Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

which she shrunk with terror to the very last. Wretched as was the state of her body, its misery was infinitely surpassed by that of the mind, being dark as night.

On meeting with the Kaffer Chief Botman one day in the latter end of 1829, he very significantly accosted me, saying, "Pray can you tell me why it is that the Amakosæ Chiefs are dying so fast? S'Lhambi is dead; Dushani is dead; and now Gaika is dead. Enño is very ill, and I also am not well. Pray, what is it that is killing us all?" Upon these questions he laid more than ordinary emphasis, and proposed them in such a manner as rendered it manifest that the inquirer was not merely struggling between the love of life and a fear of death, but that he was now altogether doubtful as to the efficacy of those means which, from time immemorial, have constituted the sole reliance of his countrymen in times of trouble. In reply thereto I endeavoured to point out in the plainest and most intelligible manner possible the real and natural causes of disease and death, at the same time showing what were the most probable causes of dissolution in all the three cases he had mentioned. The first of those Chiefs went down to the grave full of years, and of course laden with the infirmities incident to age. The second fell a prey to disease occasioned and fostered principally, if not wholly, by his own imprudence; and Gaika's end was undeniably hastened by vice and dissipation of the most gross description. And yet, shocking to relate, although these things were clear as noon-day, many human lives were wantonly sacrificed at the shrine of superstition, under charges of witchcraft.

The last mentioned Chief, who in his life-time had by such means sacrificed hundreds of his people, constituted, at the close of his pagan career, a most awful instance of the dreadful power of delusion: its influence seemed to grow stronger and stronger upon him, as he himself became weaker. When greatly reduced, and consciously

sinking under the virulence of his disorder, he mustered, in the service of the powers of darkness, all the remaining strength he had, but would not listen to a single word respecting God or the eternal world. On hearing the name of Christ mentioned by Mr. C., who visited him just before he died, he instantly requested him to say no more upon that subject. Like the heathen Kings of ancient days, "in his disease he sought not unto the Lord, but to his physicians,"-to the wizards and soothsayers; and to them only would he lend an ear. These were repeatedly assembled; and when able, he danced before them most immoderately, and oft-times until completely exhausted, in the hope of thereby rendering their incantations effectual. As usual, their orgies terminated in deeds of blood. When he was at the very point of entering the regions of death, his own son, treading in the aged sire's steps, laid violent hands upon one of his father's most favourite wives, and without any ceremony whatever, or the least sign of compunction, deliberately killed her upon the spot. It will naturally be asked, Why? Because, having always been allowed, in consequence of his extraordinary attachment to her, the peculiar privilege of eating out of the same dish with her husband, it was supposed that she had used some evil enchantment, which was now proving fatal to his existence. This conclusion, formed on conjectural grounds only, was deemed abundantly sufficient to warrant her immediate execution. So precarious is the tenure of life where Paganism is predominant. Facts of this appalling description render it indubitably evident that, although these African tribes do not professedly erect their altars, and kindle their fires, in the name of Moloch; nor yet, like the Hindoos, cast the living wife upon the funeral pile of her dead husband; the same degenerate and devilish principle exists alike in all, and only requires established custom, and general usage, to bring it out in exactly the same way.



The young ruffian just mentioned, on a previous occasion, but with the very same kind of pretext, arrested one of his father's counsellors, and coolly murdered him in a manner almost too shocking to describe. To make sure of his victim, he repaired to the place of his residence at night, accompanied by several of his men, who were all armed with spears and bludgeons: having awakened and called the poor man out of his hut, he informed him that they were going in pursuit of a person who had injured the King, and that his assistance was immediately required. The summons was no sooner served than obeyed; for whatever suspicious fears the poor fellow might have in his own bosom, respecting the real design of the young Chieftain and his troop, dared not to manifest them. This done, they led him directly back to the place whence they came, and the following day accused him of having, in some way or other, unknown to any one but himself, exercised a baneful influence upon the health of Gaika. Hereupon he was arraigned before a savage tribunal, by which his death had been predetermined because he was rich. His cattle were forthwith taken; his person scorched from head to foot after which they tauntingly told him to look up at the sun, as it was the last time he would ever be permitted to see it. He was then led away to a neighbouring tree, made to sit down with his back against the trunk, and with a strong thong slowly strangled. How strikingly do these things demonstrate the truth and force of St. Paul's truly accurate description of the fallen children of men : "Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes!" Rom. iii. 13-18.


Polygamy a source of many evils—Marriage Ceremonies— Victims of Superstition-Distressing Situation of the Dying Customs respecting the Dead-Chiefs interred in Cattle-folds-Graves guarded-Change of ancient Usages, -An affecting Scene-Death by Cobra de Capella-Mourning for the Dead-Hard lot of the Widow-Traces of Jewish Rites-Cases of Uncleanness-Sacrifices-Destructive effects of Lightning―The Gospel intolerable to Sorcerers-Issivivani.

POLYGAMY forms one of the grand barriers of Paganism in almost every part of Africa, and in no part is it more freely allowed than in Caffraria. It ranks amongst the most formidable obstacles with which the Gospel has to contend, and constitutes a prolific source of many other evils. We are informed that the Roman Catholic Missionaries, who were sent to the capital of Congo, in the year 1490, were favourably received until they "proceeded to enforce upon their sable disciples the necessity of some moral restrictions in the matter of polygamy; the monarch in disgust then renounced a creed so intolerable, and returned with all his nobles to Paganism." " * By the Chiefs this abominable practice is carried to an incredible extent. Independently of the great number of women whom they regularly acknowledge as wives, their concubinage is altogether unlimited; for whenever the Kaffer monarch hears of a young woman possessing more than ordinary beauty, and at all within his reach, he un

* Modern Traveller, vol. iii. p. 21.

ceremoniously sends for her or fetches her himself; nor does any one dare to question the propriety of his conduct. Seldom or never does any young girl, residing in his immediate neighbourhood, escape defilement after attaining the age of puberty. Indeed, numbers of these poor children may often be seen about the habitations of the Chiefs, where they are kept for the very basest of purposes. Punthla, or rape, is also one of the common abominations of the land, and is sometimes punished with a fine of two or three head of cattle, but more frequently escapes unnoticed.

The ancient custom of espousing, or betrothing, almost universally prevails amongst the inland tribes, Boochuanas, &c., but it is by no means general among the Amakosæ. I am not indeed acquainted with a single instance of the kind; but have, nevertheless, been told that this practice is adopted sometimes. The matrimonial bond, which, in Christian countries, is held so sacred, is here rendered a mere commercial contract; the women being invariably sold in marriage. The common price is from five to ten head of cattle; but the Chiefs in procuring wives of high lineage are not unfrequently obliged to give five or six times that number. In all cases, however, as remarked by Barrow, "when an offer is made for the purchase of a daughter, she feels little inclination to refuse. She considers herself as an article in the market, and is neither surprised nor unhappy," apparently, "nor interested on being told that she is about to be disposed of. There is no previous courtship, no exchange of fine sentiments, no nice feelings, nor little kind attentions, which catch the affections, and attach the heart."

In the course of one of my Missionary excursions, in the month of May, 1826, I came to a small hamlet, at which the natives were celebrating a marriage-feast. The head man of the umzi, who appeared to be near seventy years of age, was about adding another wife to the number he already

« AnteriorContinuar »