Page:Journal of American Folklore vol. 12.djvu/395

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Readings. 63

the week, unveils to his astonished listeners their antecedents, their family secrets, and gives them thus a high idea of his science.

" Finally the solicitors bring their offerings, which consist of palm-wine, couries, fowls, or sheep ; the fetish fixes a day when he will receive them to give his response. Remarkable answers are cited, which denote much finesse and judgment.

" I will also mention Atia-Yaw, the most important fetish of Okwaou. He was known and feared for leagues about. Up to the time of the arrival of the missionaries, none contested his power, none had the idea of doubt- ing his existence and potency.

" Some affirmed that he was a spirit, others saw in him an animal. These last, for a period, were right ; it is said that during several succes- sive years a gorilla played the part of the fetish. In fact, no one had seen him, none had touched him, except the king or the chiefs, to whom at times he extended a little hand, hairy and unrecognizable, without revealing himself."

This divinity also lived in a cage, where he gave responses, after the manner of Virgil's Sibyl.

" He made, for example, great use of leaves from trees, the different properties of which he had recognized. Sometimes he chewed them, and contrived to produce with them as much smoke as the most furious smoker ; at other times he threw them into a calabash full of water, passed and repassed a leaf of white paper on a burning brazier, soaked it in a calabash, and drew it forth covered with signs which resembled Chinese or Japanese characters, all accompanied with mimicry intended to deceive the public. These characters, professing to be printed, were supposed to give the answer of the fetish to the questions which had been put to him."

The writer shows that the arts of the juggler are employed, that the priest is put to death and brought to life again, that poison is used, and that it is the habit of the fetish to emerge at night.

" Atia-Yaw, however, did not remain confined in his cavern : he allowed himself promenades. Preceded by a forerunner, who announced his ap- proach by means of a shrill whistle, and cried, ' Here is the father ! ' he traversed the town in every direction, and woe to those who encountered him ! A stab, a shot, made them comprehend that it is never well to be curious. He generally arrived at the fall of night, between six and a half and seven in the evening. At such times every one fled into his house and put out his fire, for it was supposed that the fetish could not bear fire. At other times he took malignant pleasure in chasing the inhabitants out of the city to dung-heaps, where they became the victims of the ants con- stantly found there. He presented himself under all sorts of forms. Sometimes he came furious and made every one tremble ; sometimes he tranquilly promenaded the streets, even presented himself before the king and discussed politics, naturally always through the medium of his priest."

M. Perregaux gives an account of the initiation of a candidate to the secret society formed by the priests. This rite, according to the account, includes transfusion of blood, and is supposed to give the power of giving

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