is
nothing. You have finished dressing. Go out." He began to plead; she
relented, and by her ngalo's power changed the hoofs back to feet. They
both went out of the room and had their breakfast, and that day passed.
But at night he again abandoned his wife for the new Ilâmbe, and next
morning he was up later even than on the previous days. He had to be
called several times before he would awake. He began to grumble and scold,
"Can't a person be left to sleep as long as he desires?" And when he and
the new Ilâmbe came from that bedroom, she joined in the man's displeasure
at his having been disturbed. He went for his bath. The wife followed, and
used the powder as she had done the day before, turning his feet to hoofs.
He begged and pleaded. She again forgave him, and fixed the feet again.
And they two came out of the bathroom and had their breakfast as usual. He
went to his work, and the day wore on. At night he again deserted his
wife. The next morning there was the same confusion in arousing him as on
the other days.

His wife accompanied him to the bathroom as usual. While he was in the
bath, and before he was done bathing, she left the room, and told the new
Ilâmbe, "You sit down near the bathroom door. You will see him come out."
The visitor replied, "It is well"; and she sat down. And Ilâmbe went into
the bathroom again.

When the man got out of his bath, as soon as he attempted to dress
himself, Ilâmbe, without saying anything or making any complaint, went
behind him, and having the whole roll of powder with her, she opened the
bundle, flung it on his back, and said, "You go back to where you came
from!" Instantly he was changed to a mbinde, and he began to leap about as
a goat. Then Ilâmbe cried out to the other Ilâmbe at the door, "Are you
ready to receive him? He's coming!" and she opened the door. Out ran the
mbinde, leaped from the house, dashed through the town and off to the
forest, the people shouting in derision, "Hâ! hâ! hâ! So, indeed, that
handsome man was the mbinde that was taken to Ilâmbe's house!"

Then the wife said to the other Ilâmbe, "Did you see your man? Call him!
That's he running off there!" The next day Ilâmbe said to the visitor,
"Send word for your people that they may come for you."

The following day they were sent for, and they came to Ilâmbe's house.
After they had arrived, Ilâmbe sent word to her father, "Have your place
cleaned, I am coming to enter a complaint." The father replied, "Very
well!" Ompunga came and swept the place. Seats were prepared in the
street. Ilâmbe summoned the visitor and her people, saying, "Let us all go
to my father's house."

So they went there, and Ilâmbe made her complaint, telling all from the
beginning: how she obtained a husband; how the other Ilâmbe had come; how
she received her kindly; how she even had been willing to share her
husband with her, but how the new Ilâmbe had monopolized instead of simply
sharing; and how things had become so bad that she had to send the man
back to his beast origin. Turning to the visiting people, she said, "I
have nothing more to say except that your sister Ilâmbe is not going back
to your town, but has to be my slave all the days of my life."

So the king's council justified her, and pronounced the judgment just. The
people scattered to their homes. And the two sisters went to their house,
with the other Ilâmbe as their slave.


In his great town, King Ra-Mborakinda, or Ra-Nyambie, lived in glory with
all his wives and sons and daughters. Some of his great and favored sons
had large business and great wealth. But there was one of the sons, named
Nkombe, whose mother was not a favorite wife of the king, so this Nkombe
was poor. Everything went against him, and his life was quite miserable;
only, he had a gun, and he knew how to shoot; that was all. So he thought,
"I'm tired of this kind of life. I better leave and go off by myself."

He gathered together the few things that belonged to him,--a few plates
and pots, and his gun and ammunition,--and went away. He went far into the
forest, and with his machete began to clear a little place for a
camping-ground (olako).

He fixed up his camp, and next morning went out hunting. When he began to
feel hungry, he turned back to cook his food. On his return he had fresh
meat with him; this he cooked, set it on the table, and ate. After eating,
he cleared off the table, washed the dishes, brushed up the floor, and the
new meat that was left he put on the orala (drying-frame) for next day's
use. So that day's work was done.

Next day he again leaves the camp, and with his gun is off again to his
hunting. At noon he comes back with his meat,--antelope, or wild pig, or
whatever it may be. He cooks his food, eats; and that day's work is done
just as the day before.

So he did many days. After each day's work he was so tired and felt so
lonely he wished he had a mother or some one to do for him.

Unknown to him, since he had come to that olako, there was a woman named
Ilâmbe, who belonged to the awiri (fairies), who secretly had observed all
that he did. One day she thought to herself, "Oh, I am sorry for this man;
I think that as I have the power I will turn myself into a human being and
help him, for I do not like to see him suffer." So she said to herself,
"To-day I will cause Nkombe to be unsuccessful, so that he shall kill only
ntori (a big forest rat), and I will hide myself in ntori."

So Nkombe hunted long and far that day, and saw nothing worthy of being
shot. He was getting hungry, and murmured, "Ah! I have not been able to
kill anything to-day." But presently he saw ntori pass by, and he said,
"Well, I'll have to take this small animal, ntori!" He shot it, and took
it with him to his camp. When he reached the olako, as he had other meat
on the orala, and was in a hurry, after singeing and cleaning ntori, he
threw it on the orala, and took the older dried meat, and began to cook it
for his supper. He went on with his usual day's work, as it took only a
little while to arrange ntori on the orala.

Next day he went out as usual on his hunting journey. While he was away,
and before he returned, Ilâmbe had crept out of the head of ntori. She
brushed up the camp, and made everything neat and clean. She began to
cook, taking meat from the drying-frame. She cooked it very nicely, and
ate part,--her share, just enough to satisfy her appetite. Then she crept
back into ntori's head, as she knew Nkombe must be about starting back.

Late in the afternoon Nkombe returned with some wild meat. He took down
dried meat from the orala, leaving his fresh meat unattended to, for he
was in a hurry to cook, being hungry. He went to his little hut to get
plate, kettle, and so forth. To his surprise, on the table was everything
ready, food and plate and drink. He exclaimed, "What word is this? Where
did this come from? Is this the work of my mother's spirit? She has pitied
me and has come and done this. I wish I knew where she came from."

This occurred during three successive days, just the same each day. Nkombe
was puzzled. He wanted to find out, and decided to go to the great
prophet, Ra-Marânge. The prophet saw him coming, and greeted him, "Sale!
(Hail) my son, sale!" "Mbolo," replied Nkombe. Ra-Marânge continued, "What
did you come for? What are you doing?" "I come for you to make medicine,
that you may prophesy for me about a matter I want to find out."

Ra-Marânge said, "Child, I am old, and do not do such things now. I have
given the power to Ogula-ya-impazya-vazya" [so called because his body was
all-covered-by-a-disease-of-pimples]. "Well, where shall I go to him?" The
prophet replied, "He is not far."

Nkombe starts to go to Ogula-ya-impazya-vazya, who presently sees him
coming. As soon as Nkombe reached him, Ogula-ya-impazya-vazya said, "If
you come to me for medicine, good, for that is my only business; but if
for anything else, clear off!" "Yes, that is what I came for."

So Ogula-ya-impazya-vazya began to kindle his big fire. Nkombe was
surprised, not knowing what was to be done with the fire. The next minute
he sees Ogula-ya-impazya-vazya throw himself into the flames. Nkombe was
startled and afraid, thinking, "Is this man going to kill himself for me?"
The prophet rolled himself several times in the fire in order to get the
power. Some of his pimples on his body burst in the flame; and he jumped
out, ready with his power to do the medicine. He said, "Hah, repeat your
story; I am ready!" Nkombe told all his story,--how he had worked for
himself, and how for a few days past he had been helped by some one, and
wanted to know who it was, if Ogula-ya-impazya-vazya would please tell
him. "Hah, that's a small matter for me!" So the prophet told him, "You
killed ntori for yourself a few days ago, and this being is a woman who
has come to be your wife, and has hidden herself in ntori." "But," said
Nkombe, "how shall I be able to catch her, so that she shall be a real
woman, for I do not see her?"

"I'll let you know how. Go back and hunt all the same for three days. On
the fourth day go out as usual, but do not go hunting. Hide near the
olako,--near, but not where you will be seen." Then the prophet gave
Nkombe a prepared powder, and told him to keep it carefully. He gave him
also a small cornucopia (ozyoto) full of a bruised medicinal leaf, and
told him, "Go and put these two medicines in a secret place near your
olako. On the fourth day have these two medicines with you where you hide.
When you see her come out, and while she is doing your work, you will run
and seize her, and say to her, "You are my wife." She will not understand
your language, and will murmur and shake her head and resist. But when you
hold her fast, sprinkle the powder all over her body. Then take the ozoto,
and squeeze some of the juice in her nostrils, eyes, and mouth. She will
begin to sneeze. Repeat the words, 'You are my wife, my wife!' Then she
will understand you, and will yield."

So Nkombe took the medicines, and obeyed directions; hid the medicines and
hunted the three days, his heart bursting with anxiety to get the days
done that seemed so long. At last the three days were over and the fourth
day came.

Now the woman, by the power that was with her, knew all these things; she
knew she would be caught that day.

