Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/122

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the doctor decided that he must make a parsili: this was a figure of the sick person, of about her size, cut out of the soft stem of a banana tree, and clothed with a few rags. It is dedicated to the particular object it is designed to serve, with a certain set of magic forms, and is laid in the road outside of the town, with the expectation that the wicked spirit will come out of the sick person and go into it. As another means of making sure that this should happen, the sick woman was "stolen," or secretly taken in the night to another house. When all this proved to be of no avail, the medicine-man declared that he had an extremely perverse spirit to deal with, and must use the most energetic means to drive it out. He pounded up a double handful of the terribly sharp red and green Spanish peppers, and sprinkled the juice into the mouth, nose, eyes, and ears of the poor sick woman, in order to bring the spirit to terms by means of the fearful pain the operation excited. When this did not help, the medicine-man lost confidence, notwithstanding a hen was sacrificed in his honor every day, and would not stay any longer. He did not say so, however, but went off secretly; for he foresaw that he would inevitably suffer great shame and reproach if the patient should die on his hands. Of course—for that is understood there—he would have to go away empty-handed if the case proved fatal.

An expedient sometimes resorted to in desperate cases is to consult the begu itself for advice. For this purpose all the sick person's family connections living in the town, men, women, and children, assemble at the house. The room having been cleared for the occasion, is dimly illuminated by means of torches made by rolling up a leaf and pouring melted pitch into it. The spectators take their places in a circle around the room, while the actors in the drama are seated in the middle. On one side are the musicians, two, four, six, or eight young fellows, armed with drums of bamboo and deer-skin, and cymbals and gongs, bought from the Chinese, which are kept with the greatest care, in cases specially made for them, among the most precious heirlooms of the family. Of course no melody can be brought out from such instruments, but the musical effect produced by them consists in a variety of rhythms, some of which are quite complicated and characteristic. Opposite the orchestra sit two men, one of whom is the sibaro or haroem ni begu, or medium. Among the Battas who are still heathen, each family or each town has two of these mediums, generally a man and a woman. No one devotes himself to the office of medium of his own free-will, and it requires the learning of no art; but, when the sibaro dies or goes away, the begu itself chooses a new one by taking possession of him; and, waiting this, the obligato music is kept up in the presence of the whole family till the desired event takes place. The sibaro is dressed in his ceremonial robes; from his head hangs a strip of cloth reaching to the floor, under which is a vessel of burning incense, the smoke of which rises to his head. After the music has sounded for a