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Chapter 10: The Worship of Earth in Africa

The Worship of the Sky eclipsed by the worship of the Earth in some tribes of Western Africa.

The Bobos: their worship of the Earth conducted by a religious chief called the Chief of the Earth.

Dislike of the Earth-goddess to see blood flowing.

IN dealing with the worship of the sky in Western Africa we saw that in certain tribes of that region the divinity of the Sky is to some extent overshadowed and eclipsed by that of the Earth, who ranks as a still higher deity.1 This holds good in particular of a group of tribes in Upper Senegal or the French Sudan, within the great bend of the Niger. Among them the Bobos inhabit the plain in the Mossi-Gurunsi country, to the east of the Black Volta river. They subsist mainly by agriculture, cultivating especially various sorts of millet2 As a rule, they till a patch of land for five years, then abandon it, and obtain fresh ground for tillage either by cutting down the virgin forest or by clearing away the trees and shrubs that have grown up on old fallows.3 In every Bobo village there is generally, in addition to the village chief, a religious chief who bears the title of Chief of the Earth and is charged with the duty of offering sacrifices to the Earth and to the other local deities. He has no political authority and in that respect is subject to the village chief; but he is the necessary mediator between the people and the gods, and when he dies he is succeeded in his office by his son.4 Like the other tribes of this region, the Bobos regard the Earth as a great and formidable deity who avenges breaches of the moral law. In particular he or rather she (for the sex of the deity appears to be feminine) dislikes to see human blood flowing and is offended when it is spilt Hence when a murder has taken place or a simple wound involving bloodshed has been inflicted, it becomes necessary to appease the angry deity by sacrifice, which is offered either by the Chief of the Earth or, where there is no such priestly authority, by the chief of the village. The culprit furnishes the victim or victims, it may be a goat, a sheep, a dog, or fowls, or several of these different sorts of creatures. After being offered to the Earth the flesh of the victims is consumed by the chief and the village elders. The wounded person or the family of the murdered man gets nothing, because the intention of the rite is not to compensate the wronged at the expense of the wrong-doer, but to pacify the anger of the Earth at the sight of bloodshed. But if an assault has not involved the shedding of blood, nothing is done, no atonement is needed.5 In other tribes of this region the victims sacrificed to the Earth to pacify her wrath at bloodshed are usually oxen, one or more in number.6 The place of sacrifice may be either the sacred grove or the holy place in the middle of the village.7

The communal houses (sukala) of the Hobos.

But sacrifices are offered by the Bobos to the Earth on many other occasions. The people live in large communal houses, massively constructed of beaten earth so as to present the appearance externally of fortresses. Each such communal house, called a sukala, is inhabited by the members of a single family in the larger sense of the word, including married sons, married brothers, the sons of married brothers, and so forth. The daughters at marriage quit the parental dwelling, but are replaced in it by the wives of the married sons. The head of the family presides as chief over the communal house. When the house becomes too small to lodge the growing family, it is enlarged; or, if that is not possible on account of the proximity of other houses, the younger brother of the head of the family goes away, taking some of the overflowing household with him, and settles in a new communal house elsewhere. Each of these family dwellings or fortresses usually stands by itself, at an interval of one or two hundred yards from its next neighbour, and the ground about each is planted with maize, hemp, and other plants with long stalks, so that in the rainy season every house is surrounded by a compact mass of lofty verdure, above which its massive walls rise like cliffs from a green sea. At that time of the year all the members of the household, whether married or not, work together on the family fields from early morning till late afternoon, with an interval of about three hours for rest and refreshment in the heat of the day.8

Sacrifices at sowing and harvest to the ancestral spirits and to a tree which represents the Earth and the Forest.

At the time of sowing the head of the family offers a sacrifice to the ancestral spirits in order that they may make the seed to sprout. The sacrifice is performed either at the door of the communal dwelling (sukala) or on the grave of the last head of the family. But in addition he offers a sacrifice to a great tree in the field. This tree represents both the Earth and the Forest; for in the mind of the black man these two great and mighty deities are practically fused into one, and the sacrifice offered to them in the form of the tree is intended to ensure their favour for the sowing. The victims presented to them and to the ancestral spirits on this occasion are fowls. At harvest some Bobos always sacrifice a fowl and millet flour to the ancestral spirits and the great tree as a thank-offering to the spirits and to the Earth for their bounty. Others, more cautious or economical, consult a diviner as to whether it is necessary to testify their gratitude to the higher powers in this fashion. If the sage says yes, they sacrifice the animal which he prescribes, it may be a sheep, a goat, or a fowl, to the ancestral spirits to thank them for having caused the crop to grow; for dwelling underground they can make the seed to sprout, and without their goodwill the earth would remain barren. The sacrifice is appropriately offered on the grave of the last head of the family dwelling (sukala). Thus we see the close relation which subsists between the divinity of the ancestors and the divinity of the Earth.9 If there is a Chief of the Earth in the village, it is he who offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving after harvest; if not, the duty devolves on the chief of the village. The season of the harvest is November or December.10

Sacrifices to the Forest, when fires are kindled in it.

At the same time the Bobos sacrifice to the Forest, because at this season they burn the grass and kindle fires in the forest as a preparation for hunting, in order that he hunters may not be stung by serpents, devoured by leopards or lions, or incur other mishaps. The sacrifice, consisting of a fowl or a goat, is offered by the Chief of the Earth or the Chief of the Forest near the village or sometimes on a rising ground. But it is to be borne in mind that the blacks do not clearly distinguish between the Earth and the Forest. They say that the trees are the children of the Earth, and that when they sacrifice to a tree or a sacred grove they sacrifice at the same time to the Earth, their Mother. Thus the Forest, embracing all the vegetation that grows on the bosom of the Earth, is a daughter of Earth and as such is confused with her Mother. Hence, too, the members of Secret Societies in these tribes claim to be under the special protection of the Earth and carry leaves and branches in support of their claim.11 This ascription of maternity to Earth appears to designate that deity as female, as a divine Mother rather than a divine Father.

Worship of the Earth among all the tribes of the Mossi-Gurunsi country.

The worship of the Earth as the great deity, or rather the greatest of the deities, prevails in similar forms among all the pagan tribes of the Mossi-Gurunsi country. All have their Chiefs of the Earth, who preside over the worship, and all offer sacrifices to the Earth on various occasions, such as at sowing and harvest, when human blood has been shed, and when rain is wanted, and indeed whenever the diviner declares that the Earth demands this mark of homage. All look upon the Earth as a just divinity, who does good to the virtuous and punishes the wicked. She is the abode of the dead, and it may be that from them she derives her power of being kind to the righteous and a terror to evil-doers.12

Oaths by the Earth.

The profound confidence which these tribes repose in the Earth as a power which makes for righteousness is clearly manifested in the solemn oath which an accused man will swear by the Earth in order to attest his innocence. Thus when a man is charged with being a sorcerer and with having caused the death of somebody by “eating his soul,” he is made to drink water in which is mixed a handful of earth taken from the place of sacrifice. Before he drinks he protests his innocence and calls upon the Earth to kill him if he lies. Should he be guilty, it is thought that the Earth will take him at his word and slay him on the spot; whereas if he is innocent, she will not harm a hair of his head.13 Sometimes the accuser as well as the accused was obliged to drain the cup, and it was left to the Earth to decide between them by killing one or the other. One of the two always succumbed, or at least ought to do so; and if both perished, it was accepted as proof conclusive that both were sorcerers.14 One of the nefarious tricks practised by sorcerers in this region is to turn themselves into hyenas and in that disguise to attack and kill anybody against whom they have a grudge. When that has happened, and the crime has been brought home to the criminal in the usual way, by the corpse bumping up against him when it is carried by two bearers, the accused has to swear his innocence by the Earth, and if he forswears himself, it is believed that the Earth will kill him within two days. But if he refuses to swear and prefers to confess that he really did turn into a hyena and as such despatched his victim, they put on his breast some earth, which is supposed to kill him the very next time he turns into a hyena.15 One way in which the Earth slays a perjurer is by causing his belly to swell after he has drunk the water in which a little of the sacred soil has been dropped.16

Sacrifices to the Earth at clearing land for cultivation.

