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AMUSEMENTS OF THE NATIVES.
The sepoys of the sultan consisted of about twenty idle young fellows, who tried to dress jauntily, and were the fast men and pick of the place. If an order had to be conveyed from one of the sultan's villages to another, their word was law. If an escort was necessary, they were employed, and when war broke out they collected levies all round the country from their own class or from poorer natives. None of these soldiers would deign to carry a load for us ; they were, in their own estimation, the life-guardsmen of the state, consequently led an idle life, playing at pitch-and-toss, bao, beating the drum, &c. Without coins one would imagine that pitch-and-toss could not be played; but has not bark got two sides? Circles of bark were used, also a few leaden discs.pitched in the air, while the gamester clapped his hands and let the discs fall upon a cow-skin placed on the ground. My wonder was how they fell so fairly on the skin, and also that the game was not known by our Zanzibar
The stakes were bows, arrows, arrow-tips, and ankle-wires; the counters were made of pieces of stick. Bao is a coast game, played by two, with a board having thirty-two cups or wells in it, and sixty-four counters of seeds, called “komo.” The sultan sat down with any one he could get to play this rather
Every large country has its own style of drumming; that of Unyanyembe was more musical than the jumble of drums here. The conductor had always the largest drum ; the rest watched him for the time, while at his feet a little black youth rattled as hard as he could, without ceasing, at a wooden trough. If the noise of it was not heard, the music lost its stirring
effect! The drums were of wood, three to four feet high, and slung on a beam at a convenient height; the sticks were twelve inches long. At these dances the head men were present to preserve order, and to prevent, as much as possible, the use of spears or arrows in their antics. On the arrival of a distinguished guest, such as the son of the sultan, who owned a neighbouring village, a roll from each of the four drums was given in succession, and as he entered the place every one hid in his house from shyness. If a lion or a culprit was brought in, the “assembly” was beaten furiously. Single taps at short intervals, and gradually increasing to a roll, were given in a case of murder, at five in the morning, and again an hour afterwards. The previous days had been, night and day, celebrated by incessant drumming on the part of a dark set of wandering beggars or gypsy lads, richly necklaced with beads, to commemorate some event which appeared, from the scant information I could obtain from my interpreter, to be celebrated once or twice in three years. This, if true, shows that they mark a period, announced by gypsies, whom I observed but twice during my stay at Ukuni.
Of religion, idols, Sabbaths, or holidays they have none, but of superstitious fears and beliefs they have an ample store. On the occasion of the arrival of Speke with a detachment at a village, the natives shut their doors against him, and for three hours inhospitably kept the party in the sun. They had never before seen a white man, nor the tin boxes that the men were carrying ; “and who knows,” they said, “ but that these very boxes are the plundering Watuta transformed and come to kill us all ? You cannot be
SULTAN'S DAUGHTER POSSESSED.
admitted.” No persuasion could avail with them, and the party had to proceed to the next village.
Three stones, placed in a triangular form, surrounded the dwelling-house of the sultan of Ukuni, and within them it was believed no harm could ever happen to him, even if a gun were fired at him. One of our men sitting on one of these stones, jumped off, as if stung, on being told of the sacred character of the place.
The ceremony of driving out an evil spirit, or Phepo,” is elaborate and curious. The sultan sits at the doorway of his hut, which is decorated with lionpaws. His daughter, the possessed, is opposite him, completely hooded, and guarded by two Watusi women, one on each side, holding a naked spear erect. The sultana completes the circle. Pombé is spirted up in the air so as to fall upon them all. A cow is then brought in with its mouth tightly bound up, almost preventing the possibility of breathing, and it is evident that the poor cow is to be the sacrifice. One spear-bearer gives the animal two gentle taps with a hatchet between the horns, and she is followed by the woman with the evil spirit and by a second
spearbearer, who also tap the cow. A man now steps forward, and with the same hatchet kills the cow by a blow behind the horns. The blood is all caught in a tray (a Kaffir custom) and placed at the feet of the possessed, after which a spear-bearer puts spots of the blood on the women's forehead, on the root of the neck, the palms of the hands, and the instep of the feet. He spots the other spear-bearers in a similar manner, and the tray is then taken by another man, who spots the sultan, his kindred, and household. Again the tray is carried to the feet of the possessed, and she spots with
the blood her little son and nephews, who kneel to receive it. Sisters and female relatives come next to be anointed by her, and it is pleasant to see those dearest to her pressing forward with congratulations and wishes. She then rises from her seat, uttering a sort of whining cry, and walks off to the house of the sultana, preceded and followed by spear-bearers. During the day she walks about the village, still hooded, and attended by several followers shaking gourds containing grain, and singing “ Heigh-ho, massa-a-no," or
masanga." An old woman is appointed to wrestle with her for a broomstick which she carries, and finally the stick is left in her hand. Late in the afternoon a change is wrought; she appears as in ordinary, but with her face curiously painted, her followers being also painted in the same way. She sits without smiling to receive offerings of grain, with beads or anklets placed on twigs of the broomstick, which she holds upright; and this over, she walks among the women, who shout out“Gnombe !” (cow) or some other ridiculous expression to create a laugh. This winds up the ceremony on the first day, but two days afterwards the now emancipated woman is seen parading about with the broomstick hung with beads and rings, and looking herself again, being completely cured. The vanquished spirit had been forced to fly!
Black - art cases were duly tried, and generally ended in conviction. A cowherd who had sold me some fish died very suddenly; one of his two wives was suspected of having poisoned him; and being tried, she was convicted and condemned. She was taken to the dry bed of the stream, her arms tied behind her, and was killed by having her throat cut
from ear to ear. No hyena touched the body, which still more confirmed the belief that she was guilty; for my
Seedee cook said, “Has not the hyena the soul of a man? does he not know your thoughts when you determine on shooting him ?”
On the 10th of July my servant asked permission to go and see the uchawé. I accompanied him to the outside of the bomah (village fence), where a woman and lad lay on their faces with their arms bound painfully tight, and writhing in torture. Poor creatures! they met with no sympathy from the jeering crowd, but the ropes were slackened at my request. They had been apprehended on suspicion of having bewitched the sultan's brother, who lay sick for fifteen days, and unless they could work off the magic spell they must die. The lad said, “Take me to the forest; I know an herb remedy.” On the seventh day from this scene (during which the lad was outside the village, and the woman kept by the sick patient in the stocks) the former was killed and the woman released. I went to see his body the following day, but the hyena (I was told) had taken it away. Nothing remained but blood and the ashes of some hair by a fire. Could they have tortured him by burning? A case of adultery was punished in the most horrible manner, too painful to describe minutely. They had no Divorce Court !
The strapping young fellow who had found his way into the harem of the sultan, was tied to railings, stripped, certain parts of his person were smeared and covered with rags, then set fire to by the sultan in person, and he was dragged to the fire outside the village; but before he could reach it, assigais from the hands of the son