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structures, due to the frequent changing of the farms and half-towns.

As a rule the houses contain two rooms, and sometimes more, and when there is more than one wife there is a house for each wife. Aside from the cooking utensils there may be seen in the kitchen the rice fanners, cloth weavers, a few chairs and a hammock and the fire-hearth. In the other room used for bedroom are chairs and a bed of bamboo, wooden trunks, water pots made of clay, a rattan line for the hanging up of clothes or bamboo rack, country mats and country cloths or blankets. On the whole the towns of the Vais are kept very clean and are noticeably superior in sanitary conditions to those of neighboring tribes.


The "Devil Bush" is one of the most important institutions among the Vais, indeed of most of the tribes in West Africa. It is but one of many others whose social functions differ in form, but whose ultimate aim and purpose are one. Among the various tribes it is known by different names, but its mission and principles are substantially the same. It has been the observation of the writer for nearly ten years that most of the social institutions of West African natives tend to strengthen authority and to render government less difficult, and this is especially true of the "Devil Bush," " deriving this name from Europeans because of the public appearance of representatives of the institution dressed and masked as devils.

The "Devil Bush" is a secret organization, and its operations are carried on in an unknown place. The penalty for divulging its secrets is said to be death. It is exceedingly difficult to ascertain much information concerning the inner workings of this society.

The head of the society we call a "Country Devil." He has sole power and is assisted by other members of the tribe versed in the principles of the organization. The society meets in what are called sessions, varying from three to ten years. It admits males alone between the ages of seven and

fifty. When the organization is in session, under the penalty of death, no one is allowed to visit the scene of its workings. The paramount aim of this institution is to prepare the young and to drill the old for the great ends of African life. More definitely stated instruction is given in (1) the industrial trades, (2) native warfare, (3) religious duties, (4) tribal laws and customs, (5) and the social arts.

While great stress is placed upon the secrets of the society its chief function is educational as a great political and social sanction. In the application of its principles there is no respect of person or rank. The bow and arrow is called the Vai alphabet. Every morning the small boys are first taught to use skillfully this weapon. In addition they are taught to throw the spear and wield the sword. In the afternoon they are taken on a jaunt for small game, and later are given practice in target shooting and throwing the spear. After supper they take up singing and dancing and their duties to their gods. To the latter a certain portion of their meals is said to be offered. Each is given the sacrificial ceremony; and they clap, dance, and sing their songs of praise.

When the boys have attained a certain advancement, among other things they have sham battles, with 150 or 200 boys on a side. A district is given to one side to be captured by the other. Each side has a captain and much stress is laid upon the display of bravery. Sometimes the contests assume aspects of reality. When one side repulses the other six times it is said to be victorious.

The next stage involves the teaching of the actual methods. employed in the higher forms of native warfare. The most difficult feat in native war is the taking of strongly fortified and barricaded towns. Where the town to be taken is defended with shot and powder, the attacking party builds a barricade around the town in a siege to cut off all communication and supplies. When thus weakened the town is attacked at some advantageous moment. If repulsed they reattack the town and storm the barricades on a dark and rainy night when the loud thundering renders their approach unheard. Beside teaching the above method of taking towns another is taught. The attacking party is arranged around a town

four or five miles distant. A small band is sent to make the attack, with the understanding that they are to pretend to be frightened and flee. It is supposed that the smallness of their numbers will entice the warriors of the town to follow; and when attaining a certain distance they are surrounded and taken by an unexpected force.

And still another method is taught to take a town. As a friend a man is sent into the town desired to be taken. Sometimes more than one are sent. Late at night when all have retired save those on guard at the gates, these emissaries kill the sentinel at a certain gate and permit the attacking army to enter the town without the warning of the guards. Each man is supposed to take a house, and when the various warriors have seized the supplies and are ready for battle, the war cry is sounded, and as the men are fleeing for safety, amid the roar and excitement of the hour, they are pierced with spears and cut to pieces with swords wielded by warriors from unexpected quarters. It is natural in such a confused contest in the dark that some women and children should be killed, but the custom is to spare them. The leaders who escape death are afterwards executed; the women, men and children are held as slaves. And generally the town is burned to the ground.