One of the occasions of sacrificing to the Earth is naturally at clearing land for cultivation. A man who is about to clear some ground in the forest goes to the Chief of the Earth or the chief of the village, and together they repair to the spot where the field is to be laid out. There they sacrifice a victim, it may be a fowl, a goat, or what not, to the Earth, and sometimes also to the Forest; and having slaughtered the animal they cook and eat the flesh. After that the operation of cutting down the trees and bushes may proceed.17

Sacrificing to the Earth for rain in time of drought.

Thank-offerings to the Earth for rain.

Another motive for offering sacrifice to the Earth is to obtain rain in time of drought. For rain is very important for all these agricultural tribes, and if it does not fall in sufficient quantity to ripen the crops during the rainy season, it is a public disaster. In such a case the village elders take a fowl to the Chief of the Earth, who sacrifices it to the Earth in their presence that the rain may fall; and together they eat the flesh. If still no rain falls, they repeat the sacrifice.18 Sometimes, to encourage the Earth to do her best for them, the Chief of the Earth, in sacrificing the fowl, promises to sacrifice a goat also as soon as rain falls. Sometimes, cheered by the prospect, the goddess puts forth her power at once: the thunder rolls, the tornado bursts, and the rain pours down in torrents. At other times several days pass before the water of heaven descends, but it always falls sooner or later, which is not so miraculous as it might seem, because such sacrifices are only offered in the rainy season.19 Among the Kassunas-Buras the Chief of the Earth sacrifices a dog, a sheep, a goat, or even an ox to the Earth for rain in the sacred grove or, if there is no sacred grove, at the place set apart for sacrifices to the Earth. Only the chief of the village and the elders may assist at the ceremony.20 Among the Sissalas, when rain has fallen in great abundance, the Chief of the Earth thanks the goddess by seizing a fowl by the legs and dashing its head against the ground on the bare spot in the middle of the village which is dedicated to the worship of Earth.21 Among the Nunumas, when a heavy shower has fallen, the head of a house (sukala) takes a fowl to his field. If there is a tamarind tree or another tree of a certain species in the field, he causes the blood of the fowl to flow on the tree, but if there is no such tree he lets the blood pour on the ground. This is a sacrifice to the Earth and the Forest for a good crop.22 If the harvest answers his expectations, the husbandman makes a mess of millet porridge, seasoned with fish sauce, carries it to his field, and pours part of it on the ground, while he thanks the Forest for having given him a good crop.23

Worship of the Earth among the Kassunas-Buras.

Among the Kassunas-Buras the Chief of the Earth sacrifices to the Earth for the whole village at the time of sowing, in order that the seeds may thrive. The sacrifice consists of millet flour, moistened with water, which he offers at or near the door of his family house (sukala); and after harvest he sacrifices to the Earth for the whole village to thank the goddess for her bounty.24 But in this tribe the husbandman himself at sowing sometimes sacrifices in his field to the Earth and the Forest. If there is a great tree in the field, he pours the blood of the victim or smears a paste of flour on it; but if there is no tree, he applies the sacrificial blood or flour to a rock or stone; and if there is no rock or stone, he pours out the whole on the ground. The tree, the rock, or the ground is supposed to convey the offering to the deity.25 More usually, however, in this tribe, the head of a family at sowing offers the sacrificial paste to the ancestral spirits at their little huts made of beaten earth in the large communal dwelling (sukala)26

Seat of the Earth-goddess on dunghills.

Among the Kassunas-Fras one of the favourite seats of the Earth deity, curiously enough, is on the great dunghills, sometimes twelve feet or more in height, one of which is usually to be seen at the door of the large communal house (sukala) of the village chief. In such cases the sacrifices to the Earth-goddess are offered to her on the heap of ordure.27

The Earth-goddess and the Forest goddess.

While the Earth-goddess, as we have seen, is at times confounded with her daughter the Forest-goddess, the two great deities are sometimes distinguished from each other. Thus the Nunumas look on the Forest as the second great divinity and as closely related to the Earth, who indeed is her mother. At bottom she is righteous like her parent, yet is she of a sterner temper, more terrible, more mischievous. In the gloomier cast of her character we may trace the horror of the dense thickets and matted jungle, the haunts of wild beasts.28 In some villages of the Kassunas-Fras there is a Chief of the Forest distinct from the Chief of the Earth, and at sowing he sacrifices one or two fowls to the Forest for the whole village in order that the seed sown may prosper.29

The office of Chief of the Earth: its origin.

In most villages of the Kassunas-Buras and probably of most other pagan tribes of the Mossi-Gurunsi country, there is a Chief of the Earth as well as a chief of the village. When a native was asked why there was this division of authority, and why the chief of the village could not be also the Chief of the Earth, he answered that the duplication dated from a time when two brothers had divided the power between them, the elder electing to be Chief of the Earth and the younger to be chief of the village, and that their descendants had inherited their respective offices.30 In this explanation there may be an element of truth, if we suppose that the Chiefs of the Earth are representatives of the aboriginal race which was conquered and deprived of political predominance by a race of invaders and conquerors, the Mossis, who were content to leave in the hands of the ancient inhabitants those religious functions, and especially that worship of the Earth, which as newcomers they felt themselves incompetent to undertake.31

The worship of the Earth in Yatenga.

The Earth-goddess the great champion of morality and justice.

Oaths by Earth.

In Yatenga, a district of Upper Senegal or the French Sudan, to the north of the Mossi-Gurunsi country, the worship of the Earth is similar. There also the Earth (Tenga) is esteemed a powerful divinity, indeed the supreme divinity in conjunction with Wenda, the Sky. But she is much more terrible than he. She is the great champion of morality and justice, the great avenger of wrong. She is angered by all the crimes and faults that men commit, for example, by the shedding of blood; and if these crimes and faults are not redressed, she manifests her indignation by the various calamities which she has it in her power to inflict, as by withholding rain or sending famine, locusts, and disease. For example, if a girl is raped in the forest, it is necessary to sacrifice two goats and two fowls to the Earth-goddess, otherwise the rain will not fall and the millet harvest will fail; and the same thing holds good of other crimes. In particular, the Earth is the relentless foe of perjurers. The way of swearing by her is as follows. The Chief of the Earth (Tengasoba) of the village collects spear-heads, arrow-heads, old knives, and so forth, and puts them all in a hole dug in the ground. There he kills a fowl, goat, sheep, or ox, while at the same time he invokes the formidable divinity. Over the hole, thus watered with the blood of the victim, he compels the accused to swear his innocence and to call upon the Earth to kill him if he is not speaking the truth. If he is innocent, the Earth naturally spares him; but if he is guilty, she kills him within a given time. The Mossis and Foulses of Yatenga stand in great fear of the Earth-goddess (Tenga), and often prefer to make a clean breast of their misdeeds rather than forswear themselves in such conditions.32

Worship of the Forest in Yatenga.

In Yatenga the Forest is also worshipped. Before a patch of ground is cleared for cultivation, a sacrifice is offered to the Forest. The victim is generally a fowl, sometimes a goat, more seldom a sheep, and still more rarely an ox. At sowing also a sacrifice is offered. But indeed the Forest divinity is only one side of the Earth divinity; on closer analysis the two appear to coincide.33

The Chief of the Earth in Yatenga.

