Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/279

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Obeah in the West Indies. 269

" In the case in question the allegation is that the Voodoos, or witch doctors, saturated the body with alcohol, and then dyna- mited the house in which the orgies took place, the object being to obliterate all traces of the crime. The noise of the explosion, however, brought up the rural guards, and their investigations led to the arrests.

" It is added that the arrest of forty voodoo doctors is expected shortly as the result of six years' tracking. It is generally believed that the blood of white girls is sought by the voodoos as being considered by them the most favourable charm against ill."

It is a long cry from Hayti and Cuba to that part of the West Indies which I know best, namely, the British colonies of the Leeward and Windward Islands and their depend- encies which form the main subject of my paper.

As I have already stated, the system of obeah as prac- tised in this part of the world would seem to belong to the milder form of the great cult, and may, with very io-w exceptions, be summed up in the words sorcery or witch- craft. There can be no doubt that for some time past obeah in this form has prevailed in these regions to a very large extent without any serious attempt by the Government authorities to interfere with its practice, so long as it did not amount to any serious crime. But in the last decade public opinion, — stimulated, no doubt, by promptings from the home authorities, — took a m.ore active turn against its practices, and several attempts seem to have been made to bring its perpetrators to book; whilst acts or ordinances, similar in terms, were brought into force in various British colonies with this object in view. It will be easily seen that it must be a very difficult thing in proceedings for obeah to obtain direct evidence of any ofifence owing to the natural unwillingness of the natives who had been implicated in it to give evidence against the obeah man by reason of the fear and awe that he is always held in by all those in his district, and by the dread lest they themselves might suffer the punishment of participators or as aiders and abettors