Page images


that may injure the patient, and charged the faditra to take them away for ever, it is thrown away, and the malady with it. Among those strong believers in disease-spirits, the Dayaks of Borneo, the priest, waving and jingling charms over the affected part of the patient, pretends to extract stones, splinters, and bits of rag, which he declares are spirits; of such evil spirits he will occasionally bring halfa-dozen out of a man's stomach, and as he is paid a fee of six gallons of rice for each, he is probably disposed (like a chiropodist under similar circumstances) to extract a good many. The most instructive accounts of this kind are those which reach us from Africa. Dr. Callaway has taken down at length a Zulu account of the method of stopping out disease caused by spirits of the dead. If a widow is troubled by her late husband's ghost coming and talking to her night after night as though still alive, till her health is affected and she begins to waste away, they find nyanga" or sorcerer who can bar out the disease. He bids her not lose the spittle collected in her mouth while she is dreaming, and gives her medicine to chew when she wakes. Then he goes with her to lay the “itongo," or ghost; perhaps he shuts it up in a bulb of the inkomfe plant, making a hole in the side of this, putting in the medicine and the dream-spittle, closing the hole with a stopper, and replanting the bulb. Leaving the place, he charges her not to look back till she gets home. Thus the dream is barred; it may still come occasionally, but no longer infests the woman; the doctor prevails over the dead man as regards that dream. In other cases the cure of a sick man attacked by the ancestral spirits may be effected with some of his blood put into a hole in an anthill by the doctor, who closes the hole with a stone, and departs without looking back; or the patient may be scarified over the painful place, and the blood put into the mouth of a frog, caught for the purpose and carried back. So the disease is barred out from the

Ellis, 'Madagascar,' vol. i. pp. 221, 232, 422. * St. John, Far East,' vol. i. p. 211, see 72.

man.' In West Africa, a case in point is the practice of transferring a sick man's ailment to a live fowl, which is set free with it, and if any one catches the fowl, the disease goes to him. Captain Burton's account from Central Africa is as follows. Disease being possession by a spirit or ghost, the “mganga

or sorcerer has to expel it, the principal remedies being drumming, dancing, and drinking, till at last the spirit is enticed from the body of the patient into some inanimate article, technically called a “keti” or stool for it. This may be an ornament, such as a peculiar bead or a leopard's claw, or it may be a nail or rag, which by being driven into or hung to a "devil's tree” has the effect of laying the disease-spirit. Or disease-spirits may be extracted by chants, one departing at the end of each stave, when a little painted stick made for it is flung on the ground, and some patients may have as many as a dozen ghosts extracted, for here also the fee is so much apiece.3 In Siam, the Laos sorcerer can send his "phi phob” or demon into a victim's body, where it turns into a fleshy or leathery lump, and causes disease ending in death. Thus, on the one hand, the spirit-theory of disease is brought into connexion with that sorcerer's practice so extraordinarily prevalent among the lower races, of pretending to extract objects from the patient's body, such as stones, bones, balls of hair, &c., which are declared to be causes of disease conveyed by magical means into him ; of this proceeding I have given some account elsewhere, under the name of the “



On the other hand, we see among the lower races that well known conception of a disease or evil influence as an individual being, which may be not merely conveyed by an infected object (though this of course may have much to do with the idea), but may be

* Callaway, “Religion of Amazulu,' p. 314.

2 Steinhauser, l. c. p. 141. See also Steere, 'East Afr. Tribes,' in ‘Journ. Anthrop. Soc.' vol. i.


cxlviii. · Burton, 'Central Africa,' vol. ii. p. 352. See ‘Sindh,' p. 177. + Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. iii. p. 275.

'Early Hist. of Mankind,'ch. x. See Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii.p. 116, ota.


removed by actual transfer from the patient into some other animal or object. Thus Pliny informs us how pains in the stomach may be cured by transmitting the ailment from the patient's body into a puppy or duck, which will probably die of it ;' it is considered baneful to a Hindu woman to be a man's third wife, wherefore the precaution is taken of first betrothing him to a tree, which dies in her stead ;? after the birth of a Chinese baby, its father's trousers are hung in the room wrong side up, that all evil influences may enter into them instead of into the child.3 Modern folklore still cherishes such ideas. The ethnographer may still study in the "white witchcraft " of European peasants the arts of curing a man's fever or headache by transferring it to a crawfish or a bird, or of getting rid of ague or gout or warts by giving them to a willow, elder, fir, or ash-tree, with suitable charms, “Goe morgen, olde, ick geef oe de Kolde,” “Goden Abend, Herr Fleder, hier bring ick mien Feber, ick bind em di an und gah davan,” “Ash-tree, ashen tree, pray buy this wart of me," and so forth; or of nailing or plugging an ailment into a tree-trunk, or conveying it away by some of the patient's hair or nail-parings or some such thing, and so burying it. Looking at these proceedings from a moral point of view, the practice of transferring the ailment to a knot or a lock of hair and burying it is the most harmless, but another device is a very pattern of wicked selfishness. In England, warts may be touched each with a pebble, and the pebbles in a bag left on the road to church, to give up their ailments to the unlucky finder; in Germany, a plaister from a sore may be left at a cross-way to transfer the disease to a passer-by; I am told on medical authority that the bunches of flowers which children offer to travellers in Southern Europe are sometimes intended for the ungracious purpose of sending some disease away from their homes. One case of this