In every village of Yatenga the public worship is in the hands of the Chief of the Earth (Tengasoba, from tenga, “earth,” and soba, “chief”). He is always a Foulsé by race, not a Mossi. The political chiefs (tenganabas) of Yatenga never themselves offer sacrifices, though they may command the Chiefs of the Earth to do so.34 Towards the end of February the people hold a festival for the purpose of ensuring a good crop. They dance and beat drums for seven days and nights, and offer sacrifices to the ancestral spirits, to the Earth, and to the Sky.35 Again, when a husbandman is about to sow his field, he calls in the aid of the Chief of the Earth (Tengasoba) of his village and gives him a fowl, a goat, and so forth to sacrifice to the Evil Spirits, to the Earth, and to the Forest. The animals are roasted and eaten on the spot by the Chief of the Earth and the man on whose behalf the sacrifice is offered. Similarly, if the harvest turns out well, a thank-offering of a fowl, a goat, and so forth, is presented in the fields to the same divine powers.36

The worship of the Earth among tribes in the interior of the Ivory Coast.

The worship among the Kulangos.

Further to the south the worship of the Earth is practised in similar form by the negro tribes in the interior of the Ivory Coast. Thus the Kulangos regard the Earth as their great divinity. They think that she hates murderers, thieves, sorcerers, and all who do ill. Often she is represented by a tree of which the great roots ramify like serpents on the ground. On these roots they place a block of massive red ferruginous stone, looking on the tree, the roots, and the stone as symbols or images of the Earth. If they can find two or three of these trees so near together that their roots are intertwined, so much the better; the red block is then placed in the middle of the group of trees and completes the material representation of the great divinity.37 In the opinion of the Kulangos the Forest is a deity identical with the Earth, the mother of all vegetation.38 Besides the civil chief there is in every Kulango village a religious chief, who bears the title of Chief of the Earth (Sakotese, from sako, “earth”). If anybody wishes to sacrifice to the Earth, he must call in the aid of the Chief of the Earth, who will offer the sacrifice for him. Every seventh day is a day of rest, on which no work may be done; different villages choose different days of the week for their rest-day or Sabbath. On the Sabbath they assemble in the courtyard of the Chief of the Earth, bringing palm-wine with them. The Chief of the Earth then prays that the Earth will be pleased to send a good crop, to protect the husbandmen, and to see that no evil befalls them. Then he offers a little of the palm-wine by pouring it out on the ground. After that all the people drink of the wine and enjoy this bounty of the divine giver.39

Sacrifices of the Kulangos to the Earth goddess at burning the forest.

In the dry season, which falls in December and January, when the Kulangos are about to burn the withered grass and kindle fires in the forest, they hold a festival which lasts from one to seven days. They beat drums, dance, and eat fowls, after having cut the throats of the birds and offered the blood to the Earth-goddess. They thank her for having given a good harvest, and pray that in burning the forest they may not be hurt by the wild beasts that lurk in it. They also pray that in these conflagrations the villages may not catch fire, an accident which often happens, partly through the negligence of the natives and partly through the force of the parching north-easterly wind, the harmattan. If anybody sets fire to the forest before the festival and before the Chief of the Earth has offered the usual sacrifice, that functionary obliges him to pay a fine of a goat and two fowls, which he sacrifices to the Earth to appease her anger. The forest fires are kindled to assist the people in clearing ground for cultivation and to make hunting easier.40

Succession to the office of Chief of the Earth.

When the Chief of the Earth dies, he is succeeded in office by his nephew, the eldest son of his eldest sister. If the heir is too young to take office, the sacrifices to the Earth are offered by his mother till he is grown up, when he assumes the priesthood in succession to his uncle.41 The office of village chief is also hereditary, but it passes at death to the chief’ eldest son and not to his sister's son.42 Thus the archaic rule of hereditary transmission to a sister's son is observed in succession to the religious office, while the succession to civil office is regulated by the more modern rule of hereditary transmission to a man's own son. Here as usual religion is essentially conservative.

Worship of the Earth among the Abrons.

Abrons, another tribe in the interior of the Ivory Coast, also worship the Earth and offer sacrifices to her, especially when they are searching for gold.43 They also sacrifice a victim, generally a fowl, to the Earth at clearing land for cultivation; the blood of the fowl is the share of the goddess, its flesh is eaten by the sacrificer. Further, they promise a fowl or a goat to the Earth if she gives them a good harvest; and when the goddess grants their prayer, they pay their vow.44

Worship of Sky and Earth among the Nafanas.

The Nafanas, another pagan tribe in the interior of the Ivory Coast, recognize two great deities, the Sky and the Earth, to both of whom they offer sacrifices. They regard the Earth as the guardian of morality. They think that the Earth resents an act of unchastity committed in the forest, and that in such cases it is necessary to offer a sacrifice in order to appease her anger; otherwise she will not allow the rain to fall or will send some other calamity.45

The Chief of the Earth among the Gagus: his functions.

Among the Gagus, another tribe in the interior of the Ivory Coast, there is a Chief of the Earth (toua-kini or toua-kini) in every village besides the ordinary civil chief. Before the French occupation these Chiefs of the Earth were more important and had more power than the civil chiefs. The French have altered the balance of power, making it incline to the side of the civil instead of the religious authority.46 The Chief of the Earth used to offer sacrifices to the Earth for the whole village on a great stone that stood in his courtyard. He interpreted the wishes of the Earth, and could announce that the deity would have no work done on a particular day. Thus he could prevent the villagers from going forth to their labour, even when they wished to work, and they obeyed from fear of incurring the vengeance of the goddess. On the other hand, if anybody was wounded or killed in the forest, the Chief of the Earth was responsible, and had to pay compensation to the wounded man or to the family of the deceased. Moreover, he had to sacrifice a young he-goat and a fowl to the Earth to pacify her wrath.47 A murderer had to give a kid to the Chief of the Earth, who sacrificed it to the Earth to appease her anger.48 Theft also excited the wrath of that righteous deity, and the thief was obliged to soothe her by the sacrifice of a kid, which was offered to her by the Chief of the Earth. If the theft had been committed in another village than that of the thief, the sacrifice of the kid was offered half-way between the two villages by the Chiefs of the Earth of both places and in the presence of the two village chiefs and the elders of both villages.49 So when there had been war between two villages and some of the combatants had been slain, the Chiefs of the Earth of the two sides used to meet half-way between the two villages and sacrifice two young he-goats to the Earth, Begging her to forgive the slaughter and the blood that had been spilled. The civil chiefs and the elders of the villages attended the ceremony and partook of the flesh of the kids. Thus peace was restored between the villages.50

Worship of the Earth among the Guros of the Ivory Coast.

Chiefs of the Earth: their duties.

Sacrifices to the Earth.

The Guros are another tribe in the interior of the Ivory Coast who revere the Earth as a great divinity, the upholder of the moral law.51 In respect of political evolution they stand at a somewhat higher level than the Gagus, for unlike the latter they have chiefs of tribes as well as chiefs of villages. Yet their social organization would seem to have remained essentially theocratic till it received a rude shock through contact with European civilization when the French invaded and conquered the country. For the tribal chiefs and their subordinates, the village chiefs, were rather priests than civil rulers; they all bore the title of Chief of the Earth (Terezan, from teré “earth”), and their principal functions were religious, it being their duty to offer sacrifices to the Earth both periodically and on special occasions, when the wrath of the great goddess was excited by breaches of the moral law, such as murder, theft, rape, and adultery. The tribal chiefs, in their capacity of Chiefs of the Earth, sacrificed to the Earth on behalf of the whole tribe; and the village chiefs, in their capacity of Chiefs of the Earth, sacrificed to Earth on behalf of the whole village.52 The periodic sacrifices include those offered at clearing the land for cultivation, at sowing, and at harvest,53 but some at least of these appear to have been offered by the heads of families rather than by the Chiefs of the Earth. Thus among the southern Guros it is the head of a family who at sowing offers a fowl to the Earth on an ant-hill,54 and among the central Guros it is the husbandman himself who sacrifices a fowl and a little rice to the Earth at clearing land for cultivation.55 But among the northern Guros it is the tribal chief or Grand Chief of the Earth in person who sacrifices to the Earth at harvest, while the people drink palm-wine and dance to the sound of the drums for two days.56

Crimes which had to be atoned for by sacrifices to the Earth.

