Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/215

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AFRICA
AFRICA
183

are, as a rule, stronger than the Bantu, more industrious, better organized for fighting, and for resistance to invasion. Many, indeed, have known real epochs of prosperity and greatness. Moreover, this superiority is most clearly marked in proportion to the "crossing" of races. This is true of the "All-colours", belonging to a different ethnic type, represented by the Hamites (Chamites), also known as Kushites, Ethiopians, or Nubians. To this group should be joined the Bedja of Nubia, the Abyssinians, the Oromo, or Gallas, the Afora, or Danakil, the Somalis, the Masai, and, in the west, the Fula and the Fulbé. All these tribes, whose skin is black, bronze, or reddish—the result, no doubt of a considerable mingling with the tribes they first met with—are, as a rule, of a regular type, often handsome, with shapely limbs, oval faces, long noses, and hair long and curly; all with an air that appears to greater advantage from their skill in draping themselves in the fashion of antique statues. They are no longer negroes. Most of them lead a pastoral life and, divided into something like clans, tend their flocks on the wide strip of half-desert pasture-land which stretches from Cape Gardafui to Cape Verde. They are intelligent, warlike, independent, given to pillage, and full of scorn for inferior races; they are bad neighbours, but have great influence wherever they may be. From the Hamites we pass, by a natural transition, to the Berbers, who have held northern Africa for many centuries. While the other tribes are of Asiatic origin, the Berbers came from Europe at an unknown period, and belong to two types, the brown and the fair. About a.d. 1100, they founded Timbuctoo, and spread as far as the Canary Islands; then, roused by Islam, they made their way into Spain, and threatened the south of France. They are represented by the Barabra, the Kabyles of the Atlas, the Tuareg of the Sahara, and the Moors of the western coast, and have had a considerable part in the formation of the so-called "Arab" populations of the "Barbary States". In addition to these various elements, yet another, the Semitic, has settled among, and to some extent mingled with, the people of Africa. This element is to be found chiefly in Egypt, in Abyssinia, and on the East Coast. In more recent times there has been an influx of modern Europeans—the Portuguese in Guinea, Angola, and Mozambique; the Dutch on the Gold Coast, at the Cape, and in the valleys of the Orange and the Limpopo; the English, Germans, Belgians, and French in their recent colonies. Thus, at periods which it is impossible to determine, men evidently of the same species, but not of the same race, settled on this primitive soil, mingling some of their qualities, changing their hues, confounding their customs and their speech, yet, nevertheless, often retaining clear traces of their original descent.

III. Religion.—(A) Native Religion. There is no doubt that there is to be found among the nations of Africa, apart from Christianity and Mohammedanism, a religion, a belief in a higher, living, and personal principle, implying on man's part the duty of recognizing it by means of some kind of worship. Individuals, families, and even communities may doubtless be found in Africa, as elsewhere, utterly, or almost, devoid of all notion of religion and morality. This fact has led certain travellers, who, it is certain, were not familiar with the native languages, who had not penetrated into the inner secrets of the peoples they professed to have studied, and who, in addition, were often wrongly informed by chance interpreters, into the belief that tribes without a religion exist in Africa. A more careful study, however, makes it possible to assert that in Africa religion is everywhere, as M. Robert H. Nassau says, "closely bound up with the different matters which concern the family, the rights of property, authority, the organization of the tribe—with judicial trials, punishments, foreign relations, and with trade". Religious beliefs and practices, characterized by the two principal elements of prayer and sacrifice, form part of the daily life of the blacks. What is also true, however, is that no body of doctrine, properly so called, exists anywhere with interpreters bound to ensure its integrity, to explain and to hand it down to others. There is, therefore, no distinct religious code, no official teaching, no books, no schools, as in Islam, Buddhism, and other positive religions. What is known concerning supernatural matters is a sort of common deposit, guarded by everybody, and handed down without any intervention on the part of an authority; fuller in one place, scantier in another, or, again, more loaded with external symbols according to the intelligence, the temperament, the organization, the habits, and the manner of the people's life. Certain specialists, however, exist, known to us as sorcerers, witch-doctors, etc., who are familiar with the mysterious secrets of things, who make use of them on behalf of those interested, and hand them down to chosen disciples. There are also secret societies which guard what may be called the preternatural tradition of the tribe, and deduce therefrom the decisions to be arrived at. Finally, it is understood that certain things are forbidden; there are prohibitions which cannot be defied save at the risk of misfortune. Nevertheless, that which ethnologists call Naturism, Animism, or Fetishism nowhere constitutes in primitive Africa a body of doctrine, with correlative precepts and settled practice which may be reduced to a system. The idea of a Being higher than man, invisible, inaccessible, master of life and death, orderer of all things, seems to exist everywhere; among the Negritos, the Hottentots, the Bantu, the Nigritians, the Hamites; for everywhere this Being has a name. He is the "Great", the "Ancient One", the "Heavenly One", the "Bright One", the "Master", sometimes the "Author", or "Creator". The notion, however, concerning Him is clear, obliterated, or vague according to the tribe; nowhere, at least, is He represented under any image, for He is incapable of representation. What does He require of us? What are His relations with man? Has life any aim?—All this is unknown; it is unasked. Man finds himself a being on the earth, like the plants and animals. That fact he is conscious of. He eats, he reproduces himself, he does what he can; he dies also, as a rule, though death is looked on as an accident, the causes of which must always be inquired into. In the hereafter, the spirits or shadows of kings, chiefs, witch-doctors, of great men, rich and powerful, being set free from the bodies to which they were united, wander through space until they find another body into which to enter. They keep after this life the power, often intensified, which they had before; they can injure or give help; they can influence the elements. More, they often bring news of themselves; they cause most of the sicknesses of children; they are seen in dreams; they cause nightmares; they are heard at night; they show themselves in many inexplicable phenomena. The shades of ordinary persons have less power; of no importance after death, as in life, they disappear. It is important, however, to give all these shades a fixed abode. This is done by means of certain complicated ceremonies: by calling them into caves, into sacred groves, to the foot of certain trees, sometimes into living animals, but more often into statuettes of earth, wood, or metal, placed on the skull of the ancestor, or containing some part of his remains—nails, hair, eyebrows, or skin. There are some rebellious shades, however, who are difficult to keep in one spot; they are called back by means of fresh ceremonies. Moreover, on all necessary occasions—-