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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/674

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tic seizure, which here, as among most other uncivilized communities throughout the world, is regarded as the effect of a god, or devil, having entered the body. It is perhaps needless to say that the oracle is nearly always ambiguous. "If Dañh-gbi be propitious, you will attain your object" is a reply commonly heard. If the applicant should fail, then the priest naturally explains that Dañh-gbi was not propitious; perhaps he had been offended by something, or perhaps the offerings were insufficient; and if he should succeed, then the priest claims the result as being entirely due to the intervention of the god. In this respect, it will be observed, the practice of the Ewe priest does not materially differ from that of the expounders of higher religions. The sacred dance is always performed to the sound of the sacred drums, on which is played a rhythm peculiar to the god. The whole ceremony of "possession" is exceedingly curious, but for further details I must refer the reader to Chapter X of my Tshi-speaking Peoples of the Gold Coast, where will be found a description which applies in all essential particulars, equally well to the Ewe-speaking peoples.

The Dañh-gbi we—"House of Dañh-gbi" or Python Temple at Whydah, which is the most important of its kind, is a circular structure with walls of "swish" or kneaded mud, and a conical roof thatched with grass, a privilege accorded to shrines and temples only, all other buildings being required to be roofed with palm thatch. It stands in a small rectangular inclosure near the center of the town, and around it are the calabashes and shallow earthen vessels containing water, palm wine, palm oil, cowries, fowls, and other offerings. A few sacred trees stand in the inclosure, and long strips of white cotton fluttering from bamboo poles indicate the sacred character of the spot, for white is the color belonging to the võdu. The pythons, usually from fifty to eighty in number, live in the temple, but have free exit, holes being made in the mud walls to enable them to pass in and out. They are allowed to wander anywhere about the town, and are only carried back to the temple when they happen to enter some profane locality, such as the yard of a European trader. In such a case a priest goes to fetch the god, prostrates himself before it, apologizes for the liberty he is about to take, and then, raising it gently in his arms, carries it home. When a lay native meets one of these snake deities in his path, he prostrates himself in front of it, rubs his forehead on the earth, and covers himself with dust which he throws on his head and shoulders with both hands. "You are my father—you are my mother!" he cries. "My head belongs to you. Be propitious to me."

Opposite to the Dañh-gbi we are the schools or seminaries where the Kosio live, and where any child who may chance to