Among the crimes which, in the opinion of the Guros, had to be atoned for by an offering to the Earth, homicide or simple bloodshed was generally expiated by the sacrifice of a male kid, sometimes two kids, offered either by the Chief of the Earth or by the oldest man of the village,57 but sometimes in the case of wounds the victim was a fowl.58 When somebody killed a person of another village, the village of the slain man or woman took up the quarrel and killed somebody of the homicide's village immediately, it might be in the very night that followed the murder. The chief of the tribe then intervened to stop reprisals. He exacted a kid from the family of the first homicide, and a kid from the family of the second homicide, and the Chief of the Earth of the one village, bringing with him the kid, met the Chief of the Earth of the other village, bringing the other kid, at a point between the two villages, both chiefs being accompanied by the inhabitants of their respective villages. At the place of meeting the great Chief of the Earth sacrificed the kids to the Earth, then seasoned the flesh with a medicine intended to prevent the repetition of such acts; the medicine consisted of a little earth or sand gathered at the spot where the sacrifice had just been offered to the Earth. The people of the two villages ate the flesh thus seasoned, and the quarrel was over.59

Sacrifices to the Earth at peace making.

When a man killed a member of another tribe, no composition for the murder was accepted, and the result was a petty war between the tribes which might last two or three years. When both sides were weary of hostilities, the great Chief of the Earth of a third tribe interposed his good offices as mediator between the combatants. If they accepted his mediation, the tribe which had killed the first man gave a kid, which was sacrificed to the Earth by the great Chief of the Earth. The kid was cut in two, and the tribe which had killed most men in the war enjoyed the privilege of eating the fore-quarters of the animal, while the tribe which had shed less blood acknowledged its inferiority by consuming the hind-quarters of the victim.60

Sacrifices to the Earth in expiation of crimes.

Among the Guros the expiation for theft also consisted in the sacrifice of a male kid to the Earth. These people deemed rape a less serious offence than theft; the ravisher furnished a fowl, which was offered to the Earth as an atonement by the brother or husband of the injured woman.61 Among the central Guros an adulterer had to give a kid and two fowls to the injured husband, who sacrificed them to the Earth; for if the wrath of the Earth at the adulteress were not thus appeased the woman's children would die.62 Among the northern Guros the sacrifice of a fowl to the Earth was deemed sufficient to protect the guilty couple and the innocent husband from the natural consequences of the crime.63 Another crime abhorred by the Earth was sorcery, the malignant art of killing a person by eating his or her soul. A convicted wizard or witch had to give a goat and a fowl, or even a goat and a bull, which were sacrificed to the Earth in atonement of the horrid crime.64

Moral influence of belief in an Earth deity.

On the whole, among these tribes of Upper Senegal and the Ivory Coast the belief in the moral character of the great Earth deity appears to have exercised a powerful influence in enforcing respect for human life, for private property, and for the sanctity of the marriage tie.

Worship of the Earth-goddess among the Ashantis.

The Ashantis of the Gold Coast regard the Sky and the Earth as their two great deities. With their Sky-god, whose name is 'Nyame, we have already dealt.65 The worship of the Earth-goddess is less well known, perhaps because it is not quite so obvious. No temple, no image is reared in her honour, but her power is none the less universally acknowledged. From the Earth, according to one of their most familiar myths, sprang some of the noblest of the Ashanti clans, for example the Oyoko, from whom the later Ashanti kings were descended. The Ashanti name for Earth is Asase Ya, that is, Old Mother Earth. The day dedicated to her worship was Thursday, and even now the Ashanti farmer will not till or break the soil on that day; down to some thirty years ago a breach of the rule was punished with death.66 To this day the Ashanti farmer makes an offering to Old Mother Earth every year on the day when he begins to till his land. He goes to the field, taking with him a fowl and some mashed plantain or yam which his wife or sister has cooked for him. Arrived at the field where work is to begin, he wrings the fowl's neck, and letting the blood drip on the mashed yam and the earth he speaks as follows: “Grandfather So-and-so, you once came and hoed here and then you left it to me. You also Earth, Ya, on whose soil I am going to hoe, the yearly cycle has come round and I am going to cultivate; when I work let a fruitful year come upon me, do not let the knife cut me, do not let a tree break and fall upon me, do not let a snake bite me.” He then cuts up the fowl and mixes the flesh with the yam. After that he throws portions of the mixture to the four points of the compass; and some of the remains he places in a leaf and deposits on the spot where he stood in making the offering.67

Earth-gods worshipped among the inhabitants of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast.

Sacred groves of the Earth-gods.

Propitiation of the Earth-god after the commission of certain crimes, such as bloodshed and incest.

Among the inhabitants of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast there prevails a worship of the Earth like that which we have found characteristic of the inhabitants of Upper Senegal or the French Sudan, and the resemblance is natural enough since, as I have already pointed out, the boundary between the two countries is not racial but merely political, the same tribes being settled on both sides of it68 While the natives of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast all recognize the existence of a great Sky-god or Supreme Being, whom they call Wuni, Weni, or We,69 they in practice pay much more attention to the Gods of the Earth; for, like the ancient Chinese, they have not risen to the general conception of a single Earth-god, the personification of the whole earth, but believe in the existence of a great number of Earth-gods, each presiding over his own particular territory, like a human chief. For the most part every community possesses at least one Earth-god, and the names of the Earth-gods vary from place to place. They are invisible, but abide in natural objects, such as clumps of trees, rocks of large size or remarkable appearance, and ponds; but clumps of trees are their favourite homes. At Kanjaga, for example, there are two such sacred groves. One of them is a small cluster of fan palms surrounding a single tall one, all of them growing out of a white ants’ nest. The other is a group of short, long-leaved raphia palms such as grow in the marshes of the Ashanti forest. This latter grove, situated in a small dale otherwise bare of trees, presents a striking appearance, all the more so because these palms are elsewhere unknown in the district. The propitiation of the local Earth-god is deemed of the utmost importance, for, were it neglected, famine would surely follow as a consequence of the wrath of the offended deity. His righteous indignation is excited by the spilling of human blood on the ground, and by the commission of incest, for such acts are thought to pollute the soil. Even so seemingly trivial an act as the shooting of an arrow in anger suffices to disturb the equanimity of the sensitive deity. When such a deed has been done, or indeed anything untoward has happened, the particular Earth-god on whose domain the event took place must be appeased. The duty of making atonement devolves on the religious chief or priest who bears the title of tindana, tengyona, or tengsoba, meaning literally in every case the Owner of the Land or Chief of the Earth, as the corresponding official is commonly designated in Upper Senegal. It is his office to intercede between the people and the deity who gave them the land on which they live and the food which they eat. They say that no place is without its Chief of the Earth (tindana), and to this day, if people migrate into an uninhabited country in the hope of finding there a less niggardly soil than the one they have left behind them, they must obtain a grant of land from the Chief of the Earth who happens to be nearest to the new settlement. As usual, the atonement takes the form of sacrifices, which are ordered by the Chief of the Earth to be performed as the occasion arises. He also appoints the day when the new crops may be eaten by the community; in short, he regulates all matters that concern the religion of the Earth-god.70

Sooth-saying by means of stones.

