« PreviousContinue »
eaten by the spirit that took him; and though the soul of one thus devoured would go to the common spirit-land of the departed, yet it would have no power of speech there, and if questioned could but beat its breast. It completes this account to notice that the disease-inflicting souls of the departed were the same which possessed the living under more favourable circumstances, coming to talk through a certain member of the family, prophesying future events, and giving directions as to family affairs. Farther east, in the Georgian and Society Islands, evil demons are sent to scratch and tear people into convulsions and hysterics, to torment poor wretches as with barbed hooks, or to twist and knot inside them till they die writhing in agony. But madmen are to be treated with great respect, as entered by a god, and idiots owe the kindness with which they are appeased and coaxed to the belief in their superhuman inspiration. Here, and elsewhere in the lower culture, the old real belief has survived which has passed into a jest of civilized men in the famous phrase of the 'inspired idiot.
American ethnography carries on the record of rude races ascribing disease to the action of evil spirits. Thus the Dacotas believe that the spirits punish them for misconduct, especially for neglecting to make feasts for the dead; these spirits have the power to send the spirit of something, as of a bear, deer, turtle, fish, tree, stone, worm, or deceased person, which entering the patient causes disease; the medicine-man's cure consists in reciting charms over him, singing 'He-le-li-lah, &c.,' to the accompaniment of gourd-rattle with beads inside, ceremonially shooting a symbolic bark representation of the intruding creature, sucking over the seat of pain to get the spirit out, and
1 Turner, ‘Polynesia,' p. 236.
2 Ellis, “Polyn. Res.' vol. i. pp. 363, 395, &c., vol. ii. pp. 193, 274; Cook, '3rd Voy.' vol. iii. p. 131. Details of the superhuman character ascribed to weak or deranged persons among other races, in Schoolcraft, part iv. p. 49; Martius, vol. i. p. 633 ; Meiners, vol. i. p. 323 ; Waitz, vol. ii.
firing guns at it as it is supposed to be escaping. Such processes were in full vogue in the West Indies in the time of Columbus, when Friar Roman Pane put on record his quaint account of the native sorcerer pulling the disease off the patient's legs (as one pulls off a pair of trousers), going out of doors to blow it away, and bidding it begone to the mountain or the sea; the performance concluding with the regular sucking-cure and the pretended extraction of some stone or bit of flesh, or such thing, which the patient is assured that his patron-spirit or deity (cemi) put into him to cause the disease, in punishment for neglect to build him a temple or honour him with prayer or offerings of goods.? Patagonians considered sickness as caused by a spirit entering the patient's body; "they believe every sick person to
; be possessed of an evil demon; hence their physicians always carry a drum with figures of devils painted on it, which they strike at the beds of sick persons to drive out from the body the evil demon which causes the disorder.'3 In Africa, according to the philosophy of the Basutos and the Zulus, the causes of disease are the ghosts of the dead, come to draw the living to themselves, or to compel them to sacrifice meat-offerings. They are recognized by the diviners, or by the patient himself, who sees in dreams the departed spirit come to torment him. Congo tribes in like manner consider the souls of the dead, passed into the ranks of powerful spirits, to cause disease and death among mankind. Thus, in both these districts, medicine becomes an almost entirely religious matter of propitiatory sacrifice and prayer addressed to the disease-inflicting manes. The
1 Schoolcraft, 'Indian Tribes,' part i. p. 250, part ii. pp. 179, 199, part iii. p. 498 ; M. Eastman, “Dahcotah,' pp. xxiii, 34, 41, 72. See also Gregg, 'Commerce of Prairies,' vol. ii. p. 297 (Comanches); Morgan, 'Iroquois,' p. 163 ; Sproat, p. 174 (Ahts); Egede, “Greenland,' p. 186 ; Cranz, p. 269. 2 Roman Pane, xix. in ‘Life of Colon’; in Pinkerton, vol. xii. p. 87.
D’Orbigny, 'L'Homme Américain,' vol. ii. pp. 73, 168 ; Musters, ' Patagonians,' p. 180. See also J. G. Müller, pp. 207, 231 (Caribs); Spix and Martius, ‘Brasilien,' vol. i. p. 70; Martius, 'Ethnog. Amer.' vol. i. p. 646 (Macusis).