After Nkombe had left in the morning with the medicines, had hidden
himself, and was waiting for the hours to pass, the woman, hesitating on
her fate, did not come out quickly as on the other days. But finally
Nkombe saw the pieces of meat on the frames shake. And out of ntori's head
came a beautiful woman with clean soft skin. He could hardly restrain
himself. She went on with all the usual work,--cooking, and so forth. But
that day she did not divide nor partake of the food, but put all of it on
the table. When he saw she had finished, and was washing her hands
preparatory to jumping back into ntori on the orala, he came out of the
bushes, and stepping cautiously but rapidly, rushed to seize her. He
caught her. She began to resist, and he followed the prophet's directions.
The woman at first was murmuring and sobbing, and Nkombe was trying to
calm her with the words "My wife." Finally, under the powder, she quieted.
When the juice was dropped into her mouth, she was able to speak his
language. She told him all her story,--how she had pitied him, and had
entered into ntori, and everything else. "But," she said, "there is one
more thing I must tell you. I have come indeed to be your wife, and I have
the power to make you rich or poor, happy or unhappy. I will give you only
one rule: Be good to me, and I will be so to you; but never say to me that
I came from the low origin of a rat's head." Nkombe exclaimed, "No, no!
You have done so much for me, I could never so humiliate you." "You speak
well, but be very careful not to break your promise." So they ate and
finished the day's work.

Next day the woman wanted to build a town by word of her power. She said,
"Mwe [Sir] Nkombe, surely you will not live in an olako all your life.
Look for a site for a town, and mark it with stakes for its length and
width." Nkombe was puzzled. He had a wife, but where would he get
materials for a house; for he was as poor of goods as he was before? Being
troubled, he made no reply to his wife, and did not go to mark a site. At
night they retired, Nkombe still troubled about the building of a town;
but Ilâmbe was smiling in her heart, for she knew what she would do. So
she made him fall into a deep sleep. She went out at night a short
distance, and chose a good town-site. She spoke to her ngalo (a
guardian-spirit charm), "Ngalo mine, before morning I want to see all this
place cleared, and covered with nice houses, and all the houses furnished
and supplied with men and maid servants." And she returned to bed.

Before daybreak everything was ready, as Ilâmbe desired. The ngalo had
made the olako disappear, and Nkombe and wife were sleeping inside their
nice house. When morning came, Nkombe did not know where he was, nor even
on which side to get out of bed. He exclaimed, "What is this word?" "You
are in your own house and in your own town." So both went out to inspect
their town and their servants. Nkombe did not know how well to thank her,
so glad was he.

Later the wife became a mother, and a son was born. Nkombe called this
first-born Ogula. Again, a daughter was born. Then the wife told her ngalo
to bring ships of wealth. The next day ships were seen coming. Nkombe went
on board and had a conversation with the captains. They stayed a few days,
and then sailed away, leaving Nkombe a cargo of wealth. Another time ships
came, and Nkombe went off on board as before; and these ships sailed away,
also leaving wealth. Other children were born to them. Children of a fairy
mother are called "aganlo"; they grow very fast, and are very wise.

Other ships came. One day one comes, and Nkombe, having gone on board,
has there a convivial time, stays all day, and returns nearly drunk. The
wife says to him, "Nkombe, often you come from ships looking in this way,
and I do not like it. I have spoken with you often, that if a food or a
drink is not good in its effects, it is better to leave it off. But you do
not care for my words." Nkombe, under the influence of liquor, was vexed
with her, rebuked her, and began to use hard words with orâwo (insult):
"You--you--this woman who--but I won't finish it." Soon, however, he took
up the quarrel again, saying, "A person can know from your manners that
you came out of--" The wife said, "When you are drunk, you say half
sentences; why hold back? Say what you want to say."

He shouted angrily, "Yes, if I want to say it, I will say it! It was my
own ntori that I killed. If I had not killed it, would you have come out
of it?" Then Ilâmbe said, "Please repeat that; I do not quite understand
you." He repeated it. She exclaimed, "Eh!" but said no more, and waited
until morning, when he would be sober.

So early in the morning she told him to get up, so that she could do her
housework. She did the morning's work, washing things neatly but rapidly.
Then she called her sons and daughters, and in their presence said to
their father, "You said so-and-so yesterday; now I am off and with my

Nkombe knew he had said the forbidden words. He pleaded for mercy; but she
replied, "No, you broke your promise." The two elder children pleaded for
their father: "It was only once. Though a bad thing, it cannot break a
marriage. Forgive it." But the mother persisted, "No!" Then the two elder
ones said they would not leave their father.

So she said to him, "Now be thankful you have these two. If it was not for
them, I would put you back where you were just as I found you; but for the
sake of these two children, I leave some of my power with them." Then to
those two she said, "You will call on me for help when you have need, and
I will be near to help you."

So she took the two younger ones, and said to their father, "As this place
is quite open, Nkombe, sit you here and see me depart." Nkombe did so. He
and the two older children watched the mother and the two younger ones
walk down the path from the town. They went to the bank of the river, and,
wading in, disappeared in the river depths.


Ra-Mborakinda had his big town of men and women and children, all in good
condition. But a kind of plague came upon the people suddenly, killing
many. In a short time it destroyed most of the inhabitants, and finally
but few were left.

So one of the elder sons said to a younger one, "Let us flee for our
lives!" This elder brother's name was Ogula, and the younger brother's
name was Nkombe. When Ogula had thus said, "Let us flee for our lives,"
Nkombe agreed. Ogula took as his servant a boy, and together with Nkombe
they went out. They went aimlessly, not following any particular plan, but
vaguely hoping to happen on any place.

They went, went, wandering on, on, till they came to a small hut, almost
too miserable for a dwelling. But in their extremity they said, "Oh! there
is a house! Let us go to it; maybe we'll find shelter there." So they
walked up to it, and, to their surprise, saw there an old man mending a
piece of canvas.

He saluted them, and asked them where they came from. They told their
story, and Ogula asked the old man whether he would, of his kindness, give
them shelter. He said, "Yes, if you are willing to do as I tell you; for
living here is hard, and there is nothing to eat. I have to cut firewood
and carry it to the city (osěngě) far away, and sell it there. That
city belongs to a big merchant."

Ogula said, "Yes; we are willing." So the next day Ogula himself and
Nkombe and their servant set themselves ready for work. After they had cut
their firewood, they asked the old man the way to the city. He directed
them. They went, sold their firewood, and brought food. This they did
many times, cutting firewood and going to the city and buying food; and
they each built a house of their own near the old man's hut.

But after a while Ogula began to tire of this kind of life; so he said to
himself, "If I only had a gun, I could go hunting. But even without the
gun, I will go out and see what I can see." So he went out alone, not
calling his brother or his servant to go with him. He went and went, on,
on, for a half-day's journey, till he happened to come to a large house
built in a very strange style, having no door at its side and with a flat
roof. The place looked clean, as if kept in order by people. He approached
cautiously; but looking around, he saw no one at all. He said to himself,
"Who owns this place? Surely some one owns it, for it is so clean; but I
see no one here. I won't leave this place to-day till I know who lives
here." He decided to retire a little and climb up a tall tree overlooking
the house and watch from there. He was very hungry, having had no food
that day, but he still decided to wait and see what was about the house.

After he had been up the tree a long while, late in the afternoon he saw a
number of men coming. He saw one of them climb up the side of the house to
the roof, where was a trap-door. All of the men had bundles of goods. The
first one who had climbed to the roof spoke a few words to the door as he
stood before it, and the two parts of the door flew open of themselves.
Then the other men climbed up with their bundles, and went into the house.

All this Ogula could see from his tree-top. He said to himself, "Now I am
hungry, and must go, for I have seen enough to-day. I see that this house
is occupied, and by men, and how they enter; it is enough for to-day." He
thought it time to move before any of the people should come out of the
house. He came down rapidly, and went back to the little hut of the old

When he got to his own house, his brother Nkombe asked, "Where have you
been all day?" Ogula said, "I was tired of working, and took a walk to the
forest, and missed my way." But he did not tell his brother the story of
what he had seen.

Ogula then ate a little and went to bed, though it was not very late. He
went thus soon to bed, for he wanted to go early next day to inspect the
big house again. So, very, very early, before daylight, Ogula was up and
off, for he did not wish his brother to ask him where he was going.

He remembered the way to the big house, and went directly there. He
climbed his tree. He looked and saw that the door of the house was open.
He waited a little while, and then saw the men climbing out of the door.
Their leader was the last; he spoke a cabalistic word, pressed his foot on
the threshold, as the two sides of the door folded together, and it was

After they had been gone quite awhile, Ogula thought he would try to enter
the house, first seeking what was the way to open it. He said to himself,
"I know they have goods there, for I have seen them carried in." So he
descended from the tree, and going to the house, climbed up the side. When
he got to the top, he searched for something by which the door could be
opened. He saw nothing like a key or lock or handle. Then he remembered
the words he had heard the leader use, and thought, "Perhaps they were the
means by which the door was opened." So he uttered the words, "Yâginla
mie, kâ nungwa, awěmě!" (Obey me, and thyself open!) and, to his
surprise, the door flew open. Then he went down the flight of steps
leading below to the interior of the house. He was startled when he saw
the room full of all kinds of money and goods and wealth that any one
could wish to have. One could have taken away a great deal without its
absence being noticed, so abundant was the amount.