The requirements of the deity are revealed from time to time by a soothsayer, who ascertains them by means of certain magical stones, which he shakes out of a bag. The divine wishes announced by this form of soothsaying are regularly gratified, or if not, so much the worse for the Chief of the Earth who is responsible for the omission. For example, the Chief of the Earth at Issa was informed by the soothsayer that his Earth-god desired a market to be re-established on the spot. The Chief delayed to comply with the divine injunction, and in consequence his son was badly mauled by a leopard as a warning to the Chief himself to be less dilatory in obeying the deity.71 Through the communication which the soothsayer thus maintains with the higher powers his services are indispensable, not only in religious matters but in the conduct of everyday life; practically nothing is done without consulting him; the whole structure of society is in his hands. Vet the stones by which he works his wonders are neither rare nor beautiful: they are just hard, smooth stones which may be picked up anywhere in the fields. The natives believe that the stones have fallen from heaven, so they gather them and pile them on the ancestral graves, or rather on the little pyramids of mud which are set up to serve as altars in the worship of the dead. But sceptical Europeans are of opinion that these precious stones are simply disused hand-grinders.72

Worship of the Earth-goddess among the Ewe-speaking people of Southern Togo.

Oaths by the Earth.

The Ewe-speaking people of Southern Togo, a province to the east of Ashanti, worship the Earth as a goddess under the name of Anyigba. One of the epithets applied to the goddess is Mother of the Little Children, for she it is who bestows offspring on people. She also makes the yams to grow and trade to prosper; she gives good luck in hunting and victory in war. It is in her power, too, both to inflict and to heal sickness and disease. One day of the week, named asiamigbe, is her rest-day or sabbath; therefore on that day it is unlawful to hoc the ground, to dig yams, and to thrust a stake into the earth, because such acts are clearly calculated to disturb her divine repose, if not to do her bodily injury. Anybody who hoes the ground on her sabbath will surely die. When a man is accused of theft or any other wrong and denies the accusation, he smites the earth with his hand, praying that the Earth may kill him if he is not speaking the truth; and if he is lying the Earth will surely kill him, for she can distinguish between truth and falsehood and make the distinction manifest. She is served by a priest whose office is hereditary, descending from father to son. The badges of the priest are two bells and a priestly cap woven of rushes.73 If a man has sworn falsely by the Earth, his sin must be expiated by the sacrifice of two fowls and a goat, which the priest offers to the goddess, killing them without the use of a knife.74

Wife's prayer to the Earth-goddess for a child.

When a wife is childless she goes with her husband to the priest of the Earth. Her husband gives the priest palm-wine, two hen's eggs, some tobacco, and four strings of cowries, and begs him to pray the goddess to cause his wife to conceive. The priest takes a little of the wine, names the goddess, gives the woman a chicken in her hand, and prays, saying, “This woman says she would like to have a child, and if she gets one she will come again and thank thee”. Thereupon her husband says to the goddess, “I have made over my wife to thee, that thou mayest give her a child, which she shall bear. If she gets a child, I will come again and thank thee.” The priest now commands the husband to inquire of his wife at home whether she has been guilty of any secret sin; for should she have sinned and not confess her fault before putting her hand in the sacrificial vessel of the goddess, she would surely die. If the wife agrees, she draws water next morning, and she and her husband go with the water to the priest. To him the woman confesses her secret sins. If she hides anything, she will surely die. After her confession the priest pours holy water into a vessel of the goddess, and causing the woman to kneel down pours the water over her. In the vessel are palm-kernels and pebbles, which consecrate the water. Then the priest withdraws, and the woman bathes in water taken from the holy vessel. After that the priest binds round the woman's neck a cord made of the bark of the raphia palm, with two cowries fastened to the end. The cord signifies that the woman has been made over to the goddess. Twice a week, during the time that she is gone with child, the woman must bring maize-meal to the priest in order that he may feed the goddess with it. This the woman must do down to the day of her delivery. When her child is born and the navel string has fallen off, the mother brings the infant to the priest, who prays over it, bathes it, and ties a cord of raphia-palm bark about its neck. If the child thrives, the mother bathes it twice a week (on asiamigbe and domesigbe) with water drawn from the holy vessel of the goddess. If the child is a girl, she will afterwards wash herself with water from the holy vessel. If the child is a boy, he will afterwards buy palm-wine for the priest, work on the priest's field, and run errands for him to the neighbouring towns.75

The place of sacrifice.

The place of sacrifice is a great mound of earth in which the quills of a porcupine and the feathers of a certain bird (aklama) are inserted. On this mound fowls are sacrificed to the goddess.76

Offerings to the Earth-goddess at the planting of yams.

When the time has come for planting the yams, all the towns bring each a piece of seed-yam to the priest of the Earth. The women give maize, earth-nuts, and cotton-seeds. On the day of the week called domesigbe, which, as we have seen, is the sabbath of the goddess, these gifts are brought to the priest. They are carried to the sanctuary in the forest, the seed-yams on three great wooden plates, and the maize, nuts, and cotton-seed in a basket; and on arriving at the holy place they are set down on the earth. When the people have returned home, the priest casts up two mounds of earth and plants the seed-yams in them. After that he gives notice that any one who pleases may plant his yams.77

Offerings to the Earth-goddess at the festival of the new-yams.

At the annual festival of the new yams all the chiefs bring an offering of two yams apiece to the priest of the Earth. To these offerings he adds his own, and carries the whole to the house of the goddess, where he prays, saying, “To-day the life-yam has come into the town. Here is thy portion. Take and eat it. Thou must eat before we eat. May no man who eats yams to-day suffer pain.” There in the house of the goddess the yams are left, and the priest returns home. Arrived there, he cooks some of the new yams, mixes them with oil, and strews them all about his house and courtyard. When he has done so, everybody is free to eat the new yams.78

Offerings and prayers to the Earth-goddess for rain.

In time of long drought the servants of the chiefs go about the town catching fowls. When they have caught about a score, they bring them to the house of the Earth-goddess on her sabbath (domesigbe). There the priest prays over the fowls, saying, “Because it rains no more, the elders have stolen these fowls for thee. Grant therefore that the rain again falls on the crops and not upon men.” In thus praying the priest holds up a cock and a hen. After the prayer he kills them both by dashing them on the ground. The flesh of the birds is then cooked and eaten, and at the conclusion of the meal the worshippers drink palm-wine.79

Offerings and prayers to the Earth-goddess to avert disease.

When the chiefs hear that an infectious disease is raging; they go together to the priest of the Earth. He prays, saying, “We have heard that an evil disease is raging. Let it not come to us. If thou wilt hinder it from coming to us we will give thee a goat Next morning the whole town is swept and the sweepings are carried outside the walls. On the third day all the fires in the whole town must be extinguished, and the ashes are carried out of the town by women on broken wooden plates. The chiefs take thick clubs, wrapt in creepers, fasten a toad and the fruit of the calabash-tree to a fresh palm-leaf, and going out into the forest throw away the leaf and its contents. On their return fires may again be lit in the town.80

Offerings and prayers to the Earth-goddess in time of war.

On the outbreak of war the chiefs gather to the priest of the Earth, and he prays to the Earth, saying, for example, “The men of Agate are about to go to war. If nobody on our side falls, we will give thee a goat” Then the warriors take a white fowl, go out into the street, hold up the bird, and pray, saying, “To-day thy children are about to go to war and have made a sign for themselves. Therefore be round about them, and if none of us falls in the war, we will come and thank thee.” After praying thus each man plucks a feather of the white fowl and fastens it to his gun. The servants of the chiefs kill the fowl and eat it, after which the warriors march away to the battle.81

Worship of the Earth-god Mkissi nssi or Bunssi among the Bafioti of Loango.

