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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/156

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DEATH AND BURIAL OF THE FIOTE.^

BY R, E. DENNETT.

One of my cook's many fathers having died (this time, his real father), he came to me with tears in his eyes to ask me for a little rum to take to town, where he said his family were waiting for him. Some days previously the cook had told me that his father was suffering from the sleeping sickness, and was nearing his end, so that when I heard the cry of " Chibai-i " (Chibji) floating across the valley from a little town close to that in which the cook lived, I guessed who the dead one was, and was prepared to lose his services for a certain number of days.

The death of the father of a family is always a very sad event, but the death of the father of a Fiote family seems to me to be peculiarly pathetic. His little village at once assumes a deserted appearance ; his wives and sisters, stripped of their gay cloths, wander aimlessly around and about the silent corpse, crying and wringing their hands, their tears coursing down their cheeks along little channels washed in the thick coating of oil and ashes with which they have besmeared their dusky faces. Naked children, bereft for the time being of their mother's care, cry piteously; and the men, with a blue band of cloth tied tightly round their heads, sit apart and in silence, already wondering what evil person or fetish has caused them this overwhelming loss.

' The term Fiote, otherwise written Fjorl, as used by Mr. Dennett, means " the tribes that once formed the great kingdom of Congo." He has resided for many years in French Congo, and is still living at Loango. He has paid considerable attention to the natives of that coast, with whose language and modes of thought he is intimately acquainted. Some time since he forwarded to the Council an interesting and valuable collection of their traditions, which it is hoped to print at an early date and issue to Members of the Society as an extra volume. — Ed.