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to sever the head from the body! Such for village topside mountain, massa," a punishment would naturally act as a was always the monotonous answer of powerful deterrent to any would-be our guides. We felt as if we had al. Lothario, and the further inland we go ready climbed thousands of feet, and in Africa, the more strictly do we find yet seemed no nearer to our destinathe marriage tie kept.
tion, but in perspiring and sulky silence The Kroboes are not only careful of we still pushed on. Every now and their wives, but are very particular then th sides of the path would be about the virtuous conduct of their strewn with calabashes and earthen. daughters. It has been their custom ware pots, filled with palm-oil chop, a from time immemorial to segregate all mixture of corn-meal, seeds, and palmtheir female children as soon as they oil, placed there as offerings to the approach the marriageable age, and for spirits of the dead and to propitiate the the last thirty or forty years the Fetish- great Sasabonsam, the horrible, red, Mountain has been devoted to that hairy monster who represents the Lupurpose.
cifer of the Kroboes. As soon as a Krobo girl arrives at At last, however, we reached the the age of eleven or twelve, she is outskirts of a village, and a crowd of taken to the mountain on a day set young men turned out to meet us, apart each year for the great Otufo dancing wildly, shouting madly, and custom, and for five or six years, un- letting off their guns in a most disconless married in the mean time, she is certing manner. This happened to be rigidly confined there under the care one of the principal Otufo villages, of of a few Fetish priests and priestesses, which there are twelve on the hill, and who are charged to look after the girls we were all unfeignedly glad to hear and instruct them in certain habits that the king happened to be there, so and accomplishments which will fit that we should not be obliged to go any them to become satisfactory wives. further in the broiling heat. We had The ceremony of initiation into the turned the side of the mountain during body of Otufos or virgins, is one of the our ascent, and now found that the most interesting and curious of the southern aspect, though almost as preFetish customs of Krobo; and it hap- cipitous as the northern, was clothed pened that, as three of the king's with the densest vegetation, forming a daughters were among the candidates, most welcome and refreshing shade. unusual preparations had been made to The village was perched on the crags lend the utmost importance to the par- and precipices in a wonderful manner, ticular ceremony which I had an oppor- and the red mud huts, with their tunity of witnessing.
thatched roofs, appeared to be hooked Perspiring at every pore we toiled on in some inexplicable fashion wher. slowly up the rugged path, more than ever the smallest ledge of rock allowed one of us loudly inveighing against the of it. heat, the flies, the noise, and the dust, Presently we arrived at a small, open and vowing that the greatest Fetish space, a few yards square, which was custom in all pagandom was never fairly level, and here we found one of worth such a terrible climb. The path, the two dusky monarchs of Krobo. In too, was full of strings of natives as the centre of a crowd of young men cending and descending, all shouting arranged in a semicircular order, King and singing, and sometimes firing off Sakitti with his two principal chiefs their old rusty guns in the most star- sat on low, curiously carved native tling proximity. The noise was deaf- stools. Over their heads, gently swayed ening, and the crack and rattle of the up and down, was an immense green old muskets resounded from all points. silk umbrella of the dimensions of a “ But where these confounded small tent; heavy bullion fringe hung girls ? " one of us would now and from its edges, and on the top, in the again querulously ask. “Oh! dey live place of the ferule of an ordinary par- .
asol, was a strange, Fetish emblem the people and especially of the Fetish covered with beaten gold. The enor- priests, who were distinguishable by nous umbrella, slowly raised and low- their white garments, wore expressions ered by a pair of brawny black arms, of ill-will and malevolence but thinly was a gorgeous and imposing object, "lisguised. We ran very little danger, as the bright green silk, the bullion however, as most of us were officials, fringe, and golden emblem flashed back fairly well known by the natives ; and, the rays of the sun. Three or four the nature of our “ dash” having sword-bearers, squatted on their hun. pleased the king, he promised that we kers, held up huge, iron, open-worked should have a good view of the Otufos scimitars with handles formed of two and of the ceremonies which were to great balls covered with thin plates of begin a couple of hours later. Accordvirgin gold. The royal interpreters, ingly at the appointed time, when we with chased plates of gold hanging on had been sufficiently restored by an their chests, stood behind their master enormous luncheon, the king sent a perfectly unmoved by the terrible couple of his people, as guides, to show thumping of a score of tom-toms and us what might be of interest. brass pans, beaten con furore immedi- The villages where the girls live are ately at their backs.
of considerable size, and though built King Sakitti, a tall, slender, intelli- entirely of swish (red clay), the houses gent-looking negro, rather over the are much neater and cleaner than the middle age, was very simply clad in a average huts of the Gold Coast. The handsome cloth of native make, wound entire population of a large stretch of round his body with one end flung the surrounding country having met to over bis shoulder. On his head was a take part in the ceremony, the mounturban of yellow silk, and on his feet tain was marvellously crowded, and a pair of curiously wrought sandals. every village teemed with a noisy mob. His only ornaments were a handsome On every spot of level rock, a few yards gold collar and sword of which he was square, we saw preparations for the evidently very proud, as they had been ceremony. In the centre of a group of sent to him, together with a medal, by old females, were one or more candiQueen Victoria, in consideration of dates for the “custom.” Stark naked services rendered by him during the the girls stood on sheep-skins, while Ashanti War.
