Abbildungen der Seite

for supper: after which a dispute arose between one of the Serawoolli Negroes and Johnson, my interpreter, about the sheep's horns. The former claimed the horns as his perquisite, for having acted the part of our butcher, and Johnson contested the claim. I settled the matter by giving a horn to each of them. This trifling incident is mentioned as introductory to what follows: for it appeared on inquiry that these horns were highly valued, as being easily convertible into portable sheaths, or cases, for containing and keeping secure certain charms or amulets called saphies, which the Negroes constantly wear about them. These saphies are prayers or rather sentences, from the Koran, which the Mahomedan priests write on scraps of paper, and sell to the simple natives, who consider them to possess very extraordinary virtues. Some of the Negroes wear them to guard themselves against the bite of snakes or alligators; and on this occasion the saphie is commonly inclosed in a snake's or alligator's skin, and tied round the ancle. Others have recourse to them in time of war, to protect their persons against hostile weapons ; but the common use to which these amulets are applied is to prevent or cure bodily diseases ; to preserve from hunger and thirst; and generally to conciliate the favour of superior powers under all the circumstances and occurrences of life.*

In this case it is impossible not to admire the wonderful contagion of superstition ; for, notwithstanding that the majority of the Negroes are Pagans, and absolutely reject the doctrines of Mahomet, I did not meet with a man, whether a Bushreen or Kafir, who was not fully persuaded of the powerful efficacy of these amulets. The truth is, that all the patives of this part of Africa consider the art of writing as bordering on magic; and it is not in the doctrines of the prophet, but in the arts of the magician, that their confidence is placed. It will hereafter be seen that I was myself lucky enough, in circumstances of distress, to turn the popular credulity in this respect to good account.

* I believe that similar charms or amulets under the names of domini, grigri, fetich, &c. &c. are common in all parts of Africa.

On the 7th I departed from Konjour, and slept at a village called Malla (or Mallaing); and on the 8th about noon I arrived at Kolor, a considerable town; near the entrance into which I observed, hanging upon a tree, a sort of masquerade habit, made of the bark of trees, which I was told on enquiry belonged to MUMBO JUMBO. This is a strange bugbear, common to all the Mandingo towns, and much employed by the Pagan natives in keeping their women in subjection ; for as the Kafirs are not restricted in the number of their wives, every one marries as many as he can conveniently maintain ; and as it frequently happens that the ladies disagree among themselves, family quarrels sometimes rise to such a height, that the authority of the husband can no longer preserve peace in his household. In such cases the interposition of Mumbo Jumbo is called in, and is always decisive.

. This strange minister of justice (who is supposed to be either the husband himself, or some person instructed by him), disguised in the dress that has been mentioned, and armed with the rod of public authority, announces his coming (whenever his services are required) by loud and dismal screams in the woods near the town. He begins the pantomime at the approach of night; and as soon as it is dark he enters the town, and proceeds to the Bentang, at which all the inhabitants immediately assemble.

It may easily be supposed that this exhibition is not much relished by the women ; for as the person in disguise is entirely unknown to them, every married female suspects that the visit may possibly be intended for herself; but they dare not refuse to appear when they are summoned ; and the ceremony commences with songs and dances, which continue till midnight, about wbich time Mumbo fixes on the offender. This unfortunate victim being thereupon immediately seized, is stripped naked, tied to a post, and severely scourged with Mumbo's rod, amidst the shouts and derision of the whole assembly; and it is remarkable, that the rest of the women are the loudest in their exclamations on this occasion against their unhappy sister. Daylight puts an end to this indecent and uumanly revel.

December 9th. As there was no water to be procured on the road, we travelled with great expedition until we reached Tambaconda ; and departing from thence early the next morning, the 10th, we reached in the evening Kooniakary, a town of nearly the same magnitude as Kolor. About noon on the 11tb we arrived at Koojar, the frontier town of Woolli, towards Bondou, from which it is separated by an intervening wilderness of two day's journey.

The guide appointed by the king of Woolli being now to return, I presented him with some amber for his trouble: and having been informed that it was not possible at all times to procure water in the Wilderness, I made enquiry for men who would serve both as guides and water-bearers during my journey across it. Three Negroes, elephant-hunters, offered

their services for these purposes, which I accepted, and paid them three bars each in advance, and the day being far spent, I determined to pass the night in my present quarters.

The inhabitants of Koojar, though not wholly unaccustomed to the sight of Europeans (most of them having occasionally visited the countries on the Gambia) beheld me with a mixture of curiosity and reverence, and in the evening invited me to see a neobering, or wrestling match at the Bentang. This is an exhibition very common in all the Mandingo countries. The spectators arranged themselves in a circle, leaving the intermediate space for the wrestlers, who were strong active young men, full of emulation, and accustomed I suppose from their infancy to this sort of exertion. Being stripped of their clothing, except a short pair of drawers, and having their skin anointed with oil, or shea butter, the combatants approached each other on all fours, parrying with, and occasionally extending a hand for some time, till at length one of them sprang forward, and caught bis rival by the knee. Great dexterity and judgment were now displayed; but the contest was decided by superior strength; and I think that few Europeans would have been able to cope with the conqueror.

It must not be unobserved that the combatants were animated by the music of a drum, by which their actions were in some measure regulated.

The wrestling was succeeded by a dance, in which many performers assisted, all of whom were provided with little bells, which were fastened to their legs and arms; and here too the drum regulated their motions. It was beaten with a crooked stick, which the drummer held in his right hand, occasionally using his left to deaden the sound, and thus vary the music. The drum is likewise applied on these occasions to keep order among the spectators, by imitating the sound of certain Mandingo sentences:

sentences: for example, when the wrestling match is about to begin, the drummer strikes what is understood to signify ali be see,-sit all down ; upon

which the spectators immediately seat themselves; and when the combatants are to begin, he strikes amuta amuta,—take hold, take hold.

In the course of the evening I was presented, by way of refreshment, with a liquor which tasted so much like the strong beer of my native country (and very good beer too,) as to induce me to inquire into its composition ; and I learnt, with some degree of surprise, that it was actually made from corn which had been previously malted, much in the same manner as barley is malted in Great Britain : a root yielding a grateful bitter, was used in lieu of hops, the name of which I have forgot: but the corn which yields the wort, is the holcus spicatus of botanists.

Early in the morning (the 12th,) I found that one of the elephant-hunters had absconded with the money he had received from me in part of wages; and in order to prevent the other two from following his example, I made them instantly fill their calabashes (or gourds) with water, and as the sun rose I entered the Wilderness that separates the kingdoms of Woolli and Bondou.

We had not travelled more than a mile before my attendants insisted on stopping that they might prepare a saphie, or charm, to insure us a safe journey. This was done by muttering a few sentences, and spitting upon a stone, which was thrown before us on the road. The same ceremony was



« ZurückWeiter »