Ogula thought, "Isn't this fine! But I must be quick, lest the owners of
this house catch me here." So he took a cloth, and put into it a few small
articles and a quantity of cash. He tied up the bundle, went up the
stairway, and walked out of the door which he had left open. At the top he
remembered the word "Nunja!" (Shut!) which the leader had used for
closing. He spoke it; and the door shut. He hasted away, and back to the
hut of the old man. He did not enter it, but went to his own house and
there hid the bundle. He told no one anything, neither the old man nor his
servant nor even his brother. Soon the brother came over from his house,
saying, "Brother! I looked for you this morning; you must have gone out
very early." "Yes, I went out early, for I am tired of seeing so little;
so I went out to see what I could see."

The next day he did the same. On this trip he took not only money from the
house, but some fine clothing for himself to wear. As before, on emerging
at the top of the house, he spoke the word "Nunja!" the door closed, and
he was away again, no one having seen him. When Ogula got back to his
house, Nkombe asked him the same question of the day before, "Where have
you been?" and he made only the evasive answer. But Nkombe began to be
troubled. He feared something was wrong, and he determined to find out
what was the matter. So he decided to get up next morning just as early as
Ogula. The reason that Ogula did not tell Nkombe was because the latter
had a bad jealous heart, and was very covetous of money. So early in the
morning Ogula was off. He did not know that Nkombe had any thought of
following him. But as soon as Nkombe saw Ogula start, he followed him
cautiously, so that he might find out what his brother was doing.

Ogula walked on straight and rapidly, and never looked behind, for he had
no suspicion that he was being followed. When he got to the house, as
usual he ordered the door to open, and descended inside. While he was
beginning to select the things he wanted to take, to his surprise he saw
Nkombe also descending the stairway. Ogula said, "Nkombe! what is this?
Who showed you the way? Who told you to come here? I am troubled to find
you here; for this will be the end of you! I knew it was not safe for you
to come here. What I took was for us both."

Nkombe said, "No! you hid it from me. I have found it now. I will be rich
for myself." By this time Ogula had tied up his bundle ready to go out.
But Nkombe was snatching up a large quantity from every side. Ogula said,
"Nkombe! be quick! You do not know how to shut that door, and it will not
be safe for us to be found here by those people." But Nkombe was not
satisfied with one bundle, he was still gathering up other bundles. Ogula
wearied of waiting and begging of Nkombe to come, so he said he must go
and leave him, saying, "Now, Nkombe, it is not safe to wait longer. I have
waited for you and begged you to leave with me; so I go alone. You cannot
get out with all those bundles."

But Nkombe would not listen. So Ogula went out, and spoke the word that
closed the door, leaving Nkombe in the house. However, being anxious for
his brother, Ogula did not go away, but climbed his tree to see what would

When Nkombe had entered the house, he had with him a big, sharp knife.

Ogula waited outside till those people should come. Soon they came. The
leader did as usual, being the first to climb to the house-top and to
order the door to open. The door flew open, and the leader descended. As
soon as he entered, he found another man, Nkombe, in the house. The leader
asked, "Who are you, and how did you get in here?" Nkombe did not reply,
but drawing his knife, plunged it into the leader's neck. With one outcry
the man fell dead. By this time some of the other men had climbed up and
were about to enter. When they got inside, they saw their leader lying
dead, and this stranger standing armed. One of the men drew his pistol and
shot Nkombe. [Observe the pistol; all these folk-lore stories disregard
anachronisms or even impossibilities.] They carried his dead body to the
roof, and threw it off to the ground. All this Ogula saw, looking from the
tree-top down into the house.

Then those people began to be perplexed and suspicious, saying, "This is
not the work of only one, for we found the door closed on our arrival. So
this person inside must have had some associate outside. How shall we find
it out?"

They began to plan, each one with his proposition. One said, "Let us go
and bury the dead body." Another, "Let us leave it and go on with our
business, and if on our return the body is missing, that will be a proof
that a partner has taken it. Then we will get on the track and find where
the body was taken." And they agreed that he whose plan proved successful
should be their new leader. So they closed the door, left Nkombe's dead
body lying, and went off on their usual business.

After they had been gone quite a while, Ogula came down quickly from the
tree. He tried to carry the body of his brother without dragging it so as
not to leave any sign of a trail. And he did not follow the path, but
walked parallel with it among the bushes. He hid the body, and then went
away to his house. He called his servant, telling him that Nkombe was
dead, and that he wanted him to come help bury the body. He did not call
the old man, but only told him that his brother was dead.

He and the servant went to the spot where he had left his brother's body.
They carried it far into the forest, buried it, and then went back to
their house.

When the thieves came again to their house, they missed the dead body, so
that part of their plan had proved true; and they said to the one who had
proposed it, "You were right. You are our leader. What is your next
order?" He said, "To-morrow we will not go out to do our business, but we
will go out to hunt for this other man."

The next day they went, and scattering searched on all paths to see
whether they would meet with some one or see some house. Some of them who
were on a certain path came to the huts of the old man and Ogula. The
first person they saw was the old man sitting in his doorway. They stopped
and saluted. They asked him a few questions, and then consulting together
agreed to return to their house and come back next day, hoping to find out
something from the old man. They went back to their house. Previous to
this, from the time that Ogula had been stealing goods he had built with
his servant a little village of his own some distance from the old man's
hut. On this first coming of the thieves, Ogula, hidden in his house, had
seen them, and he said to himself, "As they now know of this place, I
better go away, for fear this thing be found out, and they kill me as they
did my brother." So at night he left that house and went off to his

In the morning of the next day, when the thieves came, they brought
liquor, for they had planned that they would make this old man drunk, that
he might talk when he was foolish with liquor.

They came to the old man's and saluted him. They sat and conversed, asking
him, "How many people are here? Are you always living alone?" At first he
replied, "Yes, I live alone." "But you are so old, how do you get your
food by yourself? Would you like to taste a nice drink? We are sorry for
you in your lack of comforts." "Yes, I would like to taste it."

So they opened their liquor, drank a little themselves, and gave to him.
After he had drunk he became talkative, and began conversation again: "Oh,
yes, you asked me if I lived alone. But not quite alone. There is a young
man here." The thieves were glad to hear him talk, and gave him more
liquor. He drank; they asked more questions, "You said there was another
man with you; where is he?" Then the old man repeated the whole story of
the coming of the brothers, to the death of one of them; and added, "A few
days ago one of them came to tell me he was going to bury his brother; but
I do not know when or how he died." So they asked the old man, "You know
where he was buried?" "No." "But where is that living brother?" "Oh, he
has just left me, and is gone to his new place not very far away. I have
not been there, but you can easily find it."

They consulted among themselves. "As this other man may hear of what we
are about, we will go away to-day, disguise ourselves, and to-morrow seek
for his place." So they all left.

Next day two or three came disguised, and found Ogula's new house in the
afternoon. He did not recognize their faces. He welcomed them as strangers
and treated them politely. They asked, "Is this your house? Do you live
alone?" He answered straightly, but did not mention his brother. But they
felt they had enough proof of who he was, and left. But before they left
they had observed the number and location of the rooms and the shape of
the house. In the house was a large public reception and sitting room, and
from it were doors leading to the servant's room and to a little entry
opening into Ogula's room.

The next day Ogula and his servant were doing their work of refining the
gum-copal they had gathered for trade; it was being boiled in an enormous
kettle. When this copal was melted, the kettle was set, with its
boiling-hot pitchy contents, in that little entry. In the afternoon came
the whole company of thieves, all disguised. They said, "We have come to
make your acquaintance, and to relieve your loneliness by an evening's
amusement." Ogula began to prepare them food. They sat at the food, eating
and drinking; had conversation, and spent the evening laughing and
playing. At night most of them pretended to be drunk and sleepy, and
stretched themselves on the floor of the large room as if in sleep.

Ogula also had been drinking, and said he was tired and would go to bed.
But his servant was sober; he saw what the men were doing, and suspected
evil. He thought: "Ah! my master is drunk, and these people are strangers.
What will happen?" So when the lights were put out and he was going to
bed, he left open the door of the little entry and locked the door of his
master's room. After midnight the thieves rose and consulted. "Let us go
and kill him." They arose and trod softly toward Ogula's room. Not quite
sober, they missed the proper way, stepped through the open door of the
little entry, and stumbled into the caldron of copal. It was still hot,
and stuck to their bodies like pitch. They were in agony, but did not dare
to cry out. They all were crawling covered with the hot gum, except the
last man, who had jumped over the bodies of those who had fallen before
him; and he ran away to their house.

But Ogula was sleeping, ignorant of what was going on.

