Abbildungen der Seite

so I was assured that the custom for Sai Quamina, the late king, was celebrated weekly for three months, and that two hundred slaves were sacrificed, and twenty-five barrels of powder tired, each time. But the custom for the present king's mother, who was regent during his absence while in the Fantee war, was the most celebrated. The king himself devoted 3000 victims, upwards of 2000 of whom were Fantee prisoners ; five of the principal towns contributed one hundred slaves, and twenty barrels of powder each, and most of the smaller towns ten, and two barrels of powder."*

The Ashantees say that, at the beginning of the world, God created three black men and three white, with the same number of women, and placed before them a large box or calabash, and a sealed paper. The black men had the privilege of choosing, and they took the box, expecting it contained every thing ; but when they opened it, they found only gold, iron, and other metals, of which they did not know the use. The white men opened the paper, and told them every thing. This happened in Africa, where God left the black men in the bush. The white men he conducted to the water side, where he taught them to build a ship, which carried them to another country. From hence they returned, after a long period, with various merchandize to trade with the black men, who might have been the superior people if they had chosen right.

The kings and governors are believed to dwell with God after death, enjoying to eternity the luxuries and state they possessed on earth ; the paradise of the poor affords only a cessation from labour.

When the Ashantees drink, they spill a little of the liquor on the ground as an offering to the fetish ; and when they rise from their chairs, or stools, their attendants hastily lay the seat on its side, to prevent the devil, or evil spirits, from slipping into their master's place. This evil spirit is supposed to be white ; doubtless from the same motive or feeling which induces Europeans to say that he is black : for, indeed, who would wish to resemble the devil, either in colour or shape, however some of us may not object to a resemblance to him in character.

The religion of the Timmanees and Bulloms at Sierra Leone consists in a belief in the Supreme Author of all things, too good to do harm, therefore not needing to be supplicated ; in a number of inferior mischievous beings, inhabiting rocks,

* Bowditch.

woods, and waters, whose evil intentions they avert by sacrifices, the best part however, of which they eat themselves ; and, inferior to these, is a kind of tutelary spirits, that reside in or near their towns. They imagine that witches when they die, appear again in the form of a pigmy race, like our fairies, and that, divested of their former malignity, they quit their retreats at night and join in the revels of the people.

In the mountains of Sierra Leone, I have seen, says Win. terbottom, many temples erected to the devil, consisting of trunks of trees planted in a circular form, with a roof of branches covered with leaves. In the middle of the circle was a square table, or altar, fitted with offerings ; and the pillars of these rude edifices were ornamented with sacrifices and oblatione.




1. Of the Supreme Being. They acknowledge One Supreme Being, whom they denominate the Great Spirit, or the Master of Life, the Creator and the Governor of the World. He is with them the God of War: his name they invoke as they march. It is the signal to engage, and it is the war-cry in the hottest of the battle.

But, besides the Supreme Being, they believe in an infinite number of subaltern spirits, who are the objects of worship, and whom they divide into good and bad.

It is remarkable, however, that these tuielary deities are not supposed to take men under their protection till something has been done to merit the favour. A parent, wh® wishes to obtain a guardian spirit for his child, first blackens his face, and then causes him to fast for several days. During this time it is expected that the spirit will reveal himself in a dream ; and on this account, the child is anxiously examined every morning with regard to the visions of the preceding night. Whatever the child happens to dream of the most frequently, even if it happen to be the head of a bird, the foot of an animal, or any thing of the most worthless nature, be

comes the symbol or figure under which the Okki reveals himself. With this figure, in the conceptions of his votary, the spirit becomes identified; the image is preserved with the greatest care-is the constant companion on all great and important occasions, and the constant object of consultation and worship.

The practice of blackeping the face and fasting, together with the use of emetics, as a system of religious purification, for the purpose of obtaining a guardian spirit, appears to have existed formerly among the natives of Virginia and New-England ; though the first settlers were not always able to ascertain the real object of the ceremonies which they beheld.

As soon as a child is informed wbat is the nature or form of his protecting deity, he is carefully instructed in the obligations he is under to do him homage-to follow his advice communicated in dreams-to deserve his favours—to confide implicitly in his careand to dread the consequences of his displeasure. For this reason, when the Huron or the Iroquois goes to the battle or to the chase, the image of his okki is as carefully carried with him as his arms. At night, each one places his guardian idol on the palisades surrounding the camp, with the face turned from the quarter to which the warriors, or hunters, are about to march. He then prays to it for an hour, as he does also in the morning before he continues his course. The homage performed, he lies down to rest, and sleeps in tranquillity, fully persuaded that his spirit will assume the whole duty of keeping guard, and that he has nothing to fear.

