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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/223

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Obeah Worship in East and West Indies.

remnant of the primitive possessors of the plains, driven thence at some unknown period by waves of invasion to the almost inaccessible jungle fastnesses. The tradition of them still survives, and all over the low country circles of stones and entrenched mounds are popularly called Kurumbar forts.

The few communities existing in the jungles are extremely shy, shunning intercourse with the people cultivating the table-land, who, whilst hating, hold them in great awe as witches and enchanters having an understanding and influence with the malevolent village deities. Yet at the beginning of the cultivating season one of this despised race must be called from his jungle habitation and guide the plough that turns the first furrow, and also be present at the initiation of some other village ceremonials. One of these Kurumbas was believed to have placed the bone in the cromlech, commissioned by the evil demon of the spot, who had invested it with her power. On certain occasions deputations from the villages on the plateau above came down and laid flowers, rice, and turmeric before it. After all this I said no more to the Hindu villagers with me, but turned to a Mussulman shikarri, who carried my gun, and told him to take up the bone; but he too shuffled uneasily and hung back; so I said to him, "Why, Cassim Sahib, you a true believer, are you afraid of these idolators' devils?" He answered, "True, Sahib, these are idolatrous pigs, and their shaitans accursed; but this shaitan is most spiteful, something bad might happen."

I record this incident as showing how the superstitious ideas of one tribe may infect others of a vehemently antagonistic race and creed. The only man who seemed careless of the genius loci was my Toda guide, who stood apart, wrapt toga-wise in his mantle, almost gigantic in stature, looking scornfully on the others. He and his tribe, of unknown origin, immemorially masters of the Nilgeris, acknowledged as such by the other hill-races, have their own gods and worship, and care nothing for other deities.