In the morning the boy, who also had slept, on opening the house, found
the kettle full of tarred limbs of dead human bodies. He knocked at
Ogula's door and waked him. But Ogula said, "Don't disturb me, I am so
tired from last night's revel." "Yes, but get up and see what has
happened." Ogula came and saw. Then he told the lad that but for him he
would have been dead. Ogula thenceforth took him as a brother. Then he and
the boy had a big work of throwing out the bodies of the thieves. Ogula
was not afraid of a charge of murder, for the thieves had tumbled
themselves into the scalding contents of the kettle. He had enough wealth,
and did not go again to the thieves' house.

But that one man who had escaped was wishing for revenge, yet was afraid
to come to Ogula's house by himself. Time went on. Ogula remained quiet.
But his enemy still sought revenge, waiting for an opportunity.

Gradually, too, Ogula had forgotten his enemy's face; for the thieves were
many, and all disguised, and he would be unable to distinguish which one
had escaped.

On a time it happened that this thief went far to another country; and
while he was there, Ogula also happened to journey to that very town. The
lad had said, being now a young man, "May I go too?" "Yes, you may, for
you are like a brother. You must go wherever I do." On the very second day
in the town the two, Ogula and the thief, met. The thief recognized Ogula;
but Ogula did not recognize him, and neither spoke; but the young man,
with better memory, said to himself, "I have seen this man somewhere." He
looked closely, but said nothing.

The next day the thief made a feast. He met Ogula again on the street and
saluted him, "Mbolo! I am making a feast. You seem a stranger. I would
like you to come." "Yes; where?" "At such-and-such a place." "Yes, I will
come. But this attendant of mine is good, and must be invited too." "Yes,
I have no objections." Next evening the feast was held, and people came to
it. The thief placed Ogula and his servant near himself. There was much
eating and drinking. The thief became excited, and determined to kill
Ogula at the table by sticking him with a knife.

All the while that the thief was watching Ogula, the servant was watching
the thief. Presently the latter turned slightly and began to draw a knife.
The servant watched him closely. The thief's knife was out, and the
servant's knife was out too. But the thief was watching only Ogula, and
did not know what the servant was doing. Just as the thief was about to
thrust at Ogula, the servant jumped and thrust his knife into the thief's
neck. The man fell, blood flowing abundantly over the table. The guests
were alarmed, and were about to seize the servant, who pointed at the
drawn knife in the man's hand that had been intended for his master; and
then he told their whole story.

So the guests decided that there was no charge against Ogula and his
servant, and scattered. The next day Ogula and his servant left. As he
knew that that man was the last of the company of thieves, he said, in
gladness, "Now! Glory!" Then he thought, "All that wealth is mine, since
this last one who tried to take my life is dead."

As he had seen enough of the world by travel, he decided to stay in one
place. He would call people to live with him in a new town which he would
build for them around that enchanted house of the thieves, which he took
as his own with all its wealth. And he lived long in that house in great
glory, with wife and children and retainers and slaves.


Ra-Mborakinda lived in his town with his sons and daughters and his glory.
One son was Nkombe, and another Ogula, whose full name was
Ogula-keva-anlingo-n'-ogěndâ (Ogula-who-goes-faster-than-water); but
they were not of the same mother.

Ogula grew up without taking any wife. He became a great man, with
knowledge of sorcery. One day his father said to him, "Ogula, as you are a
big man now, I think it is time for you to have a wife. I think you had
better choose from one of my young wives." Ogula replied, "No, I will get
a wife in my own way." So one day he went to another osěngě
(clearing) of a town which belonged to a man of the awiri (spirits; plural
of "ombwiri"), _i. e._, one who possessed magic power, and obtained one of
his daughters. Her name was Ikâgu-ny'-awiri.

He brought the girl home to his father's house, where she was very much
admired as "a fine woman! a fine woman!" She was indeed very pretty. Then
Ogula said to her, "As you are now my wife, you must be orunda (set apart
from) to other men, and I will be orunda to other women, even if I go to
work at another place." And she replied, "It is well."

At another time Ogula said, "I think it better for us to move away from my
father's town, and put my house just a little way off." After the new
house was finished they moved to it, and lived by themselves. Ogula had
business elsewhere that compelled him to be often absent, returning at
times in the afternoons. Whenever Nkombe knew that Ogula was out, he would
come and annoy Ikâgu with solicitation to leave her husband and marry him.
Ogula knew of this, for he had a ngalo (a special fetich) that enabled him
to know what was going on elsewhere. The wife would say, "Ah, Nkombe! No,
I know that you are my husband's brother; but I do not want you!" Then,
when it was time for Ogula to return, Nkombe would go off. That went on
for many days; Nkombe visiting Ikâgu whenever he had opportunity, and the
wife refusing him every time. It went on so long that at last Ogula
thought that he would speak to his wife about it.

So he began to ask her, "Is everything all right? Has any one been
troubling you?" She answered, "No." He asked her again, and again she
said, "No." Thus it went on,--Nkombe coming; Ogula asking questions; and
the wife, unwilling to make trouble between the two brothers, denying.
But one day the trouble that Nkombe made the wife was so great that Ogula,
with the aid of his ngalo, thought surely she would acknowledge. But she
did not; for that day, when he came and called his wife into their
bedroom, and asked her, she only asserted weakly, "No trouble." Then he
said, "Do you think I do not know? You are a good wife to me. I know all
that has passed between you and Nkombe." And he added, "As Nkombe is
making you all this trouble, I will have to remove again far from my
father's town, and go elsewhere." So he went far away, and built a small
village for himself and wife. They put it in good order, and made the
pathway wide and clean.

But in his going far from his father's town he had unknowingly come near
to another town that belonged to another Ra-Mborakinda, who also had great
power and many sons and daughters. One of the sons also was named Ogula,
just as old and as large as this first Ogula. One day this Ogula went out
hunting with his gun. He went far, leaving his town far away, going on and
on till he saw it was late in the day and that it was time to go back.

Just as he was about returning he came to a nice clean pathway, and he
wondered, "So here are people? This fine path! who cleans it? and where
does it lead to?" So he thought he would go and see for himself; and he
started on the path. He had not gone far before he came to the house of
Ogula. There he stood, admiring the house and grounds. "A fine house! a
fine house!"

When Ogula saw Ogula 2d standing in the street, he invited him up into the
house. They asked each other a few questions, became acquainted, and made
friendship; and Ogula kept Ogula 2d for two days as his guest. Then Ogula
2d said, "They may think me lost, in town, after these two days. Thanks
for your kindness, but I had better go." And he added, "Some day I will
send for you, and you will come to visit me, that I may show you

Ogula 2d went back to his place. He had a sister who was a very
troublesome woman, assuming authority and giving orders like a man. Her
name was Banga-yi-baganlo-tani (Banga-of-five-faces). Though her father,
the king, and her brother were still living, she insisted on governing the
town. When any one displeased her, or she was vexed with any one, she
would order that person to lie down before a cannon and be shot to pieces.
The father was wearied of her annoyances, but did not know what to do with

As Ogula 2d had left word with Ogula that he would invite him on another
day, he did so. Ogula accepted; but as the invitation was only to himself,
he did not take his wife, but went by himself, and was welcomed and

When it was late afternoon, he was about to go back, but Ogula 2d said,
"You were so kind to me; do not go back to-day. Stay with me." And Ogula

In asking Ogula to stay, Ogula 2d thought, "As his wife is not here,
perhaps he will want another woman. I have my sister here; but if I first
offer her, it will be a shame, for he has not asked for any one" [an
actual native African custom, to give a guest a temporary wife, as one of
the usual hospitalities. The custom is not resented by the women].

All this while Ogula had not seen the sister. When they were ready for the
evening meal, Ogula 2d thought it time to call his sister to see the
guest. She fixed herself up finely, clean, and with ornaments. She came
and sat in the house, and there were the usual salutations of "Mbolo!"
"Ai, mbolo!" and some conversation.

While they were talking, Banga had her face cast down with eyes to the
ground. And when she lifted her eyes to look at Ogula, her face changed.
From the time she came in till meal-time, she made a succession of these
changes of her face, thinking that Ogula would be surprised, and would
admire the changes, and expecting that he would ask her brother for her.

She waited and waited; Ogula saw all these five changes of her face, but
was not attracted. They went to their food, and ate and finished. And
they talked on till bedtime; but Ogula had said nothing of love. Banga was
annoyed and disappointed; she went to her bed piqued and with resentful

The next morning Ogula said it was time to go back to his wife. When he
was getting ready to go, Banga said to him, "Have you a wife?"

He answered, "Yes." She said, "I want her to come and visit me some day."
And Ogula agreed. He went, and returning to his house, told his wife that
Banga wanted to see her.

