Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/166

This page needs to be proofread.

142 The Fetish View of the Hiunan Soul,

iied him with Jehovah, and worked on the mind of the natives from this point, causing frequently a very strange confusion of ideas therein. The names under which you meet with this great Overlord of gods are many ; among the Kru men, Nyiswa ; among the Effeks, Abasibum ; among the Ashantees and Fantees, Y'ankumpon ; Nzam, Nzambi, An- zam, &c. among the Bantu tribes. But neither among Negroes nor Bantu will you anywhere find a cult of this god. He is held to be the god that created men and all things material and many spirits, but not all, for you always find certain spirits regarded as being coeval with him and self- existent. This Nzam — to take the Fann's name for him — is regarded as taking no interest in those things he has created, leaving them to the dominion of lower spirits, over whom, however, he has power, if he choose to exert it ; and to the management of these spirits, whom he is in immediate touch with, the African turns his attention. It is only when he fails with them, when things go very badly, when the river rises higher than usual and sweeps away his home and his plantations, when the Spotted Death comes into the land, and day and night the corpses float down the river and he finds them jammed among his canoes and choking up his fish-traps, and when the death-wail goes up night and day from his own village, then will the chief rise up and call upon this great Over-God to restrain the evil working of the great Nature-spirits, in a terror maddened by despair ; for he feels it will be in vain.

Regarding the Fetish view of the state and condition of the human soul, there are certain ideas which I think I may safely say are common to all the various cults of Fetish, both Negro and Bantu, in West Africa. Firstly, the class of spirits that are human souls always remain human souls ; they do not become deified, nor do they sink in grade permanently. I am aware I am now on dangerous ground and I stand to correction, for I have been mainly led to this conclusion from my own study of the subject. You will find in almost