Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/670

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Võdu worship, in so far as it relates to the worship of a snake, was undoubtedly introduced into Hayti by slaves from Whydah and Ardra, or Allada. Moreau de St. Méry, an old author who described Hayti while it was still a French colony, and who is quoted by Sir S. St. John and Mr. Cable, distinctly says it was introduced by the "Aradas"; and it is only in the neighborhood of those two old kingdoms that python-worship is to be found on the Slave Coast at the present day. Whydah and Ardra were, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, two small states situated near the southeastern corner of Ewe territory. Whydah, which had a sea front of some thirty miles, extended inland about seven miles, its northern boundary being a lagoon which ran east and west just beyond the town of Savi, called Xavier by old writers. Ardra, or Allada, lay inland of Whydah, and extended as far northward as the marshy belt called the Ko—that is, to about thirty-five miles in a straight line from the sea. Its capital, Ardra or Allada, formerly a large and populous town, is now a miserable village, with a population of some three hundred souls.

The inhabitants of these two kingdoms were essentially commercial, and acted as middle-men between the inland tribes and the Europeans who frequented Whydah in their ships. Of these interior tribes, Dahomi, about 1625, became the most prominent. It gradually subjugated the surrounding peoples, and, in 1723, Guadja Trudo, the then King of Dahomi, was sufficiently powerful to demand of the Ardras a right of way and free traffic to the sea. The Ardras refused. The Dahomis invaded their territory in 1724, defeated them in a great battle, and the kingdom of Ardra was at an end. Three years later, in February, 1727, Guadja Trudo made a similar demand upon the Whydahs; the king of the latter also refused compliance: his territory was at once invaded and the kingdom overthrown. These two invasions fix for us the date at which snake-worship was introduced into Hayti; for thousands of Ardras and Whydahs, prisoners of war, were sold to the slave-traders and shipped across the Atlantic. For a good many years before the downfall of these kingdoms Whydah had been the chief, probably the only, slave emporium of the Slave Coast, and large numbers of slaves had thence been exported; but these earlier slaves had not been Ardras and Whydahs, among whom alone the python-worship prevailed; they were Mahis, and members of the various small tribes which had been defeated by Dahomi, and whom the people of the two seaboard kingdoms had bought from the latter to sell to the white men.

It was, then, the war captives taken at the conquest of Ardra and Whydah who brought both the word võdu and the snake-worship into Hayti; and if it be asked how it is that the other