Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/711

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EAST CENTRAL AFRICAN CUSTOMS.

Young women are initiated into the mysteries,[1] as the ceremonies are called, by rites and ceremonies nearly akin to intongane in the south, and are then taught, in actual fact and by experience, much that would be regarded as immoral and not to be named among "Western nations. The details of these ceremonies I have not been able to obtain and verify with that degree of accuracy that would justify publication, as it might tend to mislead and confuse. One thing is certain, that in the case of both young men and women separating into pairs with persons of the opposite sex is deemed essential. If this were neglected in the case of girls after the establishment of the menstrual function, they would die. There is a second ceremony when a woman is for the first time enceinte. Her friends gather and make preparations as for a marriage feast; her head is shaved; the matrons in attendance sing songs and give the neophyte much advice, finishing with a glorious revel at night.

Taking the people as the traveler meets with them, the first thing to be studied is village life and personal rights and liberties. From that we may conveniently advance to the study of tribal life and national institutions. When a Yao or Wanyasa leaves his home to form a new village, he wishes to strengthen his position by every means at his command. This he can do in several different ways. Free men may be induced to join him and form the nucleus of the proposed settlement; he may purchase slaves and many slave wives, or, if able, make a raid and capture slaves to do the work necessary during the initial stages. When the village is recognized by the chief, it becomes subject to the general laws of the territory. There is the same council, presided over by the new headman; the same intercourse between the headman and chief by special "messengers"—that is to say, confidential advisers; the same system of land distribution and tenure, with the yearly tribute, as in older settlements. Petty cases are tried by the headman, graver cases are reserved for the hearing of the council. The head of a village may, under African law, kill his slave,[2] but only a fool would do so, as he would simply impoverish himself by the value of his chattel in the open market. Besides, should a man kill a slave unjustly, he himself would "wither away and lose his eyesight." Domestic slaves have a quasi right to any property they may accumulate while they remain with the master under whom they gather it, but if sold the property remains the master's. Most Africans like to see their slaves become rich. "Are they not," say they, "our own


  1. Wanyasa—south end Lake Nyassa ceremonies. Boys do not pass through them, but Yao, Makua, and Angoni boys do.
  2. Yao, Anyasa, Awisa, etc.