Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/275

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Obeah hi the West Indies. 265

the reasons which doubtless compelled the authorities both at home and abroad to initiate the more stringent laws and to take the more energetic measures to repress these evil practices that were in force in the next decade. He says :

" Fifty or sixty years ago the practice of obeah, being the cause of so much loss of slave property by poisoning, it was found necessary to enact the most stringent laws for its repression, and an important ordinance was passed in all the West Indian colonies imposing heavy penalties on any persons found guilty of dealing in obeah. Unfortunately, through the knowledge possessed by some of the old negroes of numerous poisonous bushes and plants, unknown to medicine but found in every tropical wood, it is to be feared that numerous deaths might still be traced to the agency of these obeahmen. The secret and insidious manner in which this crime is generally perpetrated makes detection exceedingly difficult."

It will be seen that in Sir Hesketh Bell's book there is no mention of " Voodooism," or any of the grosser forms of these evil practices as they existed in Hayti, for instance. The author seems to deal only with those forms of witch- craft or sorcery, superstitions which we would willingly believe are the extreme limits of this cult in those regions which are known as the British West Indies; though this is not absolutely so is shewn by the Monchy murder trial, which took place in St. Lucia, one of the Windward Islands group, in 1904, and to which I will refer later at some length.

Proceeding to other authorities, we find some interesting observations in a chapter on " Obeahism " in a book by Mr. W. R. Hall Caine, called The Cruise of the Port Kingston, published in 1908, in which he also deals with its aspect with regard to " Voodooism," and in which reference is made to Mr. W. P. Livingstone's Black Jamaica, published in 1899.