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DEMONS IN AFRICA


On the coast of Malabar, in Canara alone, are 4041 temples to evil spirits, besides 3,682 to other gods. Here, in the very heart of the East Indies, men worship demons as deities. Evil spirits have for centuries been held in homage by all classes of Hindus except Brahmans. Even the lowest cast—that of slaves—has been believed to have power to let loose the evil demons upon men, and exorcists have been employed with noisy native drums, charms, and incantations, to drive out the evil spirit. Here is a whole community living in terror of demons, and demons, let loose by slaves, to be bound again only the charms of a conjurer.


We go down to the fetish worshipers of Africa and we find among these most degraded tribes almost precisely similar superstitions. Evil spirits are the terror of the sable sons of Africa. Any plague or pestilence among men or cattle, any blight upon crops, any drought upon streams, calamity of any form, must be attributed to this source: Somebody is possessed; witchcraft is at work.


The medicine man is called in. Some innocent party is tainted with suspicion; the casca draught must be taken. If it acts as an emetic, the party is innocent; if as a cathartic, he is guilty and must be drowned or burned; and as the medicine man knows that whether the poison will act as an emetic or cathartic depends on the strength of the draught, human life is absolutely in his hands and at his mercy. Any man or woman whom it is desired to put out of the way, may thus be sacrificed to the jealousy of malice or hate of any designing foe.


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