Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/280

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

270 Obeah in the West Indies.

in what was now considered as a serious criminal offence. So in 1904 an Act was passed by the Legislative Council of the Leeward Islands which made the mere possession of " instruments of obeah " privid facie evidence of guilt against the person in whose possession they were found. Consequently, in all prosecutions for "practising obeah," the mere possession of these " instruments " is now held sufficient to throw upon the defendant the 07iiis of proving that the articles seized were not " instruments of obeah," but were ordinary articles intended for domestic use or for some other unobjectionable purpose. Hence in cases where these articles were fairly numerous there was not much difficulty as a rule in obtaining a conviction.

During the ten years that I was resident in the Leeward Islands several of these cases were brought to my notice, and I took full notes of them in the hope that some day I might be able to weave them into a paper such as I am now offering to the Folk-Lore Society.

It was under these new provisions that the following prosecutions were undertaken, and as they represent three of the most typical and important cases that were tried whilst I was in the West Indies I have thought fit to deal with them at some length.

The first is that of Charles Dolly, who on the i8th August, 1904, at the Court House at Plymouth, in the Presidency of Montserrat, was charged with " practising obeah." From the evidence — of which I had obtained a copy through the kind offices of Serjeant-Major W. E. Wilders of Montserrat, now a Superintendent in the Leeward Islands Police P'orce — it would appear that on the evening of the 12th August the local sergeant of police, accompanied by other officers and armed with a search-warrant, went to Dolly's house and searched the premises.

They found, on entering the living room, a bottle of turpentine, and in a cellar, to which access was afforded by