The following account is given by the Missionaries.-" It happened at one time, when they were engaged in a war with a distant and powerful nation, that a body of their warriors was in the camp, fast asleep, no kind of danger at that moment being apprehended. Suddenly, the great · Sentinel over mankind,' the owl, sounded the alarm; all the birds of the species were alert at their posts, all at once calling out, as if saying : • Up! up! Danger! Danger! Obedient to their call, every man jumped up in an instant ; when, to their surprise, they found that their enemy was in the very act of surrounding them, and they would all have been killed in their sleep, if the owl had not given them this timely warning."

"It is impossible not to remark, that there is a smaller departure from the original religion among the lodians of America than amung the more civilized nations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The idea of the Divine Unity is much more perfectly preserved ; the subordinate divinities are kept at a much more immeasurable distance from the Great Spirit ; and, above all, there has been no attempt among them to degrade to the likeness of men, the invisible and incomprehensible Creator of the universe. In fact, theirs is exactly that milder form of idolatry which prevailed every where from the days of Abraham, his single family excepted,' and which, after the death of that patriarch and of his son Isaac, infected, from time to time, even the chosen famıly itself.

2. The belief of a future state of rewards and punishments, has been kept alive among all heathen nations, by its connexion with the sensible enjoyments and sufferings, and the cunsequent hopes and terrors of men. Its origin must have been in Divine Revelation ; for it is impossible to conceive that the mind could attain to it by its own unaltered powers. The thought, when once communicated, would, in the shipwreck of dissolving nature, be clung to with the grasp of expiring hope Hence no nations have yet been found, however rude and barbarous, who have not agreed in the great and general principle of retributive immortality ; but, when we descend to detail, and inquire into their peculiar notions, we find that their traditions are coloured by the nature of their earthly occupations, and by the opinions which they thence entertain on the subject of good and evil. This remark is fully verified by the history of the American Indians, among whom the belief of the immortality of the soul is mosi firmly established.

They suppose, that when separated from the body, it preserves the same inclinations which it had when both were united. For this reason they bury with the dead all that they had in use when alive. Some imagine that all men have two souls, one of which never leaves the body unless it be to inhabit another. This transmigration, however, is peculiar to the souls of those who die in infancy, and who therefore have the privilege of commencing a second life, because they enjoyed so little of the first. Hence children are buried along the highways, that the women as they pass, may receive their souls. From this idea of their remaining with the body, arises the duty of placing food upon their graves ; and mothers have been seen to draw from their bosoms that nourishment which these little creatures loved when alive, and shed it upon the earth which covered their remains.

When the time has arrived for the departure of those spir its which leave the body, they pass into a region which is destined to be their eternal abode, and which is therefore called the Country of Souls. This country is at a great distance toward the west, and to go thither costs them a journey of many months. They have many difficulties to surmount, and many perils to encounter. They speak of a stream in which many suffer shipwreck ;-of a dog from which they with difficulty defend themselves ;-of a place of suffering where they expiate their faults.

To be put to death as a captive, is therefore, an exclusion from the Indian Paradise : while, on the contrary, to have been a good hunter, brave in war, fortunate in enterprize, and victorious over many enemies, are the only titles to enter their abodes of bliss, the happiness of which depends on the situation and circumstances of their respective tribes or nations. Thus, eternal spring, a never-failing supply of game and fish, and an abundance of every thing that can delight the senses without the labour of procuring it, constitute the paradise of those, who often return weary and hungry from the chase, who are frequently exposed to the inclemencies of a wintry sky, and who look upon all labour as npmanly and degrading employment. On the other hand, the Arrowauks, or natives of Cuba, His wniola, Porto Rico, Jamaica, and Trinidad, place their enjoyments in every thing that is opposite to the violence of a tropical climate; while their fierce enemies, the Charaibes, look forward to a paradise, in which the brave will be attended by their wives and captives.

3. All who have been conversant with the worship of the American tribes, unite in the assertion that they offer sacri. fices and oblations both to the Great Spirit, and also to the subordinate or inferior divinities, to propitiate their protection, or to avert calamity, and also eucharistic sacrifices for success in war. In like manner, sacrifices were offered by all the inhabitants of the West Indies ; and, among these, the Charaibes were accustomed to immolate some of the captives who had been taken in battle. The Mexicans, it is also known, offered human sacrifices : but of this practice there are no traces among the present Indian tribes, unless the tormenting of their captives may be considered as a sacrifice to the god of war.

In some parts of Mexico, not yet brought immediately under the Spanish yoke, it is said, remains of the primitive forms and objects of worship are still preserved. The worship of the Sun, and of figures representing that glorious object, is still here and there to be met with. Picari mentions the Mercury and the Mars of the Mexican as in existence, when his great work was published. The annexed cut may serve to convey some idea of these objects and forms of wor

« ZurückWeiter »