Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/257

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245
EAST CENTRAL AFRICAN CUSTOMS.

curely into the ground at the bottom of the grave, and the body suspended to the bamboo pole is placed in position, the ends of the bamboo resting on the forked sticks, and preventing its touching the ground. A canopy of boughs is then placed over it to prevent the earth falling down on the body, and the grave is filled in as is usual. A slave may be killed to accompany the deceased, but not necessarily. The house occupied by him is burned, and a votive pot placed on its site. Similar pots are also placed on the grave. When the chief of a tribe dies, he is buried in his house, which is not taken down nor burned, and in this case the votive pot is placed outside the door, under the veranda. The personal articles of the deceased—pipes, broken spear, walking-sticks, ornaments, badges of office, charms, and wallet—are placed in the grave, and this seems to be common among all, or almost all, African tribes. When mourning for the dead is concluded, which is after a varying period, there are feasting, drinking, revelry, and a second shaving, after which the dead is forgotten, or at all events seldom or never mentioned except as an ancestor to be worshiped, and then not by name, but by relation—"my father," "my brother," "my chief," "my chief's son," etc.

A man worships the spirits of his own ancestors; a village, those of its departed heads; a tribe, those of its chiefs. The names of great warriors are kept long in remembrance, and we meet with many such whose history, exploits, and country are quite lost, but whose memory tradition preserves as great spirits who are high in rank above ordinary ancestral gods, and on whose will depends the destiny of peoples and the conditions of life as regards plenty or scarcity. This is common to almost all Bantu tribes. Worship takes the form of prayer, offering, and sacrifice. Reference has been made to the manner of human sacrifice, and its frequency among certain tribes is appalling. When the gods are offended, men must die; when hungry, cattle or fowls serve their turn; and when only to be propitiated, as in view of a favor desired, flour or corn is acceptable to them. At great national gatherings—as for rain—the magician, in the priestly character, conducts the sacrifice and the prayers, as also in cases of disaster and national mourning. In connection with rain-making, the chief supplicates his own special god or guardian ancestor. A dance is held in his honor, and the chief throws up water to indicate that he prostrates himself and his people at the spirit's feet, who has the giving or withholding of that for which they pant and die. At times Mpambe (lightning), in the form of a deity of the clouds, is invoked for rain by Yao and Shirwa tribes, but Mullunga, the great spirit—or more properly great ancestor—is the deity to whom men look for help in times of distress and drought. This worship of Mulunga leads to a kind of tribal pantheism in