We have seen that the Bafioti of Loango believe in a great deity named Zambi or Nsambi, who created men but, wearied by their importunity, retired from earth to heaven, where he now dwells aloof from human affairs and occupies himself but little with the weal and woe of his creatures.82 However, they think that at his departure to a higher sphere the deity did not leave this lower world entirely forlorn. He either left behind him or sent down from above a certain being named Mkissi nssi or Bunssi, whose name and attributes appear to mark him out as an earth-god, though the native opinions about him are various and conflicting. His name Mkissi nssi is compounded of mkissi, “magic”, and Mnssi, “earth”; so that literally it signifies “Magic-earth”. His other name Bunssi is sometimes explained as meaning mama ma nssi, that is, “Mother Earth”, from mama, “mother”, and nssi, “earth”. He or she appears to be an embodiment of the earth viewed in its productive and fertilizing aspect. Like Nsambi himself, he is invisible and intangible; but, unlike Nsambi, he dwells in the earth and comes up occasionally to the surface, especially at places where in former times public fires were maintained on behalf of the State.83 His function is to look after the welfare of all that dwell on Nsambi's earth, particularly to regulate the fertility of the ground and the distribution of rain. This he does chiefly by requiring the strict maintenance of the sacred taboos (china), which are nothing but the commands and prohibitions issued by the great god Nsambi himself. Breaches of these ordinances bring down misfortunes either on the guilty district or on the whole country, and for the sake of the general weal they must be punished and expiated. Closely connected with these beliefs are the notions of the holiness of the earth and the importance of its fertility, which, for an agricultural people like the Bafioti, is an essential condition of life.84

Native opinions as to the earth-god.

The native opinions about the Earth-god Mkissi nssi or Bunssi are, as we have seen, various and conflicting. The old orthodox opinion would seem to be that he is one and all powerful and everywhere the same; but others hold that there are many independent Earth-gods differing from each other in power, and that every district has its own particular Earth-god, each with his own special name. Some believe that the Earth-god was established by the great god Nsambi; others say that he has nothing to do with Nsambi. Some think that he no longer exists or at least is no longer active, that like Nsambi he has retired from business and withdrawn into the depths of the earth or somewhere else far away.85

The sanctuaries of the Earth-god in Loango.

In the old days, when native kings reigned in Loango, the sanctuaries of the Earth-god were also the places where the king's sacred fires burned perpetually. Such spots are still well remembered by the people, who will not pass them by without doing them reverence.86 At the present day the sanctuaries of the Earth-god are found either in the forest remote from dwellings or in the villages, sometimes surrounded by a clump of trees, sometimes standing on the edge of a thicket. They all contain a building of some sort, varying from a solitary and much weathered hut to a more elaborate structure in which a number of fetish-men or magicians may be lodged. The materials used in their construction are largely papyrus stems and palm branches; the wooden posts and beams are often carved and painted red and black; the walls, made of slim papyrus stems set close together, are sometimes decorated with graceful patterns formed by dark stalks of plants or creepers, which are woven in and out of the papyrus stems so as to produce the effect of embroidery. The simplest form of sanctuary consists of a square or oblong hut, closed on all sides and built on a floor of beaten earth. In a single place Dr. Pechuël-Loesche saw a circular hut, open on all sides, with a thatched conical roof supported on seven round wooden pillars. The existence of such a round hut, dedicated to the Earth-god Bunssi, is all the more remarkable because the nearest round huts are said to be situated far to the north in the Cameroons mountains.87

Simplicity of the sanctuaries.

The sanctuaries of the Earth-god are characterized by great simplicity. No sacred animals are kept in them, and no bloody sacrifices are offered; no one may hunt in the neighbourhood. At the entrance of some, but not all, of the huts, an antelope horn or a leaden funnel is stuck in the ground as a receptacle for the palm-wine or rum which worshippers offer to the Earth-god.88

The priest of the Earth-god.

The priest who is charged with the guardianship of the sanctuary and with the performance of all rites at it must be a man of sound and unblemished body who has never shed blood. He receives no regular salary, but is maintained by the offerings of the faithful, for whom he performs the offices of religion. He has no official costume and no official dwelling; he resides in the village, and for days or weeks together may not go near the sanctuary of which he has charge. None but he may enter the holy building: he must celebrate the rites between sunrise and sunset: he must have fasted and abstained from women since the evening before. However, these roles are said to be now not everywhere strictly observed. From a variety of indications it is inferred that in the regal period the priests of the Earth-god were trained smiths and workers in metal. Nothing is known of stone tools in Loango. When the priest enters the holy house and shuts the door behind him to convey the petition of the worshipper to the deity, he rings an iron hand-bell, which, like all his priestly furniture, must be of native workmanship.89

Prayers to the Earth-God for rain.

In time of severe drought the people go on pilgrimage to one of these sanctuaries to pray for rain. Arrived at the holy place they take up position on three sides of a square facing towards the house of the god, and wait in silence till the sun rises. Then they all begin to pray in a loud voice, their prayer being accompanied by the beating of drums and the blowing of horns, while the priest is officiating and ringing his bell in the house. So it goes on without a break till sunset, or until the people, who must be fasting, are completely exhausted. Such assemblies are said in times of great distress to have numbered many thousands.90

Other occasions of consulting the priest.

Different and more complicated are the rites of the sanctuary when the pilgrims come to ask for help in their private affairs or to do penance for sins which they have committed by breaking taboos. The occasions which induce them thus to go on pilgrimage may be long-continued sickness, or inexplicable misfortunes, or the fear of coming evils. The priest consoles and encourages the sick, the dejected, and the sinful by a variety of antics, clashing iron instruments of antique patterns or scraping the rust off them into water, cutting capers and prancing round the pilgrims, puffing at them, stroking them, painting red, yellow, and white lines, dots, and circles on their bodies, or setting vessels full of water on their heads and observing the ways in which the water overflows. Finally, he assures them that all is now well and dismisses them with advice for their conduct in the future.91

Penance done by sinners at the sanctuary of the Earth-god.

Among the sins which in the native opinion are fraught with serious consequences are sexual offences, and the guilty couple must do penance at a sanctuary of the Earth-god. They must fast from meat and drink for twenty-four hours, then appear at sunrise at the holy place, their bodies clean shaven and smeared with charcoal, their heads and shoulders sprinkled with ashes. They bring two new mats and a pair of unblemished fowls, which must be either pure white or pure black in colour; the man brings the hen, and the woman the cock. The mats are unrolled before the door of the hut, and the sinners take their stand on them, while the priest with a piece of iron traces a circle about them on the ground. Next he tethers the cock to the ankle of the woman and the hen to the ankle of the man, but so that the fowls can approach each other, for from the behaviour of the birds one to the other omens are said to be drawn as to the future weal or woe of the guilty pair. The sinners now make their confession in a low voice, and the priest afterwards repeats it in the holy hut, ringing his bell at the same time. The ceremony of confession is repeated thrice, at sunrise, at noon, and at sunset. All that time, till darkness falls, the pair must stand silent and motionless, exposed to the jeers, the witticisms, and the reproaches of passers-by or of the villagers who have gathered to witness their penance. It is related that on one such occasion the woman, unable to bear the shame of the exposure, fled from the spot, but the angry crowd pursued and killed her, and then put her paramour also to death.92

Purification of sinners.

Why sexual crimes are deemed grave.

Many of these penitents are said to be obliged to appear at the sanctuary for three days in three successive months, after full moon, and to creep on all fours or to hop on one leg thrice round the holy hut. And by way of cleansing them from their sin earth is thrown on them, dust is puffed at them, and they are sprinkled with rust scraped from a sacred implement of iron. Other modes of purification are sprinkling the sinners with salt water and forcing them to leap over wisps of burning grass. It is probable that the rites of penance vary with the nature and gravity of the misdemeanour.93 The reason of the extreme seriousness with which the natives of Loango regard breaches of sexual morality is that such offences are supposed by them to blight the fertility of the earth, especially by stopping the rainfall.94 Similar notions prevail and lead to similar practices in other parts of Africa. Thus among the Chagga of Mount Kilimanjaro almost the most heinous crime was deemed sexual intercourse between a girl and an uncircumcised lad, because such an offence was thought to bring misfortune on the land. Hence, if the girl was got with child, the guilty pair were laid one on the top of the other and staked to the ground. This was done above or below the cultivated land, and the corpses were left unburied.95

Hunters bring the heads of game to the Earth-god.