In addition to war methods taught, the boys are taught the civil and military laws governing the Vai people. Every Vai man must know the law. And as the penalties for violating the laws covering military expeditions are so severe, the customs and laws relating thereto are of paramount importance to every Vai man.

Seldom accompanying it, the king is the commander-inchief of the army. Before hostilities are declared and the first assault made, a challenge is sent to the enemy. The man who takes the challenge as a rule does not return; but the challenge is returned with either defiance or good will. After a battle the soldiers are reviewed by the king who executes those guilty of offenses and commends those distinguished for their bravery. On the day appointed by him to receive the chief, the prisoners are brought to be dealt with according to the decree of the king. No nobleman may be

reduced to slavery; he is usually put to death. The king executes a captured king. The following evening all engage in the glee and merriment of the war dance.

The members of the "Devil Bush" are not only taught everything pertaining to practical war, but they are taught hunting as well. After learning how to capture the small game they then take up the larger and more dangerous animals like the leopard, elephant and the buffalo. What the Africans call a real hunt requires about a month in preparation at hard work. The boys dig a large pit and surround the ends and sides with the trunks of large trees. With the pit at the apex, in triangular form two fences are built about a mile long, sometimes more or less, and with a like distance between the two outer extremities. The surrounding country is encircled by the hunters and the animals are driven into the pit. The smaller animals are eaten and the larger ones are sent to the king. As the valuable skins are preserved, the boys are taught to skin animals neatly. The ivories belong to the king, and various small horns are kept for fetiches and amulets. These hunts are usually accompanied with singing and dancing, after the cooking and eating of the game.

There are many other things taught in the "Devil Bush," and some of the things to which reference has been made, under Liberian and European influences, have receded into the interior and others yet have been discontinued altogether. There is another organization called "Allebigah." This is purely a secret lodge and has extensive influence among West African tribes. The chief object of this lodge is to protect the individual member, and it is said that it will protect at all hazards. This society has lodges among the Vai, Mandingo, Kpwesi, Buni, Bandi, Bere, Gizima, Gora, and Dé tribes and discharges the functions of our ordinary secret societies.


The "Greegree Bush" is a society for the training of girls for future life, just as the "Devil Bush" is for boys. It has obtained this name from a little red poisonous berry, from

which a medicine is made, and which is placed in a little horn and worn around the neck of every girl in the institution. It is death for a man to be found within the limits of this society whatever may be his motive. The sessions of the organization are held near some town, yet few in that town know the exact place. No one is permitted to approach the scene. It is said that the "Greegree Bush" begins when a girl who has not been in it pours water upon the head of the Zo who is generally in all of the towns. Those who have been in the Bush catch the candidate and hold her, and send word to all the neighboring towns that a "Greegree Bush" is to be organized at once.

The organization is under the direction of a Zo and a Zo-Nockba. The Zo is the owner of the Bush and she comes to town for the Greegree plays. The Zo-Nockba is the one versed in the art of training the girls in the aim and principles of the society and during plays remains therein. The Bush is in session from three to seven years and may be less. Upon the death of the king or Zo the Bush always breaks up. The attendants may be anywhere from 5 to 200. Girls are usually admitted at from six to eight years of age, although women may be admitted. A native woman is never considered much or highly respected unless she has been in this institution. At the time of entrance, a little horn with medicine and some little red berries, is placed upon the necks of the girls. If a girl violates her virginity while this horn in on her neck, she is tied facing the violator, and both are stripped naked and whipped publicly in the town, and must pay a large fine before they may be released. At one time the penalty was death to both, and it is still death if the girl is in the Bush.

When the Bush is over, early in the morning, the Zo removes from the necks of the maids the little horns; for as long as worn they cannot marry, nor must they be violated by any man. The expense of the Bush is borne by the parents who have children there. Women are not allowed to look upon the "Country Devil." He is hideously dressed in a long gown; has a wooden head with silver stripes around the eyes, shoes on the feet, and many native additions to make his appear

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