Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/276

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266 Obeah in the West Indies.

Other writers have also evinced considerable interest in the matter. It is reassuring to hear from a traveller of such experience as Sir Harry Johnston that these stories of early voodooism are much exaggerated. In a letter in the Times (weekly edition) on i6th April, 1909, on "The Negro in Cuba," he says that the white Cubans charge the negroes with still maintaining in their midst the dark Voodu, or Hoodu, mysteries of West Africa. " These are fast becoming a past phase in the life of the American negro, and much of the evidence to the contrary is out of date, or is manufac- tured by sensation-mongers for the compilation of magazine articles. The last vestige of noxious witchcraft lingering among the Cuban negroes is (said to be) the belief that the heart's blood, or the heart of a white child, will cure certain terrible diseases if consumed by the sufferer."

And later, in an article on "The Haytian Negroes," — of the peasant class of whom Sir Harry speaks very favourably, especially the women, as a hard-working and industrious class, — he says, under the heading of " Vooduism " : " As to Vooduism, much exaggeration and untruth have been com- mitted to paper on this subject, so far as it affects Haiti. Snake worship is of doubtful occurrence owing to the rarity of snakes in Haiti. Such harmless snakes as do exist are tolerated in some village or fetish temples for their rat- killing propensities. The idea, therefore, has got abroad that they are ' kept ' as sacred animals by the Voodu priests or priestesses. Sacrifices of eggs, rum, fowls, possibly goats (white fowls or goats preferred) are offered to ancestors or minor deities presiding over the fertility of crops, rain-fall (nature forces in fact), and various small animals (perhaps even human remains) are deemed useful in sorcery.

" To obtain human bones, and also for the more material- istic purpose of robbing the dead of their clothes or orna- ments, graves are sometimes violated, but not with the loath- some intent to eat the dead body. This ghoulish practice still