In Loango hunters are expected to bring to the priest of the Earth-god the fresh heads of the animals which they have killed, along with the tongues. The flesh is eaten at the sanctuary, and the priest adds the skull to the heap of mouldering skulls and bones which gradually accumulates at the holy place. The reason alleged for the custom is that the animals live on the products of the earth. A hunter who omits to bring a fresh head of game to the sanctuary of the Earth-god is bound, according to the priests, to do penance for the omission; for they say that by his negligence he has injured the earth and lost his luck in the chase.96 It might naturally be thought that the first-fruits of the ground would be offered at the sanctuaries of the Earth-god, but there is no strict rule on the subject, and such offerings are said to be few in number and small in quantity.97

Worship of the Earth-god Kitaka among the Baganda.

The Baganda, the once powerful nation who give their name to the Uganda Protectorate, used to worship an Earth-god whom they called Kitaka. He had a temple in Busiro, where his will was interpreted by a prophet. When the king contemplated putting to death people who had been condemned by the other gods, he would often send to Kitaka and ask him to destroy the ghosts of the doomed men. Speaking in the name of Kitaka, the prophet under-took to destroy both their bodies and their spirits, so that their ghosts could not return to harm the king. Kitaka was consulted by women when they wished to ensure the fertility of a garden which they had just laid out; moreover, prayers and offerings were addressed to him in order that the land might yield abundant crops.98

Musisi, another Earth-god of the Baganda.

But the Baganda also believed in another Earth-god named Musisi, whom they held to be responsible for earthquakes. He had his temple on one of the Sese Islands in Lake Victoria Nyanza, but he was believed to dwell in the centre of the earth and to cause earthquakes when he moved about. At such times anybody who had fetishes at hand patted them and asked the god to keep quiet; pregnant women patted their stomachs to prevent the god from taking either their own life or that of their unborn child; others raised a shrill cry to remind the deity of their existence and to induce him to remain still. He was not a god who was much consulted by the people, but they made him gifts lest he should be angry and disturb the earth by his movements.99

Worship of the Earth-god Kitaka among the Baganda.

In the central district of Busoga, the country which adjoins the territory of the Baganda on the east, the Earth-god Kitaka is believed to be the cause of earthquakes. The Basoga think that the god is present in the form of a great stone or rock. Accordingly they build a shrine beside the rock to receive offerings, and they go thither to pray to the deity. Sometimes men disappear from the district and are said to have been spirited away by the god. Fowls and goats are sacrificed at the rock; the blood is poured out on the ground beside the shrine, and the head of the victim is buried close by. The worshippers cook and eat the meat in the vicinity of the rock.100

How the Earthquake god Kitaka passes through Busoga with his sinister follower Kibaho.

The Basoga say that sometimes Kitaka journeys through the land and causes the earth to quake on his passage. He is always followed by another god named Kibaho, who is greatly feared, because plague or sickness of some kind usually dogs his steps, unless it can be averted. So when a tremor of the earth betrays the passage of Kitaka, the medicine-men set to work to ward off the evil which his follower might bring in his train. They say that Kitaka passes from Mount Elgon to Lake Kyoga; hence when an earthquake is felt they call on the people to cut a path for the god Kibaho, in order that he may pass by as swiftly as possible. So in each district the people cut down the grass and shrubs and smooth a road some ten feet wide, while others bring food and place it at the boundary of their land to be carried on by the inhabitants of the next district. This road is said to expedite the god and to carry him through to Lake Kyoga without doing any harm. The people of the next district take up the work and pass on the victuals to their boundary; and in this manner the path is made and the food carried on, with additions from each district, until the shore of Lake Kyoga is reached. There a canoe is ready, and the food is put into it and rowed to an island, where a priest takes the food and offers it to the god by scattering it upon the water. This offering averts the plague and death that otherwise would almost certainly have attended the passage of the Earthquake-god Kitaka and his dreadful follower.101

Belief of the Banyankole in the Earthquake gods Omusisi and Nabinge.

Among the Banyankole, a pastoral people whose country adjoins that of the Baganda on the south-west, the Earthquake-god was originally known as Omusisi, a name which is clearly identical with Musisi, the appellation of the Earthquake-god among the Baganda. But of late years some people among the Banyankole have claimed to be the prophets of another Earthquake-god called Nabinge. These prophets or priests built a hut and hung about in it things that rattled when they were shaken. So when anybody came to consult the oracle the priests made a noise like the rumbling of an earthquake and shook the hut till it seemed to be falling down. This so terrified the applicants that they willingly made offerings to the priests in order to avert the threatened danger.102

Worship of the Earth-quake-god Nabinge among the Bakyiga.

The worship of this Earthquake-god Nabinge has in recent years spread also among the Bakyiga, a large tribe of the Bantu stock who inhabit the mountainous region called Kigezi to the east of Lake Edward. They are a wild and truculent people, who set little value on human life and in their mountain fastnesses long maintained their independence against all comers. The country inhabited by these savages, with its wonderful mountain scenery, its tropical luxuriance of vegetation, its dashing waterfalls and calm lakes spangled with water-lilies and embosomed in forests of grand timber, is said to be the most beautiful in Eastern Africa.103 Like the Basoga, the Bakyiga associate the outbreak of plague or other sickness with the Earthquake-god and think that on such occasions it is necessary to appease his wrath. So the headman of the village builds a shrine and calls upon the people to bring offerings of goats and sheep, which, according to their number, are exchanged for a cow or cows. One cow is sacrificed, and the blood, heart, and liver are the portion of the deity; the blood is allowed to run on the ground, while the heart and liver a e placed in the shrine. Some of the meat is cooked and eaten on the spot, and the people carry the rest to their homes.104

Offerings to rock-spirits at earthquake.

On the eastern slope of the great Luenzori range, between Lake Edward and Lake Albert, there are at various places boiling springs, where the natives have long been accustomed to take vapour baths as a cure for fever or rheumatism. At one place the bubbling of the water under a rock can be both heard and felt; the people say that a rock-spirit dwells there and makes his presence known by this noise. They used to make offerings here whenever a severe shock of earthquake was felt. These shocks are frequent and sometimes severe.105

Worship of the Earth spirit Irungu among the natives of Kiziba.

The natives of Kiziba, a district to the west of Lake Victoria Nyanza, believe in the existence of an Earth-spirit called Irungu, who, at the bidding of the Supreme Being Rugaba or of a powerful spirit named Wamara, fashioned the earth, the mountains, and the woods, and peopled them with animals. For the use of this Earth-spirit every householder builds two miniature huts of grass or sticks to right and left of the doorway of his own hut; in shape the little huts resemble the big one; their doors must face in the same direction. In each of the tiny huts is placed a potsherd with an offering of bananas for the spirit. Irungu presides not only over the house but also over the forest trees that grow on the edge of the banana groves, also over any rivers that may flow there, and over the birds. It is especially necessary to propitiate him when one of his creatures, the wild animals, has been killed either in the chase or by accident. All who have been concerned in the slaughter, sometimes amounting to hundreds of men, assemble before the house of the Earth-spirit, with the dead animal lying in their midst. The priest comes forth with the severed bloom of a banana-cluster in his hand. This he cuts in two with a knife, inserts wood of various sorts between the halves, and then presses the whole together. After that he kills a fowl, sticks it on a spit with the banana-bloom, carries it into the hut of the Earth-spirit, and there roasts it. As soon as they perceive the smell of the roast fowl the hunters form in line, and, preceded by the priest, stride over the dead game. Thus the anger of the Earth-spirit at the slaughter of his creature is appeased. Such an expiatory rite is called by a name which means “healing” (kutamba)106.

