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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/677

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ON VÕDU-WORSHIP.

ask his aid and assistance in any matter they may have at heart, come forward in turn. The king takes the hox containing the snake, and commands the queen to stand on it. "She trembles, all her body is in a state of convulsion, and the oracle speaks by her mouth." Sometimes she promises success, sometimes the reverse; at others she dictates a certain procedure to be followed; generally there is a certain amount of ambiguity in her utterances. After the consultations comes the "vaudoux" dance—that is, the dance proper to the worship. It is performed by the worshipers generally, who imbibe copious draughts of spirituous liquors; and the night terminates in a scene of disgusting debauchery. Those who consult the god bring offerings, and the proper sacrifice is a white fowl or a white goat.

This very closely resembles the proceedings on the Slave Coast. The simulation of possession or inspiration by a god always commences with a violent trembling of the whole body, followed by convulsive movements, during which the "oracle" speaks. White fowls and white goats are to this day the proper offerings to Dañh-gbi at Whydah; and the sacred dance, with its accompanying drunkenness and final midnight debauchery, is what may be seen during any festival. The secrecy which attends the ceremony in Hayti is of course the natural result of the French laws for the repression of the cult. Bosman (a. d. 1705) says that red was the royal color at Ardra, which is the probable reason of its being the favorite võdu color in Hayti.

The description given by St. John (p. 191) of the ceremony observed for the admission of a new member to the sect hardly differs at all from what may be seen at the present day on the Slave Coast when a man joins the priesthood. A candidate for the priestly office undergoes a three years' novitiate like the kosio, at the end of which time he is required to show, by being publicly inspired or possessed, that some god accepts him and considers him worthy of his service. For this test a circle is traced on the ground, images of the different gods are set at regular intervals round the circumference, and the would-be priest is set in the middle. The drums strike up the rhythm of the sacred dance, and the candidate commences his performance, dances wildly and violently, and then goes through the form of possession, foaming at the mouth and trembling from head to foot. While in this condition he comes in contact with one of the images which surround him, and this indicates the god who has found him worthy. The idea, of course, is that the possessing god causes the candidate to touch the image; and to cross the circumference of the circle without coming into contact with one is a very bad omen. In Hayti the circle is traced, but no images or emblems of the gods are placed round it, because only one god is concerned; there