Barolong give a kind of worship to deranged persons, as being under the direct influence of a deity; while in East Africa the explanation of madness and idiocy is simple and typical — he has fiends.” Negroes of West Africa, on the supposition that an attack of illness has been caused by some spiritual being, can ascertain to their satisfaction what manner of spirit has done it, and why. The patient may have neglected his 'wong' or fetish-spirit, who has therefore made him ill; or it may be his own 'kla' or personal guardian-spirit, who on being summoned explains that he has not been treated respectfully enough, &c.; or it may be a 'sisa' or ghost of some dead man, who has taken this means of making known that he wants perhaps a gold ornament that was left behind when he died.2 Of course, the means of cure will then be to satisfy the demands of the spirit. Another aspect of the negro doctrine of disease-spirits is displayed in the following description from Guinea, by the Rev. J. L. Wilson, the missionary - Demoniacal possessions are common, and the feats performed by those who are supposed to be under such influence are certainly not unlike those described in the New Testament. Frantic gestures, convulsions, foaming at the mouth, feats of supernatural strength, furious ravings, bodily lacerations, gnashing of teeth, and other things of a similar character, may be witnessed in most of the cases which are supposed to be under diabolical influence.'3 The remark several times made by travellers is no doubt true, that the spiritualistic theory of disease has tended strongly to prevent progress in the medical art among the lower races. Thus among the Bodo and Dhimal of North-East India, who ascribe all diseases to a deity tormenting the patient for some impiety or neglect, the exorcists divine the offended
i Casalis, ‘Basutos,' p. 247 ; Callaway, “Rel. of Amazulu,' p. 147, &c. ; Magyar, “Süd-Afrika,' p. 21, &c. ; Burton, Central Afr.' vol. ii. pp. 320, 354 ; Steere in ‘Journ. Anthrop. Inst.' vol. i. 1871, p. cxlvii.
2 Steinhauser, ‘Religion des Negers,' in ‘Magaz, der Evang. Missions und Bibel-Gesellschaften,' Basel, 1856, No. 2, p. 139.
3 J. L. Wilson, ‘W. Afr.' pp. 217, 388.
god and appease him with the promised sacrifice of a hog; these exorcists are a class of priests, and the people have no other doctors. 1 . Where the world-wide doctrine of disease-demons has held sway, men's minds, full of spells and ceremonies, have scarce had room for thought of drugs and regimen.
The cases in which disease-possession passes into oraclepossession are especially connected with hysterical, convulsive, and epileptic affections. Mr. Backhouse describes a Tasmanian native sorcerer, 'affected with fits of spasmodic contraction of the muscles of one breast, which he attributes, as they do all other diseases, to the devil'; this malady served to prove his inspiration to his people. When Dr. Mason was preaching near a village of heathen Pwo, a man fell down in an epileptic fit, his familiar spirit having come over him to forbid the people to listen to the missionary, and he sang out his denunciations like one frantic. This man was afterwards converted, and told the missionary that ' he could not account for his former exercises, but that it certainly appeared to him as though a spirit spoke, and he must tell what was communicated. In this Karen district flourishes the native 'wee' or prophet, whose business is to work himself into the state in which he can see departed spirits, visit their distant home, and even recall them to the body, thus raising the dead; these wees are nervous excitable men, such as would become mediums, and in giving oracles they go into actual convulsions.3 Dr. Callaway's details of the state of the Zulu diviners are singularly instructive. Their symptoms are ascribed to possession by 'amatongo' or ancestral spirits; the disease is common, from some it departs of its own accord, others have the ghost laid which causes it, and others let the affection take its course and become professional diviners, whose powers of finding hidden things and giving apparently inaccessible
he died? y the dai o docini scriptions onarats pertz
influer. er Tester mouth
lace lar chara
are sur mark the spi
e pater the ata
lu, 'p, if
1 Hodgson, ‘Abor. of India,' pp. 163, 170.
information are vouched for by native witnesses, who at the same time are not blind to their tricks and their failures. The most perfect description is that of a hysterical visionary, who had the disease which precedes the power to divine.' This man describes that well-known symptom of hysteria, the heavy weight creeping up within him to his shoulders, his vivid dreams, his waking visions of objects that are not there when he approaches, the songs that come
to him without learning, the sensation of flying in the air. . This man was 'of a family who are very sensitive, and become doctors.'1 Persons whose constitutional unsoundness induces morbid manifestations are indeed marked out by nature to become seers and sorcerers. Among the Patagonians, patients seized with falling sickness or St. Vitus's dance were at once selected for magicians, as chosen by the demons themselves who possessed, distorted, und convulsed them. Among Siberian tribes, the shamans select children liable to convulsions as suitable to be brought up to the profession, which is apt to become hereditary with the epileptic tendencies it belongs to. Thus, even in the lower culture, a class of sickly brooding enthusiasts begin to have that power over the minds of their lustier fellows, which they have kept in so remarkable a way through the course of history.
Morbid oracular manifestations are habitually excited on purpose, and moreover the professional sorcerer commonly exaggerates or wholly feigns them. In the more genuine manifestations the medium may be so intensely wrought upon by the idea that a possessing spirit is speaking from within him, that he may not only give this spirit's name and speak in its character, but possibly may in good faith alter his voice to suit the spiritual utterance. This gift of spiritutterance, which belongs to 'ventriloquism' in the ancient and proper sense of the term, of course lapses into sheer 1 Callaway, “Religion of Amazulu,' pp. 183, &c., 259, &c.
tagonia,' p. 116. See also nefort, “Iles Antilles,' p. 418 (Carils).
Georgi, “Reise im Russ. Reich,' vol. i. p. 280 ; Meiners, vol. ii. p. 488.