After Ogula was gone, Banga asked her brother about Ogula's wife. "Is she
pretty?" And he told her how finely the wife had looked. Banga was not
pleased at that, was jealous, and waited till Ikâgu should come that she
might see for herself. "I will see if she is more beautiful than I with my
five countenances." Subsequently Banga chose a day, and sent for Ikâgu.
She dressed for the journey, and Ogula, not being invited, took her only

When Ogula's wife arrived, Banga saw that it was true that she was pretty,
and of graceful carriage in her walking, and she did not wonder that her
husband was charmed with her. But she hid her jealousy, and pretended to
be pleased with her visitor. Ogula's wife did not spend the night there;
when she thought it time to go, she said good-bye, and turned to leave.

When she had gone, Banga was planning for a contest with her. She said to
herself, "Now I see why that man made me feel ashamed at his not asking
for my love,--because his wife is so beautiful. She shall see that I will
have her killed, and I shall have her husband."

So after a few days she sent word to Ogula's wife, "Prepare yourself for a
fight, and come and meet me at my father's house."

But the wife said to Ogula, "I have done nothing. What is the fight for?"
Nevertheless, she began to prepare a fighting-dress, and before it was
finished another messenger came with word, "You are waited for."

So she said, "As it is not a call for peace, I had better put on a dress
that befits blood." So she dressed in red. After she was dressed she
started, and Ogula went with her, to hear what was the ground of the

As soon as they got to the town, they found Banga striding up and down the
street. Her cannon was already loaded, waiting to be fired. When Ogula
wanted to know what the "palaver" was, Banga said, "I do not want to talk
with you; I only want you to obey my orders."

But Ikâgu wanted to know what the trouble was, and began to ask, "What
have I done?" Banga only repeated, "I don't want any words from you; only,
you come and lie down in front of this cannon." Ikâgu obeyed, and lay
down, and Banga ordered her men to fire the cannon.

By this time Ogula, by the power of his ngalo, had changed the places of
the two women. When the cannon was fired, and the smoke had cleared away,
the people who stood by saw Ikâgu standing safe by her husband, and Banga
lying dead. All the assembled people began to wonder, "What is this? What
is this?"

So Banga's father called Ogula, and said, "Do not think I am displeased
with you at the death of my daughter; I too was wearied at her doings. So,
as you are justified, and Banga was wrong, it is no matter to be
quarrelled about."

And Ogula 2d said to Ogula, "I am not vexed at you. You had done nothing.
She wanted to bring trouble on you, and it has come on herself. I have no
fight with you. We will still be friends. But do not live off in your
forest village by yourself; come you and your wife to live in this town."

So Ogula and his wife consented, and agreed to remove, and live with Ogula
2d. And they did so without further trouble.


Ra-Mborakinda has his great town, and his wives, and his children, and the
glory of his kingdom. All his women had no children, except the loved
head-wife, Ngwe-nkonde (Mother of Queens), and the unloved Ngwe-vazya
(Mother of Skin-Disease). Each of these two had children, sons, at the
same time. The father gave them their names. Ngwe-nkonde's was Nkombe, and
Ngwe-vazya's was Ogula. Again these two women became mothers. This time
both of them had daughters. Ngwe-nkonde's was named Ngwanga, and
Ngwe-vazya's was Ilâmbe. A third time these two bore children, sons, on
the same day. These two sons grew up without names till they began to
talk, for the father had delayed to give them names. But one day he called
them to announce to them their names. What he had selected they refused,
saying that they had already named themselves. Ngwe-nkonde's child named
himself Osongo, and Ngwe-vazya's Oběngi. And the father agreed.

These two children grew and loved each other very much. No one would have
thought that they belonged to different mothers, so great was the love
they had for each other. They were always seen together, and always ate at
the same place. When one happened to be out at mealtime, the other would
not eat, and would begin to cry till the absent one returned. Both were
handsome in form and feature.

When Ngwe-vazya's people heard about her nice-looking little boy, they
sent word to her, "We have heard about your children, but we have not seen
you for a long time. Come and visit us, and bring your youngest son, for
we have heard of him and want to see him."

So she went and asked permission of Ra-Mborakinda, saying that she wanted
to go and see her people. He was willing. Then she made herself ready to
start. As soon as Osongo knew that his brother Oběngi was going away,
he began to cry at the thought of separation. He said, "I am not going to
stay alone. I have to go too, for I am not willing to be separated from my
brother." And Oběngi said the same: "If Osongo does not go with us,
then I will not go at all." Then Ngwe-vazya thought to herself, "No, it
will not do for me to take Osongo along with me, for his mother and I are
not friendly." And she told Osongo that he must stay. But both the boys
persisted, "No, we both must go." So Ngwe-vazya said, "Well, let it be so.
I will take care of Osongo as if he were my own son." And Ra-Mborakinda
and Ngwe-nkonde were willing that Osongo should go.

So they started and went; and when they reached the town of Ngwe-vazya's
family the people were very glad to receive them. She was very attentive
to both the boys, watching them wherever they went, for they were the
beloved sons of Ra-Mborakinda. She was there at her people's town about
two months. Then she told them that it was time to return home with the
two boys. Her people assented, and began to load her and the boys with
parting presents.

They went back to Ra-Mborakinda's town, and there also their people were
glad to see them return, for the children had grown, and looked well. The
people, and even Ra-Mborakinda, praised Ngwe-vazya for having so well
cared for the children, especially the one who was not her own.

This made Ngwe-nkonde more jealous, because of the praise that
Ra-Mborakinda gave, and because of the boys' fine report of their visit
and the abundance of gifts with which Ngwe-vazya had returned. So
Ngwe-nkonde made up her mind that some day she would do the same, that she
might receive similar praise. She waited some time before she attempted to
carry out her plan. By the time that she got ready to ask leave to go the
boys had grown to be lads. One day she thought proper to ask Ra-Mborakinda
permission to go visiting with her son. Ra-Mborakinda was willing, and she
commenced her preparations.

And again confusion came because of the two lads refusing to be separated.
Osongo refused to go alone. But afterward he, knowing of his mother's
jealous disposition, changed his mind, and said to Oběngi, "No, I think
you better stay." But Oběngi refused, saying, "No, I have to go too."
Osongo then told him the true reason for his objecting. "I said this
because I know that my mother is not like yours. So please stay; I will
be gone only two days, and will then come and meet you." But Oběngi
insisted, "If you go, I go." And Ngwe-nkonde said, "Well, let it be so; I
will take care of you both."

So they went. When they reached the town of Ngwe-nkonde's family, the
people were glad to see them. She also was apparently kind and attentive
to the lads for the first two days. On the third day she began to think
the care was troublesome. "These lads are big enough to take care of
themselves like men."

She did indeed feel kindly toward Oběngi, liking his looks, and she
said to herself, "I think I will try to win his affections from his mother
to myself." She tried to do so, but the lad was not influenced by her.
When she noticed that he did not seem to care for her attentions, she was
displeased, began to hate him, and made up her mind to kill him.

All the days that the lads were there at the town they went out on
excursions to the forest, hunting animals. As soon as they came back they
would sit down together to chat and to eat sugar-cane [with African
children a substitute for candy].

Ngwe-nkonde knew of this habit. After she had decided to kill Oběngi,
on the next day she had the sugar-cane ready for them. She rubbed poison
on one of the stalks, and arranged that that very piece should be the
first one that Oběngi would take. He had taken only two bites, and was
chewing, when he exclaimed, "Brother, I begin to feel giddy, and my eyes
see double! Please give me some water quickly!" Water was brought to him.
He took a little of it. Others, spectators, became excited, and began to
dash water over his face. But soon he fell down dead.

Then Ngwe-Nkonde exclaimed to herself, "So I've been here only five days,
and now the lad is dead. I don't care! Let him die!"

By this time Osongo had become greatly excited, crying out, and repeating
over and over, "My brother! Oh, my brother! Oh, my same age!" His mother
said to him, "To-morrow I will have him buried, and we will start back to
our town." Osongo replied to her, "That shall not be. He shall not be
buried here. We both came together, and though he is dead, we both will go
back together." The next morning Osongo said to his mother, "I know that
you are at the bottom of this trouble. You know something about it. You
brought him. And now he is dead. I charge you with killing him." She only
replied, "I know nothing of that. We will wait, and we shall know."

They began to get ready for the return journey, and some of the people
said, "Let a coffin be made, and the body be placed there." But Osongo
said, "No, I don't want that; I have a hammock, and he shall be carried in
it." So they prepared the hammock, and placed in it the dead body.

As to Ngwe-Nkonde, Osongo had her arrested, and held as a prisoner, with
her hands tied behind her, and he took a long whip with which to drive
her. And they started on their journey.

On the way Osongo was wailing a mourning-song, and cursing his mother, and
weeping, saying, "Oh, we both came together, and he is dead! Oh, my
brother! Oh, my same age! Oběngi gone! Osongo left! Oh, the children of
one father! Osongo, who belongs to Ngwe-Nkonde, left, and Oběngi, who
belongs to Ngwe-Vazya, gone!" And thus they went, he repeating these
impromptu words of his song, and weeping as he went. As they were going
thus, while they were still only half-way on their route, a man,
Esěrěngila (tale-bearer), one of his father's servants, was out in
the forest hunting. He heard the song. Listening, he said to himself,
"Those words! What do they mean?" Listening still, he thought he
recognized Osongo's voice, and understood that one was living and the
other dead.