1 Plin. xxx. 14, 20. Cardan, 'De Var. Rerum,' cap. xliii. · Ward, * Hindoos,' vol. i. p. 134, vol. ii. p. 247. : Doolittle, Chinese,' vol. i. p. 122. • Grimm, 'D. M.' pp. 1118-23 ; Wuttke, ' Volksaberglaube,' pp. 155-70; group, mentioned to me by Mr. Spottiswoode, is particularly interesting. In Thuringia it is considered that a string of rowan-berries, a rag, or any small article, touched by a sick person and then hung on a bush beside some forest path, imparts the malady to any person who may touch this article in passing, and frees the sick person from the disease. This gives great probability to Captain Burton's suggestion that the rags, locks of hair, and what not, hung on trees near sacred places by the superstitious from Mexico to India and from Ethiopia to Ireland, are deposited there as actual receptacles of disease; the African “ devil's trees” and the sacred trees of Sindh, hung with rags through which votaries have transferred their complaints, being typical cases of a practice surviving in lands of higher culture.

The spirits which enter or otherwise attach themselves to objects may be human souls. Indeed one of the most natural cases of the fetish-theory is when a soul inhabits or haunts the relics of its former body. It is plain enough that by a simple association of ideas the dead person is imagined to keep up a connexion with his remains. Thus we read of the Mandan women going year after year to take food to the skulls of their dead kinsfolk, and sitting by the hour to chat and jest in their most endearing strain with the relics of a husband or child ; thus the Guinea negroes, who keep the bones of parents in chests, will go to talk with them in the little huts which serve for their tombs. And thus, from the savage who keeps and carries with his household property the cleaned bones of his forefathers, to

Brand, ‘Pop. Ant.' vol. ii. p. 375, vol. iii. p. 286 ; Halliwell, ‘Pop. Rhymes,' p. 208 ; R. Hunt, ‘Pop. Romances,' 2nd Series, p. 211 ; Hylten-Cavallius, Wärend och Wirdarne,' vol. i. p. 173. It is said, however, that rags fastened on trees by Gypsies, which passers-by avoid with horror as having diseases thus banned into them, are only sigus left for the information of fellow vagrants ; Liebich, ‘Die Zigeuner,' p. 96.

· Catlin, ‘N. A. Indians,' vol. i. p. 90.
2 J. L. Wilson, ‘W Africa,' p. 394.
• Meiners, Gesch. der Rel.' vol. i. p. 305; J. G. Müller, p. 209.

the mourner among ourselves who goes to weep at the grave of one beloved, imagination keeps together the personality and the relics of the dead. Here, then, is a course of thought open to the animistic thinker, leading him on from fancied association to a belief in the real presence of a spiritual being in a material object. Thus there is no difficulty in understanding how the Karens thought the spirits of the dead might come back from the other world to re-animate their bodies ;l nor how the Marian islanders should have kept the dried bodies of their dead ancestors in their huts as household gods, and even expected them to give oracles out of their skulls ;? nor how the soul of a dead Carib might be thought to abide in one of his bones, taken from the grave and carefully wrapped in cotton, in which state it could answer questions, and even bewitch an enemy if a morsel of his property were wrapped up with it;3 nor how the dead Santal should be sent to his fathers by the ceremony of committing to the sacred river morsels of his skull from the funeral-pile. Such ideas are of great interest in studying the barial rites of mankind, especially the habit of keeping relics of the dead as vehicles of superhuman power, and of even preserving the whole body as a mummy, as in Peru and Egypt. The conception of such human relics becoming fetishes, inhabited or at least acted through by the souls which formerly belonged to them, would give a rational explanation of much relic-worship otherwise obscure.

A further stretch of imagination enables the lower races to associate the souls of the dead with mere objects, a practice which may have had its origin in the merest childish make-believe, but which would lead a thorough savage animist straight on to the conception of the soul entering

i Mason, Karens, l. c. p. 231. ? Meiners, vol. ii. pp. 721-3.

3 Rochefort, Iles Antilles,' p. 418. See Martius, ' Ethnog. Amer.' vol. i. P. 485 (Yumanas swallow ashes of deceased with liquor, that he may live again in them.)

* Hunter, ‘Rural Bengal,' p. 210. See Bastian, “Psychologie,' p. 73 ; J. G. Müller, ‘Amer. Urrel.' pp. 209, 262, 289, 401, 419.

« PreviousContinue »