Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/272

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262 Obeah in the West Indies.

a most interesting account of the practices of the native sorcerer, or "obeahman," — his description more largely applying to those forms which have more especially come under my own notice. He follows the definition already given of the word " obeah," from " obi," a word used on the East Coast of Africa to denote witchcraft, sorcery, and fetishism in general. The etymology of " obi," he says, has been traced back to a very antique source, stretching far back into Egyptian mythology ; a serpent in the Egyptian language was called " ob," or " aub," " obion " being still the Egyptian name for a serpent. The book opens with an amusing picture of a planter friend of the author having his garden "dressed" by an old obeahman as a protection from depredations by the natives. The old African's modus operandi is best shown in the author's own words : " From out of his basket he produced a number of small and large medicine bottles, each filled with some mysterious liquid ; then taking up a position in front of a plantain he tied one of the vials on to a bunch of fruit, and then began muttering a sort of incantation in what seemed a most uncouth African lingo, accompanying his spell the while by frequently waving his arms and constant genuflexions. He would then pass on to another row of trees and perform the same ceremony. Having hung up all his stock of bottles, Mokombo next produced from his basket a tiny, little, black coffin, apparently empty. This he placed with much ceremony in the branch of a cocoa- tree, and on the top of it put a saucer containing a little water and a common hen's &g^ floating in it. Then after walking right round the field, muttering and waving his arms continually, Mokombo finally came up and declared that he had put an effectual stop to the robbery, and that not another bunch of plantains would be missed."

On a subsequent inspection of the contents of one of these mysterious bottles it was found to consist of nothing but sea-water, with a little laundry blue in it and a dead