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 ia 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. 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.
[1. This would be what I have denominated the "white art."--R, H. N.]
"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 crime. 
"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. 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 king.
"One of the most remarkable ceremonies that used to be performed by the witch-doctors was that of I 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 bip, 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
[1. In that part of Africa.--R. H. N.
2. Really, only a difference in admistration.--R. H. N.]
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 bean."
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 perform.
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
[1. Declè, Three Years in Savage Africa, pp. 152, 154, 294.]
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 Bibe 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 organized.
"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 belly.
"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 coldblooded 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." 
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.
[1. Arnot, Garenganze, p. 115.]
"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. 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. 
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
[1. 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.]
2 Wilson, Western Africa, p. 398.]
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 consciencestricken 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 witchdoctors, 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 Matabeleland 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."
Similarly Great Britain with difficulty has suppressed several risings of the Ashantees, and the late so-called "HutTax" rebellion in Sierra Leone. The actual force of the
[1. Brown, On the South African Frontier.]
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 denouement 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 be 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 bad 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 inbundu 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 be 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; bow, 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 be 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 not.)
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 tbat 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 be 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 ebaracter and inspiration, but that she bad 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 be 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 womb."
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 be 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 spirit-influence.
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"  (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  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  at the real success of divinations which formerly may have been, in her hands, only deceptions.
[1. Ex. xxii. 18.
2. 1 Sam. xxvii. 11-15.
3. Verse 12.]
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. lf 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 encbantments 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 injury.
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, bad, 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 be nor any of his people had a right to use it; consistently, be 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."