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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/679

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ON VÕDU-WORSHIP.

passed through a block, was tightened, the child's feet flew up toward the roof, and the king approached it with a knife. The loud shriek given by the victim aroused the Frenchman to the truth of what was really going on. He shouted, "Oh, spare the child!" and would have rushed forward, but he was seized and hurried from the spot by his friends. There was a short pursuit, but he escaped, and, on reaching the town, strove to induce the police to hasten to the place. They would, however, do nothing till the morning, when they accompanied him to the scene of sacrifice, and found the remains of the feast and the boiled skull of the child.

During the government of President Geffrard, a determined opponent of võdu practices, four men and four women were tried and convicted of the sacrifice of a young girl, whose body was afterward eaten by the worshipers. The overthrow of Geffrard was said to have been the result of the measures he took to stamp out these atrocities, and since his time no President, except Boisrond Canal, appears to have had the courage to attack them. According to St. John, these practices are rapidly gaining ground, and are now scarcely even concealed.

The only native god of the Slave Coast whose worship is in any way connected with cannibalism is Khebioso, the lightninggod, who in the eastern districts, abutting upon the Yomba country, is commonly known by his Yomba name, Shango. In bygone days it used to be the duty of the priests and kosio of Shango to cut up and eat the bodies of all persons killed by lightning, but at the present day the practice has fallen into desuetude. If the person killed be a freeman, the priests place the corpse on a raised scaffolding of sticks, and, after making all preparations for cutting it up, suffer the relations to ransom it; but where the deceased is a slave, whose body no one would care to ransom, the kosio cut from the corpse large lumps of flesh, and chew them, without swallowing, crying to the passers-by, "We sell you meat—good meat." As human sacrifices are frequently offered to Shango, it seems probable that the sacrifice of "the goat without horns," and the subsequent cannibal feast, are really derived from the worship of the lightning-god; and that, owing to the absence of distinct orders of priests in Hayti, the two practices became grafted, by one sect of võdu-worshipers, upon the worship of the snake deity. This view is supported by what St. John says (p. 195) of some curious polished stones, which were shown to him by a French priest, and which formed part of the relics worshiped by the võdu sect. One of these was a stone axe in the form of a crescent, and all implements of the stone age are, on the Slave Coast, sacred to Shango, whose thunderbolts (sokpe, "fire-stone") they are believed to be. In fact, whenever a