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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/172

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148 The Fetish View of the Human Soul.

witchcraft is in its more harmless forms. An old woman at Elmina, well versed in such matters, had been watching with interest an old man putting up Fetish objects, such as stones and eggs, over or in front of his door. Their arrangement was in accordance with every principle of the white magic which could ward off the vengeful spirit of some victim of whom the murderer might be afraid. The hag, therefore, rose up and informed the authorities that the old fellow was a murderer. I doubt whether she was right in Roman or statutory law, but there was certainly West African evidence in her favour. However, just then, as if to confirm the aged creature's assertion, the rumour spread that the King of Elmina had suddenly died. The facts were that, after a short walk, he had, as usual, returned to his house, and in the shade in front of it had seated himself upon his ' stool,' the same as those low, comfort- able, curved seats that are known as Ashanti stools, and often partly carved. In doing so it is said that little nails or splinters of wood ran into himĀ ; at any rate he imbibed a poison from its surface, and accordingly died. The old man was sent for, and acknowledged, to the proud gratifi- cation of the aged woman, that he had prepared and poisoned the stool, but he said that he had killed many before, and had others in prospective. So he w^as kept alive till it could be proved that a certain chief in Elmina had ordered him to do the deed, for it was supposed that this chief wished to clear away all rivals to the possession of the head chieftainship for himself."

It is often held that the breaking down of native customs in Africa, such as this trial for witchcraft, must necessarily lead to good. I myself feel that, although no one wishes more deeply than I do for the advancement and prosperity of that exceedingly worthy section of the human race, the African, this breaking down of the means he has himself thought out and developed into a system for the keeping down of crime and for the maintenance of law and order,