Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/173

This page needs to be proofread.


The Fetish View of the Human Soul. 149

should be done carefully, and that there should be ready to step into the place of it a system for the maintenance of law and order, without which there is neither happiness nor advancement possible, but only degradation and decay ; and we should remember that just as the committing of a crime brings retribution, so does the doing of a good action bring with it responsibility. It must be held in mind that in those regions ruled by Fetish law, there are neither asylums, prisons, nor workhouses ; yet the same classes — the sick, criminal and idle — exist, and under Fetish law none of them starve. It is, indeed, a form of society very closely knit together, in which every man, woman and child, slave or free, is responsible for, or to, each other.

I fear I am encroaching too much on your time ; but there are one or two things more I should like to mention to you regarding Fetish. One is that I should like to see Fetish studied by you experts in three distinct divisions : firstly, purely religious Fetish ; secondly, purely legal Fetish ; thirdly, purely witchcraft Fetish. Owing, I fear, to the Folk- Lore Society not having taken the observation of African customs in hand, there has been a good deal of careless reporting of facts done by my fellow travellers and sea- captains, most excellent people, but not, as a general rule, particularly personally interested in the underlying idea of the native customs they have seen going on round them, and who have therefore not given sufficient attention to the less striking points in what they saw, either to see the intention of the thing themselves, or to report it, so that trained experts in Europe from their reports could see for themselves the underlying idea. The study of Fetish is, moreover, a very difficult one, not only because of the nature of the country and conditions under which you must carry it on, but also because of the native not being anxious that you should know the truth about it, and being anxious to please you he will say " yes " to anything he thinks you would like him to say "yes" to.