Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/283

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Obeah in the West Indies.


and that the silver should be given in this manner by the obeah man, — if given by any other person it would be useless.

"This in brief," said the Sergeant-Major, "was the information given by one of the most notorious obeah men in the Colony."

In the end Dolly was convicted and was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment, with the addition in his case as he had been three times previously convicted of this offence, of a flogging. The Government had felt bound to introduce this additional punishment in cases of confirmed practitioners in obeah, and in order to act as a deterrent to would-be participants ; for obeah in many cases wears a much more serious aspect, and not all obeah men carry on their profession in the harmless way that Dolly affected was always his practice.

But this deterrent did not seem to have had the desired effect that it was hoped it would have upon Dolly, for a short time before I left the colony he was again in trouble and for the same offence. The easy prey which the credulous and superstitious native always affords to these unscrupulous impostors, and the large gains they sometimes make (I was told that in this last case considerably over £iOO in silver was found in Dolly's house when it was searched by the police) seem to render it almost impossible for them to give up this practice so long as it is such a lucrative one and carries with it the awe and respect which is so dear to this class of persons.

In some of the milder forms of obeah I must confess that I can see little difference between those impostures which still in our supposed higher plane of civilization exercise such influence over the credulous and superstitious of all peoples and of all ages. Our old law characterized such poor fortune-tellers as the gipsy woman as a "rogue and a vagabond," and treated them as such. Those laws still remain in force ; and I for one do not see why they