So he ran ahead to carry the news to the town before the corpse should
arrive there. When he reached the town, he first told his wife about it.
She advised him, "If that is so, don't go and tell this bad news to the
king; a servant like you should not be the bearer of ill news." But he
still said, "No, but I'm going to tell the father." His wife insisted,
"Do not do it! With those two beloved children, if the news be not true,
the parents will make trouble for you!" But Esěrěngila started to
tell, and by the time he had finished his story the company with the
corpse were near enough for the people of the town to hear all the words
of Osongo's song of mourning.

Oběngi's father and mother were so excited with grief that their people
had to hold them fast as if they were prisoners, to prevent them injuring
themselves. The funeral company all went up to the king's house, and laid
down the body of his son; and Osongo's mother, still tied, was led into
the house.

The townspeople were all excited, shouting and weeping. Some began to give
directions about the making of a fine coffin. But Osongo said, "No, I
don't want him to be put into a coffin yet, because when my brother was
alive we had many confidences and secrets, and now that he is dead, I have
somewhat of a work to do before he is buried. Let the corpse wait awhile."
So he asked them all to leave the corpse alone while he went out of the
town for a short time.

Then he went away to the village of Ra-Marânge, and said to him, "I'm in
great trouble, and indeed I need your help." The prophet replied, "Child,
I am too old; I am not making medicine now. Go to Ogula-y'-impazya-vazya,
and repeat your story to him; he will help you."

Ra-Marânge showed him the way to Ogula-y'-impazya-vazya's place. He went,
and had not gone far when he found it. Going to the magician, Osongo said,
"I'm in trouble, and have come to you." As soon as he had said this,
Ogula-y'-impazya-vazya made his magic fire, and stepped into it. Osongo
was frightened, thinking, "I've come to this man, and he is about to kill
himself for me"; and he ran away. But he had not gone far, when he heard
the magician's nkendo (a witchcraft bell) ringing, and his voice calling
to him, "If you have come for medicine, come back; but if for anything
else, then run away." So Osongo returned quickly, and found that the old
magician had emerged from his fire and was waiting for him. Osongo told
his story of his brother's death, and said he wanted direction what to do.
Ogula-y'-impazya-vazya gave him medicine for a certain purpose, and told
him what to do and how to do it.

When Osongo came back with the medicine, he entered his father's house,
into the room where his brother's corpse was lying, and ordered every one
to leave him alone for a while. They all left the room. He closed the
door, and following the directions given him by Ogula-y'-impazya-vazya, he
brought Oběngi to life again.

Now came a question what was to be done with Ngwe-nkonde, the attempted
murderess. It was demanded that her throat should be cut, and that her
body, weighted with stones, should be flung into the river. "For," said
Osongo, "I will not own such a mother; she is very bad. Oběngi's mother
shall be my mother." It was decided so. And Ra-Mborakinda said to
Ngwe-vazya, "You step up to the queen's seat with your two sons" (meaning
Osongo and Oběngi).

And Ngwe-vazya became head-wife, and was very kind and attentive to both

And the matter ended.


Ra-Mborakinda had his town where he lived with his wives, his sons, his
daughters, and his glory.

Lord Mborakinda had his loved head-wife, Ngwe-nkonde, and the unloved one,
Ngwe-lěgě. Both of these, with other of his wives, had sons and
daughters. Ngwe-nkonde's first son was Nkombe, and she had two others.
Ngwe-lěgě also had three sons, but the eldest of these, Jěki, was
a thief. He stole everything he came across,--food, fish, and all. This
became so notorious that when people saw him approach their houses they
would begin to hide their food and goods, saying, "There comes that

Jěki's grandfather, the father of his mother, was dead. One night, in a
dream, that grandfather came to him, and said to him, "Jěki, my son,
when will you leave off that stealing, and try to work and do other things
as others do? To-morrow morning come to me early; I have a word to say to
you." Jěki replied, "But where do you live, and how can I know the way
to that town?" He answered, "You just start at your town entrance, and go
on, and you will see the way to my place before you reach it."

So the next morning Jěki, remembering his dream, said to his mother,
"Please fix me up some food." [He did not tell her that the purpose of the
food was not simply for his breakfast, but as an extra supply for a
journey.] The food that was prepared for him was five rolls made of boiled
plantains mashed into a kind of pudding called "nkima," and tied up with
dried fish. When these were ready, he put them inside his travelling-bag.
Then he dressed himself for his journey.

His mother said, "Where are you going?" He evaded, and said, "I will be
back again." So he went away.

After he had been gone a little while, he came to a fork of the road, and
without hesitation his feet took the one leading to the right. After going
on for a while he met two people named Isakiliya, fighting, whose forms
were like sticks. [These sticks were abambo, or ghosts. In all native
folk-lore, where spirits embody themselves, they take an absurd or
singular form, that they may test the amiability or severity, as the case
may be, of human beings with whom they may meet. They bless the kind, and
curse the unkind.] He went to them to make peace, and parted them; took
out one of his rolls of nkima and fish, gave to them, and passed on. They
thanked him, and gave him a blessing, "Peace be on you, both going and
coming!" He went on and on, and then he met two Antyâ (eyes) fighting. In
the same way as with the Isakiliya, he went to them, separated them, gave
them food, was blessed, and went on his way.

Again he met in the same way two Kumu (stumps) fighting, and in the same
way he interfered between them, made peace, gave food, was blessed, and
went on his journey. He went on and on, and met with a fourth fight. This
time it was between two Poti (heads), and in the same way he made peace
between them, gave a gift, was blessed, and went on.

He journeyed and journeyed. And he came to a dividing of the way, and was
puzzled which to take. Suddenly an old woman appeared. He saluted her,
"Mbolo!" took out his last roll of nkima, and gave it to her. The old
woman thanked him, and asked him, "Where are you going?" He replied, "I'm
on my way to an old man, but am a little uncertain as to my way." She
said, "Oh, joy! I know him. I know the way. His name is
Rě-vě-nla-gâ-li." She showed him the way, pronounced a blessing on
him, and he passed on. He had not gone much farther when he came to the

When the old grandfather saw him, he greeted him, "Have you come, son?" He
answered, "Yes."

"Well," said the grandfather, "I just live here by myself, and do my work
myself." And the old man made food for him. Then next day this grandfather
began to have a talk with Jěki. He rebuked him for his habit of
stealing. Jěki replied, "But, grandfather, what can I do? I have no
work nor any money. Even if I try to leave off stealing, I cannot. I do
not know what medicine will cause me to leave it off." Then said the
grandfather, "Well, child, I will make the medicine for you before you go
back to your mother." So Jěki remained a few days with his grandfather,
and then said, "I wish to go back." The grandfather said, "Yes, but I have
some little work for you to do before you leave." So Jěki said, "Good!
let me have the work."

The grandfather gave him an axe, and told him to go and cut firewood
sufficient to fill the small woodshed. Jěki did so, filling the shed in
that one day. The regular occupation of the old man was the twisting of
ropes for the lines of seines. So the next day he told Jěki to go and
get the inner barks, whose fibre was used in his rope-making. Jěki went
to the forest, gathered this material, and returned with it to the old

The next day the grandfather said to Jěki, "Now I am ready to start you
off on your journey." And he added, "As you gave as reasons for stealing
that you had neither money nor the means of getting it, I will provide
that." Then the old man called him, took him to a brook-side, and reminded
him that he had promised that he could make a medicine to cure him of his
desire to steal.

The grandfather began to cut open Jěki's chest, and took out his heart,
washed it all clean, and put it back again. Then they went back to the
grandfather's house. There he gave Jěki an ozâzi (wooden pestle), and
said, "Now, son, take this. This is your wealth. Everything that you wish,
this will bring to you. Hold it up, express your wish, and you will get
it. But there is one orunda (taboo) connected with it: no one must
pronounce the word 'salt' in your hearing. You may see and use salt, but
may not speak its name nor hear it spoken, for if you do things will turn
out bad for you." "But," the old man added, "if that happens, I will now
tell you what to do." And he revealed to him a secret, and gave him full
directions. When the grandfather had finished, he led him a short distance
on the way, and returned to his house. He had not prepared any food for
Jěki for the journey, for he with the ozâzi would himself be able to
supply all his own wishes.

Jěki goes on and on, and then exclaims doubtfully, "Ah, only this ozâzi
is to furnish me with everything! I'm getting hungry; so, soon I'll try
its power." He went on a little farther, and then decided that he would
try whether he could get anything by means of the ozâzi. So he held it up,
and said, "I wish a table of food to be spread for me, with two white men
to eat with me." Instantly there was seen a tent, and table covered with
food, and two white men sitting. He sat down with these two companions.
After they had eaten, he spoke to the ozâzi to cause the tent and its
contents to disappear. They did so. This proved for him the power of his
ozâzi, and he was glad, and went on his way satisfied.