  • 1.

    See above, pp. 90 sqq.

  • 2.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan (Paris, 1912), p. 30.

  • 3.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 42.

  • 4.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 61.

  • 5.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 64 sq., 73.

  • 6.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 101, 176, 177, 178, 227 sq., 290, 313-315, 352.

  • 7.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 239.

  • 8.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 41, 60.

  • 9.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 70 sq.

  • 10.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 73.

  • 11.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 73 sq.

  • 12.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 101, 104, 105, 106, 170, 176, 177, 190, and especially 194.

  • 13.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 194 sq., 229, 289.

  • 14.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 375, 376.

  • 15.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 353.

  • 16.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 375.

  • 17.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 163, 328, 347.

  • 18.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 74 sq.; compare id. pp. 106, 196 sq.

  • 19.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 241 sq.

  • 20.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 327.

  • 21.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 358.

  • 22.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 190.

  • 23.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 191

  • 24.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 323

  • 25.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 322 sq.

  • 26.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 322. Fur other sacrifices to Earth at sowing, see id. p. 587.

  • 27.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 315, 328.

  • 28.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, p. 195.

  • 29.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 170, 240.

  • 30.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 309 sq.

  • 31.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan, pp. 594-596.

  • 32.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Yatenga (Paris, 1917), pp. 376 sq.

  • 33.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Yatenga, p. 377.

  • 34.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Yatenga, p. 389.

  • 35.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Yatenga, p. 379.

  • 36.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Yatenga, p. 380.

  • 37.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Bondoukou (Paris, 1921), p. 175.

  • 38.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Bondoukou, p. 176.

  • 39.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Bondoukou, p. 167.

  • 40.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Bondoukou, pp. 167 sq.

  • 41.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Bondoukou, p. 168.

  • 42.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Bondoukou, p. 170.

  • 43.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Bondoukou, p. 353. In the gold-bearing districts of the Gold Coast, where the natives dug for alluvial gold, it was thought that the precious metal was brought up from the bowels of the earth by a local deity, who thus rewarded his worshippers for their offerings. When the supply of gold ran short, the people fancied that the god was angry or lacked labourers, so they sacrificed two or three slaves to him to assist him in his mining operations. See (Sir) A. B. Ellis, The Tshi-speaking Peoples of the Cold Coast (London, 1887), pp. 69 sq.

  • 44.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Bondoukou, p. 309.

  • 45.

    L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Bondoukou, p. 379.

  • 46.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, Centre de la Côte d’ Ivoire (Paris, 1924), p. 135.

  • 47.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 136.

  • 48.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 137.

  • 49.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 138.

  • 50.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 139.

  • 51.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 248.

  • 52.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, pp. 171, 182, 196 sq., 243, 244.

  • 53.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, pp. 186, 197, 208, 225, 260.

  • 54.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 186.

  • 55.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 197.

  • 56.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 260.

  • 57.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, pp. 173, 175, 198, 199, 245.

  • 58.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 246.

  • 59.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 245.

  • 60.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, pp. 245 sq.

  • 61.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 174.

  • 62.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 195.

  • 63.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, p. 241.

  • 64.

    L. Tauxier, Nègres Gouro et Gagou, pp. 204, 222.

  • 65.

    Above, pp. 97 sqq.

  • 66.

    R. S. Rattray, Ashanti (Oxford, 1923), pp. 214 sq.

  • 67.

    R. S. Rattray, Ashanti, pp. 215 sq.

  • 68.

    Above, pp. 94 sq.

  • 69.

    Above, p. 95.

  • 70.

    A. W. Cardinall, The Natives of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast (London, N.D.), pp. 15-17, 24-26.

  • 71.

    A. W. Cardinall, The Natives of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast, pp. 26, 30.

  • 72.

    A. W. Cardinall, The Natives of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast, pp. 29-31.

  • 73.

    J. Spieth, Die Religion der Eweer in Süd-Togo (Leipzig, 1911), pp. 56 sq., 59; id., Die Ewe-Stämme (Berlin, 1906), p. 716.

  • 74.

    J. Spieth, Die Religion der Eweer in Süd-Togo, pp. 62 sq.

  • 75.

    J. Spieth, Die Religion der Eweer in Süd-Togo, p. 58.

  • 76.

    J. Spieth, Die Religion der Eweer in Süd-Togo, pp. 58 sq., 59 sq.

  • 77.

    J. Spieth, Die Religion der Eweer in Süd-Togo, p. 60.

  • 78.

    J. Spieth, Die Religion der Eweer in Süd-Togo, p. 60. Among the Hos of Togo the Earth-deity to whom the new yams are offered is a male god named Agbasia. See J. Spieth, Die Ewe-Stamme, pp. 304-310, 340; The Golden Bough, Part V. Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild, ii. 58-62. In a prayer to Agbasia the priest addresses him as “Our Father” (J. Spieth, Die Ewe-Stamme, p. 308).

  • 79.

    J. Spieth, Die Religion der Eweer in Süd-Togo, p. 60.

  • 80.

    J. Spieth, Die Religion der Eweer in Süd-Togo, pp. 60 sq. Among the Hos of Togo a similar ceremony is annually performed before the eating of the new yams. See J. Spieth, Die Ewe-Stämme, pp. 305-307; The Golden Bough, Part VI. The Scapegoat, pp. 134-136.

  • 81.

    J. Spieth, Die Religion der Eweer in Süd-Togo, p. 61.

  • 82.

    Above, pp. 136 sqq.

  • 83.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango. Expedition, iii. (Stuttgart, 1907), pp. 276 sq.

  • 84.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango-Expedition, iii. 2, p. 277.

  • 85.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango-Expedition, iii. 2, pp. 278, 279.

  • 86.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango Expedition, iii. 2, pp. 278, 281.

  • 87.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango-Expedition, iii. 2, pp. 282-284.

  • 88.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango-Expedition, iii. 2, p. 284.

  • 89.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango-Expedition, iii. 2, pp. 285-287.

  • 90.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango-Expedition, iii. 2, pp. 288 sq.

  • 91.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango-Expedition, iii. 2, p. 289.

  • 92.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango-Expedition, iii. 2, pp. 290 sq.

  • 93.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango-Expedition, iii. 2, pp. 291 sq.

  • 94.

    J. G. Frazer, Psyche's Task, Second Edition (London, 1913). pp. 54 sqq.

  • 95.

    Ch. Dundas, Kilimanjaro and its People (London, 1924), p. 296.

  • 96.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango-Expedition, iii. 2, pp. 291 sq.

  • 97.

    E. Pechuël-Loesche, Die Loango-Expedition, iii. 3, p. 292.

  • 98.

    J. Roscoe, The Baganda (London, 1911), pp. 312 sq.

  • 99.

    J. Roscoe, The Baganda, pp. 313 sq.

  • 100.

    J. Roscoe, The Northern Bantu (Cambridge, 1915). pp. 250 sq.

  • 101.

    J. Roscoe, The Northern Bantu, p. 251.

  • 102.

    J. Roscoe, The Banyankole (Cambridge, 1913), p. 25.

  • 103.

    J. Roscoe, The Bagesu (Cambridge, 1924), pp. 162 sq.

  • 104.

    J. Roscoe, The Bagesu, p. 166.

  • 105.

    J. Roscoe, The Soul of Central Africa (London, etc., 1922), p. 124.

  • 106.

    H. Rehse, Kiziba, Land und Leute (Stuttgart, 1910), pp. 126, 127 sq., with the illustration on p. 128.

From the book: