« ForrigeFortsæt »
fellow-tribesmen. A few examples may be given of these advantages, on which the authority of the priesthood greatly depends. Respecting the priests of New Zealand we learn: — »As they spent much of their time in intellectual, exercise they were consequently the most intelligent body of men in the country, and, like the monks in the dark ages, they engrossed all the learning the people possessed.» 1 The Ambati, or priests, of the Fijians »are generally the most shrewd and intelligent members of the community.» 2 In New Caledonia the priests are said to be of a superior intelligence, which they make use of in exploiting the credulity of the people, 3 a statement which is also made concerning the priests of the Gold Coast natives. 4 Among the Badagas, one of the hill tribes of the Neilgherries, the priests » are the only class who have preserved the art of reading and writing, the fathers communicating to their sons the little knowledge they themselves inherited from their parents.» 5 The Fuegian doctor-wizard is said to be one of the most cunning, as well as the most deceitful of his tribe,» 6 and the same applies to the Angakoks of the Greenlanders.?
It is frequently reported that the priests distinguish themselves from the rest of the people by a more or less considerable knowledge of certain natural phenomena, by means of which they secure the popular confidence in their powers. The fetish-men of the Ashantee apply
1 Thomson, The Story of New Zealand, i. 116.
3 Vieillard and Deplanchie, ’Nouvelle-Calédonie,' in Revue Maritime et Coloniale, vi. 76.
* Bell, The Gold Coast Settlement, p. 21.
The Tribes inhabiting the Neilgherry Hills, p. 52. 6 Fitzroy, Surveying Voyages of Adventure ant Beagle, ii. 178. ? Nansen, Eskimolir, pp. 239 sq.
themselves »to the study of medicine; and the knowledge which they acquire of the properties of herbs and plants ------ powerfully contributes to strengthen their influence with the people.» 1 Of the Olricha, or priest, of the Slave Coast natives M. Bouche writes, »il a étudié les recettes de remèdes, poisons et contre-poisons que chaque caste conserve cachées et dont la connaissance donne une certaine superiorité sur le vulgaire ignorant.» 2 In a similar passage we read that the priests of the Tshi-speaking peoples, amongst other things, »study sleight-of-hand, and, it is said, ventriloquism; while they have acquired a knowledge of the medicinal properties of various herbs which materially assists them in the maintenance of their imposture.» 3 The witch-doctors of the Bafiote in Congo are said to have a rather extensive knowledge of the medical use of plants found in their country. On account of their great practical knowledge of the meteorology of their native land the rain-makers of the Hottentots pretend to have power over the clouds and to bind or loose them. 5 The rain-makers of the Kafirs not improbably » possess some weather-wisdom, the result of their ancestors' observation, by means of which they are able to choose a promising season for the exercise of their vocation.» 6 The system of the Manang, or medicine-man, of the Dyaks »is based upon superstition and imposture, supplemented with a smattering of herbalism.» ? In Tahiti the priests »are superior to the
1 Beecham, Ashanter, p. 192.
+ Chavanne, Reisen und Forschungen im alten und neuen Kongostaate, p. 411.
6 Hahn, The Supreme Being of the Khoi-Khoi, p. 83.
rest of the people in the knowledge of navigation and astronomy, and indeed the name of Tahowa (priest) signifies nothing more than a man of knowledge.»We are told that the doctors of the Araucanians possess a knowledge of anatomy extraordinary in a barbarous people, and that the liver of a deceased person, dissected and examined by them, is supposed to indicate whether the death has resulted from natural causes or has been occasioned by some evildoer. 2 Some of the Eskimo shamans are superior hunters, and as their experience teaches them the habits of the deer, they are able to estimate the movements of the various herds. The reputation of such men extends over a wide area. 3
We frequently read that the priests, in order to maintain the faith of the people in their prophetic powers, collect all kinds of information, and whatever they learn in this way they ostentatiously foretell as future events. In many cases they are also said to act in collusion with each other, in keeping the people under their influence. To take examples. The Ashantee fetish-men are known by various means to acquire such an amount of information as serves to astonish their dupes and to strengthen the belief in their powers. 4 The priests of the Tshi-speaking peoples, also, are said to gather all the information concerning the past history of every family so as to be able to amaze those who come to consult them. 5 And »as the priests are all in league to deceive and impose upon the people, they usually take care to keep each other well informed upon such matters, so that it is a
1 Cook, An Account of a Voyage round the World, Hawkesworth's Ed. ii. 240.
2 Smith, Araucanians, pp. 234, 236.
3 Turner, 'Ethnology of the Ungava District, Hudson Bay Territory,' in Smithsonian Reports, xi. 196.
4 Beecham, Ashantee, p. 191.
rare occurrence for the utterances of one to disagree with those of another.» 1 Much of the authority and power wielded by the fetish priests among the natives of the Gold Coast is attributed to »the gigantic system of espionage or detective service, so to speak, which they have established everywhere.» 2 Cruickshank describes in the following manner the proceedings by which the Gold Coast priests endeavour to propagate popular belief in themselves and in the power of the fetish: — » They have messengers continually passing from one to another, giving information of what is going on; what parties are likely to come to consult them, on what subject, and generally on every matter which is at all likely to be of use to a brother priest in managing the affair. One Fetishman will acknowledge that his Fetish will not give any information upon the special subject; but commands the persons applying to him to go to another Fetishman, whom he names, and to whom he has, in the meantime, communicated all the particulars of the affair. When application is made to this priest, the applicant is astonished perhaps to find the Fetishman perfectly conversant with the cause of his visit, even before he has opened his mouth upon the subject; and notwithstanding such gross cases of collusion, the stupid idolater can see nothing in it but a confirmation of the extraordinary power of the Fetish.» 3 The conjurors of the Abipones are » furnished with a thousand arts of deceiving. Suppose they have heard from some savage visitant that an enemy is coming to attack the horde; this knowledge they will boast of to their hordesmen as if it had been revealed to them by their grandfather (the devil), thus acquiring the reputation of prophets.» 4
1 Ellis, Tshi-speaking Peoples, pp. 126 sq.
» Most of their tricks,» says Bancroft with reference to 'the sorcerers of the Nootkas, »are transparent, being deceptions worked by the aid of confederates to keep up their power.» ?
When the priests exercise the precarious art of prophecy, great significance is attributed to their utterances. Hence we often hear that on such occasions they take care that their predictions shall prove true, by making them sufficiently ambiguous or uncertain to admit of a variety of interpretations. Such a method is ascribed, for instance, to the priests of the Tshi-speaking peoples. 2 And the priests of the Gold Coast natives, too, Bosman says, give their counsels »with such a cautious reserve, that if it turns out contrary to expectation, they never want an excuse to bring themselves off. --- Let the Event prove how it will, the Priest is infallibly Innocent, and his Character always maintains its own Reputation.» 3. The doctors of the Araucanians tell the nature of a malady, by answering the questions of the relations of the sick person in such a manner as they believe best calculated to promote the deception, either by naming some enemiy as the cause of the malady or by expressing themselves doubtfully as to the success of their incantations. On consulting the spirits, the witches of the Abipones give their replies in so vague a form »that whatever happens they may seem to have predicted the truth.» 5 A Waraus sorcerer who is interrogated concerning the nature and causes of a malady, delivers a very ambiguous. answer in the beginning of the illness. 6 Among the
1 Bancroft, Works, i. 202.