Finally he reached his father's town, whose people saw him coming, but
gave him no welcome, except his mother, who was glad to see him. But most
of the people only said, "There! there is that thief coming again. We
must begin to hide our things." After Jěki's arrival, in a few days,
the townspeople noticed a change in him, and inquired of each other, "Has
he been stealing, or has he really changed?" for shortly after his return
he had told his mother and brothers all the news, and had warned the
people of the town about the orunda of "salt." In the course of a few days
Jěki did many wonderful things with his ozâzi. He wished for nice
little premises of his own with houses and conveniences, near his father's
town, supplied with servants and clothing and furniture. These appeared.
Soon, by the wealth that he possessed, he became master of the town, and
ruled over the other children of his father. He obtained from that same
ozâzi, created by its power, two wives,--Ngwanga and Ilâmbe, who were
loving and obedient. He also bought three other wives from the village,
who were like servants to the two chief ones. He confided his plans and
everything to the two favored ones who had come out of the ozâzi.

In the course of time he thought he would display his power before the
people, and for their benefit, by causing ships to come with wealth. So he
held up the ozâzi, and said, "I want to see a ship come full of

Presently the townspeople began to shout, "A ship! a ship!" It anchored.
Jěki called his own brothers and half-brothers, and directed, "You all
get ready and go out to the ship, and tell the captain that I will follow
you." They made ready, and went on board, and asked, "What goods have you
brought?" The captain told them, "Mostly cloth, and a few other things."
They informed him, "Soon the chief of the town will come." And they
returned ashore, and reported to Jěki what was on board. He made
himself ready and went, leaving word for them to follow soon and discharge
the cargo. The ship lay there a few days, and then sailed away. Then
Jěki divided the goods among his brothers and parents, keeping only a
small share for himself.

Thus it went on: every few months Jěki ordering a ship to come with
goods. As usual, he would send his brothers first, they would bring a
report, and then he would go on board. Sometimes he would eat with the
ship's company, sometimes he would invite them ashore to eat in his own

All this time no one had broken the orunda of "salt." But, to prove
things, Jěki thought he would try his half-brothers, and see what were
their real feelings toward him. So the next time he caused ships to come
with a cargo of salt only. At sight of the ships there was the usual shout
of "A ship! a ship!" The brothers went aboard as usual, and found what the
cargo was. The half-brothers returned ashore immediately, and began to
shout when they neared Jěki's house, "The ships are full of salt!" He
heard the word, and said to his mother and to his two chief wives, "Do you
hear that?"

The half-brothers came close to him, and exclaimed, "Dâgula [Sir], the
ships are loaded with nothing but salt, salt, salt, and the captain is
waiting for you." Jěki asked again, as if he had not heard, "What is it
the captains have brought?" And they said, "Salt." So he said, "Let it be
so. To-day is the day. Good! You go and get ready, and I will get ready,
and we shall all go together."

Then the two chief wives looked very sorrowful, for they felt sure by his
look and tone that something bad was about to happen.

First he ordered a bath to be prepared for himself. It was made ready, and
he bathed, and went to dress himself in the other room, where his goods
were stored. When he had entered, he called his own two brothers and the
two wives, and closed the door. He began to examine a few of his boxes.
Opening a certain one, he said, "Of all my wealth, this was one of the
first. Now I am going to die. But as it is always the custom, a few days
after the funeral, to decide who shall be the successor and inheritor,
when that day arrives, come and open this particular box. Do not forget to
take the cloth for covering the throne of my successor from this box."

Inside of that box was a small casket, holding a large black silk
handkerchief. He kept the secret received from his grandfather, and did
not tell them what would happen when they should come to get cloth from
the box. They understood only that on the throne-day they were to open the
big box and the little casket it contained. Then he told them, "Now you
may go out." They went out. Jěki shut the door, and began to dress for
the ships. But, before dressing, he took out the black silk handkerchief
from the small box, and rubbed it over his entire body; and, carefully
folding it, put it back again in the casket and closed it. Then he was
ready to start. And they all went off to the ships, he with the ozâzi in
hand. He, with his own brothers, was in a boat following the boat of his

He raised a death-song, "Ilendo! Ilendo! give me skill for a dance!
Ilendo! Ilendo! give me skill for a play!" This he sang on the way,
jumping from boat to boat. He said he would go on board the ships, but
ordered all his brothers not to come. His plan was that they were to be
only witnesses of his death. He boarded one of the ships, and went over
the deck singing and dancing with that same Ilendo song. Then he jumped to
the deck of the next vessel.

As he did so, the first one sank instantly. On the second ship he sang and
danced, and jumped thence to the third, the second sinking as the first.
On the third ship he continued the song and dance; he remained on it a
long while, for he caused it to sink slowly. When the water reached the
vessel's deck, the brothers in the boats were looking on with fear. His
own brothers began to cry, seeing the ship sinking, for they knew that
Jěki would die with it. When it sank, the boats went ashore wailing,
and took the news to the town.

But the half-brothers were not really mourning; they were planning the
division of Jěki's property. All the town held the kwedi (mourning);
but after the fifth day the half-brothers told their father that it was
time for the exaltation of a successor to Jěki, the ceremony of ampenda
(glories). Ngwe-nkonde's first-born son, Nkombe, said, "I will be the
first to stand on the throne, and my two brothers will be next." Jěki's
two brothers refused to have anything to say about the division. They
determined they would remain quiet and see what would be done. And the two
wives of Jěki said the same.

When the half-brothers came to the house of mourning, they began to
discuss which of these two women they would inherit. Then one of the two
wives said, "Oh, Ngwanga, we must not forget what Jěki told us about
the box, now that the people are fixing for the ampenda!"

So the two brothers of Jěki and the two women went inside the room,
shut the door, and began to open the big box to take out the little
casket. By this time the people outside had everything ready for the
ceremony of the ampenda. The two women now opened the casket, took out the
black handkerchief, and unfolded it. And Jěki stood in the middle of
the room, with his ozâzi in his hand. Their surprise was great; their joy
extreme. In their joy they ran to embrace him.

The people outside were very busy with their arrangements. Nkombe already
had taken the throne, having painted his face with the little white mark
of rule, and given orders to have the signal-drum beaten; and the crowd
began to dance and sing to his praise.

Jěki sent his youngest brother, Oraniga (last-born), saying, "Just go
privately and tell my father about me, that I have come to life. And I
want him to have the whole town swept, and to lay bars of iron along the
streets for me to step on from this house to his. Say also that
Ntyěgě (monkey) must continue his firing of guns and cannon; then I
will come and meet my father."

Oraniga did so; and the father said, "Good!" and Oraniga returned. The
father gave the desired orders about the sweeping and the iron bars and
the firing of cannon; but the people at the throne-house did not know of
all this.

Then Jěki and his two wives and two brothers dressed themselves finely
to walk to the father's house, and marched in procession through the
street. A few of the people saw them, wondered, and asked the drums to
stop, exclaiming, "Where did they come from?" The procession went on to
the father's house, and Ntyěgě kept on with the cannon firing.

On reaching his father's house, Jěki told him he had something to say,
and the father ordered the drum to cease. All the people were summoned to
the father's house to hear Jěki's words. He said, "Father, I know that
I am your son, and Nkombe is your son. You all know what Nkombe has done,
for he was at the bottom of this matter; so now choose between him and me.
If you love him more, I will go far away and stay by myself; but if you
love me, Nkombe must be removed from this town."

So the father asked the opinion of others. (For himself, he wanted to have
Jěki.) Nkombe's own brothers said he ought to be killed, "for he is not
so good to us as Jěki was." So they bound Nkombe, and tied a stone
about his neck, and drowned him in the sea.

And everything went on well, Jěki governing, and providing for the



Abuna, abundance.

Aganlo, children of mixed mortal and fairy birth.

Akazya, a poisonous tree.

Amie, do not know.

Anlingo, water.

Antyâ (sing. intyâ), eyes.

Anyambe, the Divine Name.

Awěmě, yourself.

Ayěnwě, unseen.


Bâbâkâ, consent thou.

Behu, kitchen garden.

Benda, a kind of rat.

Biañ, medicine.

Bobâbu, soft.

Bohamba, a certain medicinal tree.

Boka, a certain medicinal tree.

Bokadi, a certain medicinal tree.

Bokuda, a certain medicinal tree.

Bolondo, a poisonous tree.

Bongâm, a certain medicinal tree.

Botombaka, passing away.

Buhwa, day.

Bwanga, medicine.


Dâgula, Mr., a title of respect.

Diba, marriage.

Diyâ, the hearth; a household.

Diyaka, to live.


Ebâbi, a male love philtre.

Egona, a small antelope horn.

Ehongo, a cornucopia.

Ekongi, a guardian-spirit fetich.

Ekope, a girdle.

Elâmbâ, a certain medicinal tree.

Elinga, a basket.

Etomba, tribe.

Evove, harlot.

Ewiria, words of hidden meaning.


Fufu, mashed, boiled ripe plantains.


Go, to, in, at.

Greegree (gris-gris), fetich amulet.

