Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/169

This page needs to be proofread.

The Fetish View of the Human Soul. 145

youth and manhood, into old age ; if it does not do this, it is because some malevolent influence has blighted it. I remember a pure Negro demonstrating this carefully to me with a maize plant that had been broken. " Like that is the soul of a witched man ; if it had been left alone it would have come to fruit ; " and these words, " left alone," throw an interesting light on the African's prayers to the spirits, which are always " Leave us alone," " Go away," " Come not into this town, this plantation, this house. We have never injured you, keep away." This malevolent influence that cuts short the soul-life, and so prevents it obtaining perfection of growth — growth in knowledge — may act in several ways. All people who die are not held to be killed by witchcraft. A man may be killed by an enemy in battle, and so on ; and a man may be killed through having a dis- ease he had in a former life reincarnated with his soul, or by the bush-soul having been killed by some means not necessarily connected with witchcraft. In all these cases, save perhaps that of the reincarnated disease, there may have been witch-influence at work. His weapons which failed him may have been bewitched ; his bush-soul may have been trapped or slaughtered by someone else's bush- soul, but not necessarily. These calamities may have befallen him at the hands of the Overgods, and no human being need bear the blame ; but the vast majority of deaths, almost all deaths in which no blood has shown, are held to have been produced by human beings acting through spirits in their command — witches. These persons are so grave a danger to the community that they must be destroyed, and destroyed in a way that will, by its horror, deter others from acting in a way so detrimental to society. In Mr. Dennett's paper you have heard how the Nyanga is referred to, to settle the point whether the man died from witchcraft or because his time was come. In the interesting and carefuUy de- scribed case Mr. Dennett has given us, it was an old man who had died ; had he been a young man, the supposi-