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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/673

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ON VÕDU-WORSHIP.

chief gods of the Ewe-speaking peoples, numerous "wives," kosio—that is, women dedicated to his service, who tend the temples, and on holy days and festivals give themselves indiscriminately to the worshipers of the god. The ranks of the kosio are recruited by the affiliation of young girls, who are received in a kind of seminary, where they remain for three years, learning the sacred songs and dances and other matters appertaining to the worship. During this novitiate they may only be visited by the priests, but at its termination they practice openly as kosio. This is the ordinary mode of becoming a kosi; but any woman whatever, married or single, can, by publicly simulating possession by the god, by uttering the conventional cries recognized as indicative of possession, at once join the body. In this case she likewise undergoes a three years' novitiate, during which she is forbidden, if single, to enter the house of her parents, and, if married, that of her husband. The kosio of Dañh-gbi usually appear with the bosom smeared with palm oil, but their distinguishing mark is a necklet, called adunka, made of the twisted filaments of a sprouting palm leaf. On ceremonial occasions they wear a fillet of the same material, with anklets, armlets, and neck-strings of cowries. The remainder of their costume consists of a strip of cotton print hanging from the waist and barely reaching to the knee. They are most licentious; and the festivals, which are usually kept up all night, present a horrible scene of drunkenness and debauchery. As is the case with the women attached to temples in India, this life of prostitution is not considered dishonorable, because it is regarded as part of the service of the religion. The kosio are, indeed, not considered as responsible for their actions. It is the god, say the people, who inspires them at such times.

When a follower of the python-god wishes to have the advantage of his advice and assistance, he has recourse to a priest, who fixes and receives the fees and appoints a day for the ceremony. Such consultations of the oracle, so to speak, are always public. The person seeking the aid or counsel of the god comes with all his relatives and friends; the priest and kosio turn out in force and parade the sacred drums and temple paraphernalia; and then, in the open space in front of the temple, the priest becomes inspired and gives vent to the oracular utterances. The indwelling spirit of the python enters the body of the priest and speaks through his mouth, in a strange, unnatural voice. Some honest, though perhaps hysterical, priests really do work themselves up into a condition of frenzy, by means of the violent and extraordinary dance which is always the main feature of such exhibitions; and the dishonest ones, who form the great majority, foam at the mouth and simulate as well as they can the symptoms of an epilep-