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AFRICA
AFRICA
184

for the success of a journey, of a hunt, of a trade, or war, to ward off a plague, to turn aside misfortune—recourse is had to the sacred object; prayers are said to it, and offerings made (glass beads, rice, maize, milk, beer); victims are sacrificed to it, birds, kids, sheep, oxen, men; for the more the shade is to be honoured the more worthy must be the sacrifice, Nor is this all. The offering must, of necessity, be eaten in common; it is by drinking the blood, and by eating the flesh of the animal or man sacrificed, in company with the manes of the ancestors vanished, yet present, that their favours are obtained, and they are satisfied. This satisfaction is most esteemed when it is possible to sacrifice their enemies, those who have caused their death, and on whom they thus wreak the sweetest revenge that can be dreamed of. This is the origin of cannibalism, which in some parts of Africa has taken on peculiarly disgusting forms. Ancestor worship, in one form or other, is thus the chief expression of African religion. But besides shades, there are a number of spirits, whose origin is unknown, who reveal themselves in various ways. Most of these are wicked, some terrible, but others are mischievous, capricious, fanciful; while some, again, are more or less indifferent, and sometimes well-disposed. It is the darksome activity of these spirits which must be held accountable for the epidemics, storms, droughts, floods, and fires—all the ills that seem to have no apparent cause. The same holds true of possession, so common everywhere. To offset these ills it is necessary to consult the "seers", who, after the necessary ceremonies, will find the name and character of the spirit who is at fault; will indicate the specialist (witch-doctor) to whom recourse must be had, and who will obtain the desired result, a cessation of the trial, a cure of the sickness, an end to the possession, by means of the practices or sacrifices demanded by the spirit. In a word, from the point of view of the black man, the world was formed to progress regularly, and might possibly have attained its end, had its Creator so willed it. But, for unknown reasons, God had left His work exposed to many harmful influences of elements, of animals, of men, of sorcerers, of ghosts, of spirits. And, since He is beyond man's reach, since man cannot get to where He is, and can do nothing against His action or His inactivity, he is led to placate or to neutralize such influences as can be reached among the thousands that everywhere reveal themselves. It is to the general scheme of these mysterious things that we must reduce the almost universal belief that there exists for each individual, for each family, something sacred or forbidden, the taboo of the Maoris, which cannot be touched without misfortune: a fruit, a tree, a fish, an animal, whose name one bears. It is to this scheme, again, that the use of amulets must be referred, made, as they are, of rare and outlandish things; of mysterious remedies, of protective fetishes for everything and against everything. Moreover, divination, second-sight, philtres, enchantments, horoscopes, forecasts, are equally well known. Judicial trials, held to make known the guilty, are of daily occurrence. But, just as it is possible for man to use to his advantage or to neutralize, these mysterious influences, these secret virtues in things, so he can make use of them to effect his revenge, to do harm to those about him, as do sorcerers, conjurers, or wizards. In league with hidden powers, these practitioners send sicknesses, cause death, bewitch their enemies, and roam at night in the form of a ball of fire, of some bird or animal, to spread their witcheries, They are, consequently, feared and hated. Many have recourse to them, if they can get to know them, in order to join them, or to follow them with their hatred. If they are discovered, they are made to do penance, are sold, killed, or burned, as local justice shall decide. It is curious to meet, in the heart of Africa, with facts of sorcery absolutely identical with those known among us in the Middle Ages, and even at the present day. And, if these wizards and witches practice their arts at the risk of their lives, it may be well to add that they have not seldom merited their fate, for many of them, in addition to and aside from their relations to the supernatural, are undeniably very skilful poisoners. Certain anthropologists and ethnologists, anxious to find in Africa a territory propitious to their theories, endeavour to prove that the religious evolution of man starts from simple Naturism, whence it proceeds to Animism, and thence to Fetishism, to attain at length to a more or less pure Theism. This upward march, which supposes man to have set out from the lowest stage towards an indefinite progress, appears reasonable. But it is reasoning a priori, based on an untenable hypothesis. The actual facts are found on examination to be far from agreement with this theory.

(1) Naturism is the worship paid to personified natural objects: the sky, the sun, the moon, the mountains, the thunder, etc. The Hottentots have been said to adore the moon, in whose honour they perform long dances. This statement, however, is now known to be erroneous. The Hottentots, like all Africans, are fond of dancing by moonlight; they hail the moon's reappearance and follow her course closely, since it is she who measures time, but this is very far from being worship. The true objects of Hottentot worship are the spirits of their dead. They recognize, moreover, a Power higher than these shades, "Tsu Goab", an expression which the missionaries have made use of to translate the word "God". Again, other Bantu tribes use terms which mean either "Sky" or "God", "Sun" or "God", etc., but make a clear distinction as to the meaning conveyed by these words. Not one, in fact, imagines that a material identity exists between the planet that gives us light, or the firmament wherein it moves, and the Supreme Being who inhabits or makes use of them. The same may be said concerning the thunder. The blacks, indeed, sometimes say that it is God, who by this sign, foretells the rain, but this is not worship. Naturism, in the strict sense given to the word, does not exist in Africa.

(2) Animism, based on the distinction between matter and spirit, is the belief in beings which have no affinity to any special thing in nature, but are endowed with a higher power; to whom a certain worship is paid, yet who are incapable of being represented in a visible form. Taken in this very vague and general sense, it may be said that Animism is the religion of a great part of Africa: the Negritos, Hottentots, Bantus of the south and east, many of the Nigritians, and most of the Hamites, have practically neither fetishes, idols, nor material images, honoured with any kind of worship. They believe, as we have said, in the survival of the spirits of the departed (under an ill-defined form which they liken, as a rule, to a shadow), in their possession of more or less power, in the need of honouring them, placating them, and settling them in fixed localities. They believe, also, in the existence of spirits differing from these shades; in mysterious influences; lastly, in a Higher Power which they more or less clearly distinguish from visible creation, from the earth, the firmament, etc. However, the want of a true idea of a supreme Deity, and scientific ignorance, are the causes of a great mass of superstition of all kinds among the blacks, even among those who are animists.

(3) Fetishism.—The question has been raised whether Animism gave birth to Fetishism, or sprang from a purified Fetishism; but the discussion would