Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/714

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must observe certain time-honored customs. They must not use salt; if they did, and their wives were not behaving in their absence, the salt would act as a corrosive poison of the most virulent kind. Few Africans would take this risk.

The magician is in requisition in connection with every detail of life. In a case of illness an offering of flour is made to the ancestors. This is placed by the patient's pillow,[1] where the spirits come to regale themselves with its essence. If there is no improvement the magician is called, who may simply direct the patient to change his residence for a time and then take his departure. At other times he practices the art of cupping by means of an inverted horn, in which case he professes to "extract" the disease, as is done in the south, in form of bug or beetle. Counter-irritation, by means of incisions, into which ashes and pounded roots are well rubbed, is termed "killing" the disease. A charm may be given which the patient must wear as a means of cure and as a talisman against evil.

By far the most common method of cure is "smelling out" the person bewitching the patient by means of sorcery, and this is done both in cases of protracted illness and when a person dies suddenly.[2] The magician may simply "mark" the person who is causing the disease, who at once goes with a present to the sick man and a fee to the magician. It is, however, much more common to find the wizard put to death as a sacrifice,[3] and in this the custom differs from that observed in the south. There the culprit is always put to death as a criminal, and only after a tribal council has met and heard him "named" in the most formal manner. In central Africa the magician has the power of summary condemnation, when execution may follow immediately. The custom of human sacrifice accounts for the difference where, on the whole, the customs are the same, and regulated by the same usages. Any one may be accused of bewitching, and in the case of sudden death a traveler as readily as a resident. Dr. Elmslie, while traveling among the Angoni a year or two ago, came to a village where he halted for the night. He had three days of forest travel before he could reach the next settlement. The morning of his intended departure threatened rain, and his men, as always happens in such circumstances, were determined not to move. Again and again he tried to get them together, but without success. When he was about to give the case up as hopeless, a wailing and howling was set up in one of the houses and taken up by the villagers in chorus. His men came flying to their loads, which they picked up and struck into the path, adjuring him by

  1. Yao, as observed by Rev. Duff Macdonald.
  2. Angoni, Notes by Dr. Elmslie.
  3. Rev. Duff Macdonald, Nyassa Region.