Gumbo, okra.

Gwandere, a medicine for worms.


Haye, will not do.

Hume, a certain fish.


Ibambo (pl. abambo), ghosts.

Ibâtâ, a blessing.

Iga, the forest.

Iguga, woe.

Ihěli, a gazelle.

Ijawe (pl. majawe), blood relative.

Ikaka (pl. makaka), family name.

Ilala, an arch; a stairway.

Ilina (pl. malina), soul.

Ina, my mother.

Ininla (pl. anlinla), soul.

Injěnji, a certain leaf; fault.

Isakiliya, kindling-wood.

Isiki (pl. asiki), a dwarf changeling.

Itaka, a kitchen hanging-shelf.

Itala, a view.

Ivaha, a wish.

Ivenda (pl. ampenda), glory.

Iyele, a female love philtre.


Ja, of.

Jaka, to beget.

Joba, the sun.

Jomba, meat cooked in a bundle of plantain leaves.

Juju, an amulet.


Kâ, and you.

Kasa, a lash.

Keva, to surpass.

Kilinga, a kind of bird.

Kimbwa-mbenje, native bark-cloth.

Kna, a kind of bird.

Knakna, a large kind of bird.

Koka, a large kind of bird.

Kombo, a superstitious ejaculation.

Konde, queen.

Kota, a certain tree.

Kulu, a kind of spirit.

Kumu, a stump.

Kwedi, time of mourning.


Lale, my father.


Mabili, an east-wind fetich.

Mba, not I.

Mbenda, ground-nut.

Mbi, I.

Mbinde, a wild goat.

Mbolo, gray hairs; a salutation.

Mbulu, a wild dog.

Mbumbu, rainbow.

Mbundu, poison ordeal.

Mbwa (pl. imbwa), dog.

Mbwaye, a poison test.

Mehole, ripe plantains.

Miba, water.

Miě, me.

Monda, witchcraft medicine.

Mondi (pl. myondi), a class of spirits.

Mpazya, skin disease.

Mulimate, a small horn for cupping.

Musimo, spirits of the dead.

Muskwa, a medicinal brush.

Mutira, a medicinal stick.

Mvia, a kind of bird.

Mwana, a child.

Mwanga, a plantation.


Na, with.

Ndabo, house.

Nděmbě, young.

Nduma, a kind of snake.

Ngalo, a guardian-spirit charm.

Ngâma, a water plant.

Ngândâ, gourd seeds.

Ngânde, moon.

Ngofu, an iron fetich bracelet.

Ngunye, a flying-squirrel.

Nguwu, hippopotamus.

Ngwe, mother.

Njabi, a wild oily fruit.

Njěgâ, leopard.

Nkâlâ, a large snail.

Nkânjâ, a marriage dance.

Nkendo, a magician's bell.

Nkinda (pl. sinkinda), a class of spirits.

Nsânâ, Sunday.

Nsinsim, a shadow.

Ntori, a large forest rat.

Ntyěgě, a monkey.

Nungwa, open thou.

Nunja, shut thou.

Nyamba, a scarf slung over the right shoulder, in which to carry a babe.

Nyemba, witchcraft.

Nyolo, body.


Odika, kernel of the wild mango.

Oganga, doctor.

Ogěndâ, a journey.

Ogwěrina, rear of a house.

Okove, a powerful fetich.

Okume, African mahogany tree.

Okundu, a kind of fetich for trading.

Olâgâ (pl. ilâgâ), a class of spirits.

Olako, a camping place.

Ombwiri (pl. awiri), a class of spirits.

Ompunga, wind.

Orala, a hanging shelf over a fireplace.

Oraniga, last-born.

Orâwo, insult.

Orěga, the Njěmbě secret society drum.

Orunda, a prohibition; taboo.

Osěngě, a cleared place in the forest.

Ovâvi (pl. ivâvi), messenger.

Owavi (pl. sijavi), a leaf.

Ozyâzi, a pestle.

Ozyoto, a cornucopia.


Paia, my father.

Pavo, a knife.

Pěkě, ever.


Rera, my father.


Saba, an oath.

Sabali, an oath.

Sale, hail!


Tamba, the womb.

Tubě, a certain leaf.

Tuwaka, bless; spit


Udinge, a great person.

Ukuku (pl. mekuku), spirit; secret society.

Ukwala, a machete.

Untyanya, a medicinal bark.

Unyongo, a medicinal tree.

Upuma, a period of six months.

Utodu, old.

Uvengwa, a phantom.


Veya, fire.


Yâginla, _imperative_, hear thou.

Yâkâ, a family fetich.


[1] Gen. xxx. 15-16.

[2] Gen. xxix. 26.

[3] Trumbull, Blood Covenant, p. 311.

[4] Trumbull, Blood Covenant, p. 4.

[5] Garenganze, p. 79.

[6] Rom. i. 28, margin.

[7] Rom. i. 30.

[8] Three Years in Savage Africa, p. 74.

[9] Western Africa, p. 209.

[10] I am strongly disposed to think that, in its origin, there was a
sacrificial idea connected with cannibalism.--R. H. N.

[11] Gen. iv. 2.

[12] Gen. iv. 17.

[13] Gen. iv. 21, 22.

[14] Heb. xi. 4.

[15] Gen. iii. 21.

[16] Joshua xxii. 34.

[17] John xx. 29.

[18] 1 Sam. vi. 3.

[19] Dan. iii. 29.

[20] History of Religion, pp. 129 _et seq._

[21] Western Africa, p. 207.

[22] Wilson.

[23] Crowned in Palmland, p. 234.

[24] Declè.

[25] J. L. Wilson.

[26] J. L. Wilson.

[27] Declè.

[28] Wilson, Western Africa.

[29] Menzies, History of Religion, p. 33.

[30] Wilson, Western Africa, p. 212.

[31] Garenganze, p. 237.

[32] Menzies, History of Religion, p. 73.

[33] Those nails were not mere "ornaments." They were the records of the
number of persons who had been transfixed by death or disease under the
power of that fetich idol. A similar custom is known in the West Indies
and in the southern United States. For every pin stuck into a wax figure
intended to represent the person to be injured, some sickness or other
evil will fall on him. Wilkie Collins also utilized this superstition in
his novel, "I say, No."--R. H. N.

[34] Declè.

[35] History of Religion, pp. 65, 69.

[36] Garenganze, p. 77.

[37] Three Years in Savage Africa.

[38] I saw the same on the Ogowe.--R. H. N.

[39] These piles I have found at almost every village I have visited.--R.
H. N.

[40] Declè, p. 346.

[41] Menzies.

[42] Declè.

[43] Hosea xiii. 2.

[44] Acts xv. 29.

[45] Brown, On the South African Frontier, p. 113.

[46] Arnot, Garenganze, p. 106.

[47] This would be what I have denominated the "white art."--R. H. N.

[48] In that part of Africa.--R. H. N.

[49] Really, only a difference in administration.--R. H. N.

[50] Declè, Three Years in Savage Africa, pp. 152, 154, 294.

[51] Arnot, Garenganze, p. 115.

[52] And, similarly, I have known the fimbriated extremities of the
fallopian tubes in a woman held up as a proof of her having been a witch.
The ciliary movements of these fimbriæ were regarded as the efforts of her
"familiar" at a process of eating. The decision was that she had been
"eaten" to death by her own offended familiar.--R. H. N.

[53] Wilson, Western Africa, p. 398.

[54] Brown, On the South African Frontier.

[55] Ex. xxii. 18.

[56] I Sam. xxvii. 11-15.

[57] Verse 12.

[58] Wilson, Western Africa, p. 275.

[59] Wilson, Western Africa, p. 393.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Wilson, Western Africa.

[62] To a native African that is a much greater wrong than stealing from
other people, particularly from foreigners.--R. H. N.

[63] On the South African Frontier, p. 214.

[64] Garenganze, p. 207.

[65] Arnot.

[66] Brown, On the South African Frontier.

[67] Tale 23, p. 93, my "Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Fjort."

[68] Arnot.

[69] Declè.

[70] See "Niger and Yoruba Notes."

[71] From a West African newspaper.

[72] Menzies, History of Religion, p. 71.

[73] See an illustration of it on p. 102 of my "Crowned in Palm-Land"; an
infant is lying on a plantain leaf in the street.

[74] Wilson, Western Africa.

[75] Declè.

[76] Among Cannibals, pp. 278-279.

[77] Arnot, Garenganze, p. 116.

[78] Declè, Three Years in Savage Africa, pp. 74-79.

[79] Declè.

[80] Arnot, p. 76.

[81] Three Years in Savage Africa, p. 512.

[82] Wilson.

[83] P. 513.

[84] I know of its occurring on the Gabun and Ogowe rivers on the West
Coast.--R. H. N.

[85] P. 107.

[86] P. 115.

[87] Trumbull, p. 129.

[88] Western Africa, p. 397.

[89] Wilson, Western Africa.

[90] Garenganze, p. 107.

[91] Niger and Yoruba Notes.

[92] Wilson.

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