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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/219

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Obeah Worship in East and West Indies.

ashes, and sweat will run down his cheeks, while in the witness-box, having the evidence wrested from him piece by piece, and having constantly to be ordered to look at the bench instead of at the Obeah-man at the bar fixing him with a stony stare."

Professional Obeah-men may be divided into two classes. First, the grossly ignorant, generally an African by birth or parentage, who firmly believes in the art which he professes; he usually has a "wall eye", or a "sore foot", or some deformity, and is miserably poor, to outward appearance; and his fee is small, but he does a good trade. The second class of Obeah-man is often of strikingly good physique, respectable appearance, and always decently dressed. He does more in the "duppy-catching" line, and does not accept a small fee; and generally has too much intelligence to believe in the efficacy of his charms, his motives for adopting the calling being the ease with which it earns for him an ample competence, and the facilities it affords him for gratifying his animal passions, debauchery being the principal feature of his ceremonial. Of that ceremonial little is really known, and the orgies on grand occasions are said to be beyond description, and any white man venturing to intrude on them would do so at the peril of his life. "Duppy-catching" finds a great many votaries. A child suffers from epileptic fits, a woman is barren, or a man has an incurable ulcer; the "duppy-catcher" is consulted, and they are told so-and-so has "set a duppy" on them, which he, for a consideration, undertakes to catch. A night is fixed for the operation, rum is provided, perhaps a white cock is killed (one of the breed known as "senseh"), feasting, drinking, and drumming, with occasional intervals of manipulation of the body of the patient, continue all night, and, if successful, the duppy is caught, enclosed in a bottle, taken away, and buried.

This little Obeah figure was brought to England in 1888 by Com. Hastings, R.N., and had been taken from a negro named Alexander Ellis, who was arrested in