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 be 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 be 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 be 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 be 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 out!"
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 return.
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 cylinder.
(On an itineration in my boat on the Ogowe interior, in 1890, 1 came to a village of the Akele 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 be 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 wronged.
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. I 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 River.)
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 bip, and her machete in her right hand, the 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 but, 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 shff 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 street."
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 wornen tried to prevent her going, as she would have to spend the night in the forest on the way; but she insisted.
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-nigbt, 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 bide 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 be 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 be 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 be 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 be crossed it, he stooped to take a drink of water. Tben 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 be 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 busband 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 loss."
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, Gabun.)
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 be 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 beard 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 bushcats 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 way.
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 beard 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 beard 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 Ekamina 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 tonight." Antyande said, "No; you would not listen to me. I am a chief dancer, and you are praised as the same. Go and dance!" Ekamina 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 Ekamina 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 out 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 bide 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 coining 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 bands 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 bair. This bair 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.
1 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, 1 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 I 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 anyone. 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, be found this slave again at his place, and said to him, "So I 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 yon 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 them and struck their necks with his okove. They instantly died in that stooping position.
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 two."
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 be 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. Thom6 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 Adova.
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 comer 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 bourglass-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 ogwerina (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 ogwerina." 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-ve. 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 cause.
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 escape.
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 Sbekyani 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 be 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 be 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 be 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, "Ye."
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 (bidden 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 husband."
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 sea).
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 Jeke 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 I 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 Jeke, 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 Jeke, 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 be 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 be 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 be voluntarily attended my Protestant evening-prayers, taking his turn with others in reading verses around in the chapter of Scripture for the day; then be liked to take part in the general conversation which followed about native beliefs and native customs.
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 said:
"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 fastetened them in the hollowed-out cavities representing the eyes 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; sorne 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 guardian-spirit.
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 guardian-spirit?
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 safe.
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 corpse.
(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 boot. She prepared to return. As she was returning, the flrst 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, be 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 be 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 be 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 fmished 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-sbaped 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 cutoff 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.