Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/260

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the forest, carrying them off in their march to the corn-fields, to cast them aside when the work of depredation began.

If man's origin can be satisfactorily accounted for, his destiny is shrouded in impenetrable gloom. All spirits live, nor can they be killed; but how employed or what country they inhabit is known to no one. It is true a man's ancestors watch over his life, and the chief's ancestors guard the honor of the tribe, but beyond this all is uncertainty and doubt.[1] A man's spirit is not at his grave, though it may be met there; it is not at his old home, but still it sees the offerings placed in the votive pot. It does not inhabit his son's house, though he can not cut his nails or trim his hair without his father's eye being upon him; and should he fail to bury the clippings of his nails or to burn the produce of the barber's shears, he may expect to be reminded of it in the most unpleasant manner. Nor is it a man's own actions alone that come under the cognizance and censorship of his father's ghost. Should his wife, while he is on a journey, anoint herself with the oil or fat in daily use, she will not only suffer herself, but bring calamity upon her husband; should she dream during his absence, she must offer a private gift for herself and the absent one. So far the wishes of spirits are known, but how they employ themselves in the spirit land, and what are the mutual relations between them, has never been told. A chief remains such in virtue of his office, but as to the relations between rival chiefs and old enemies, "the people who are here do not know; it never was known, for they never told."

Turning from speculations regarding creation, life, and death to the daily concerns of this world, we meet with a number of very curious minor customs and institutions among the Yao and allied tribes. One of these is that of surety, or what we might call Godparent. Every girl has a surety, and when her hand is sought in marriage it is this official who is approached, and not her parents. He makes the necessary arrangements, and sees what provision is to be made for her and her children, should she have any; and also, in the event of her being sent away without just cause, how she is to be supported and cared for. When a free wife—for this institution applies only to free women—is dismissed, she returns to her surety, and he redresses her wrongs, and makes such adjustments as the circumstances admit of.

In the ordinary conduct of affairs, domestic and public, women have no voice; everything is regulated by the men, who may be said to sit perpetually in council. A Yao woman, asked if the

  1. The following customs are gleaned from notes and references by missionaries in the Nyassa and Tanganyika Lake regions, no particular tribes being named. The customs seem common.