Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/287

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ObeaJi in the West Indies. 277

of Epsom salts, and of sulphur. Also bottles of carbolic oil and turpentine ; and in the defendant's own chamber a tusk and some asafoetida. In a trunk in that room were found the letters, of which several were made "exhibits" in the case.

It appeared that in the month of May previously an inquest had been held upon the body of a woman named Edwards who had died at the defendant's house. No medical assistance had been called in until she was in a moribund condition, when, as the doctor declined to certify as to the cause of death, an inquest was rendered necessary, at which both the defendant and his wife gave evidence. The post-mortem examination, however, showed that the death resulted from a disease of long standing, and the jury accordingly returned a verdict of death from natural causes.

The coroner, however, seemed to be clearly of opinion that the deceased's presence in Dasent's house was for some illicit purpose, and that it had not been satisfactorily accounted for and was a cause of grave suspicion. From these letters, which came from far and near, and of which I was kindly afforded the opportunity of inspecting, one could easily gather that the defendant had acquired a con- siderable reputation as an obeah man or witch-doctor, both for warding off evil influences and for being able to impose them upon others ; whilst there was not wanting evidence which raised very grave suspicion that still more nefarious practices than mere obeah had been carried on by the defendant with the help of his wife. This case, therefore, was more serious than most of the obeah cases that came up for trial, and fully warranted the strengthening of the law that had recentl}' been introduced in the Leeward Islands.

Nearly all the letters were covered with hieroglyphics in pencil, very similar in character, representing plain short strokes in regular lines, as if scoring in a cricket score-book,