they underwent all the elaborate prepaAfter the usual handshakings with rations consecrated to the occasion. the sovereign and his principal chiefs, Most of them seemed to be between some more native stools were pro- the ages of nine and fifteen, and some duced and we were at last able to sit of them were of exquisite proportions. down. The noise was deafening; the Their sleek, lithe, black bodies, after incessant firing of guns on all sides, the having been carefully washed, were vigorous thumping of tom-toms, and oiled and rubbed until the skin shone the shrill trumpeting of elephant horns, like polished ebony. Spots of red and combined with the unceasing chant of white clay were then dabbed on in patthe Fetish song, made a medley which, terns, three or four straight white lines though wild and interesting, was so encircled the arms and legs, and red intolerable that, after giving the king spots were arranged like constellations the customary dash,” or present of on the forehead and breasts. Very whiskey and gin which we had brought leisurely and with elaborate ceremony with us, we all decided to adjourn to was each item of the preparation persome quieter spot where we might take formed. Every dab of clay was put in some of the refreshment of which we its proper place with a chorus of the were by this time thoroughly in need. same strange minor chant which had
It was easy to perceive that our visit tilled the air since early morning. to the mountain was by no means a Tom-toms were beaten incessantly and welcome one, for the faces of most of a ring of the most hideous old black
women circled round and round the dates bad no less than five or six of girls, uttering strange cries and waving these strange articles of apparel on their lean, withered arms. The young their heads, and from a distance these men fired their guns at every corner, pieces of skin and fat looked very much and the oldest woman in the crowd tot- like woolly bits of white crochet. The tered about with feeble steps, scattering number of these headdresses indicated on the ground oblations of palm-wine the wealth of the girls' families, as they and kanky for the propitiation of any represented the number of sheep and evil spirits which might be bovering goats slaughtered to celebrate the fesround. One of these ancient females tival. was the most unearthly specimen of A considerable time had been spent humanity I had ever seen. Her age over this elaborate but rather disgustmust have been very great, for her ing toilette, and messengers were now small, wizened body was so shrunk and running about on all sides, shouting bent that it looked like the remains of out that the ceremony was about to a smoke-dried mummy; the bones of commence and that all candidates for her legs and arms were as clearly de- admission to the mountain as an Otuto fined as in any anatomical specimen, and were to assemble immediately at a certhe wrinkled black skin hung in gristly tain spot. A peculiar leaf was then knots round the gnarled joints. Her thrust between the lips of each girl and sole garment consisted of a tattered a long white wand placed in her right cloth tied below her breast, and a long hand, and thus accoutred we could see string of cowries dangled from her pal- them passing from all parts of the hill sied neck. Her head had been cleanly to the point of meeting, each attended shaved with the exception of a circle at by a crowd of relations and friends the top of her scalp, where the snow- who now fired off their guns without white, woolly hairs were drawn up tight intermission. The air was thick with together and tied with a piece of red smoke and almost choked us, but wishcotton, forming a ghastly sort of plume. ing to see the whole performance we The prominent cheek-bones which followed the king's guides and soon seemed to be almost piercing the skin, arrived at the scene of the principal the dim, sunken eyes, and the toothless ceremony. jaws which tremblingly murmured a The girls were all marshalled by the weird incantation complete the portrait white-robed priests in a regular proces. of this Mother of the Tribe.
sion to a fairly large, level spot near When the regulation number of spots the top of the mountain, where they and lines of colored clay had been satis- were arranged four or five deep in a factorily laid on the girls' bodies, and circle. There appeared to be a very numerous wisps of plaited grass twisted large number of them, probably beround their arms and legs, a large num- tween seven and eight hundred, and ber of strings of white beads were then their naked black bodies with the curifastened round their waists, forming a ous adornments formed a striking picbelt from which hung down almost to ture. Every one, save the priests, was the ground in front a long, narrow, now made to retire to a little distance. curiously knotted piece of white cotton. An exception, however, was made in Round their necks, breasts, and shoul- our favor, and we took our seats on ders were next twined the intestines of some native stools in the interior of the sheep and goats, carefully cleaned and circle, together with the two kings of washed, but nevertheless presenting a Krobo and their principal chiefs. The singularly revolting appearance. This second king, whom we had not yet barbarous costume was completed by seen, was very splendid in a nondethe fatty linings of goats' stomachs script sort of uniform. An admiral's being laid on the girls' heads so that cocked hat was stuck in a rakish manthe ragged edges hung down over their ner on one side of his head ; very gorfaces and necks. Some of the candi- geous and also very large yellow boots
on his feet; a red mess-jacket date to be admitted to a residence on was on his back, while round his lower the mountain as an Otufo. Each girl man he wore a brilliantly striped native was in her turn to ascend the smooth cloth. This monarch was evidently sides of the rock and descend with the honoring the ceremony with enthusi- sole assistance of her wand. If she asm, and his potations had apparently performed this task without slipping or been many and strong, for his recep- falling, she was considered of unimtion of us was by no means impressive. peachable virtue ; but if any unfortuHe was a great contrast to King Sa- nate should slip, tumble, or fall on her kitti, who rather plainly showed his knees such accident was to be taken as contempt for his brother ruler.
an unmistakable token of her unfitness In the very centre of the circle to be received as an Otufo. The sumformed by the Otufos was a curiously mit of the rock was not more than shaped rock of considerable size. It eighteen or twenty feet from the rose out of the ground like a large, reg- ground, and, though the sides were ular mound, its sides fairly steep and steep and slippery, the task was by no perfectly smooth. Round and round means difficult, especially to hardy little this rock five or six priests walked and black maidens accustomed to run about danced with curious jerky steps. Doz- over hill and crag all day. The moral ens of tom-toms, brass pans, and iron knowledge or consciousness of being bells made an overpowering din, con- unworthy was probably relied on to siderably increased by the blowing of point out the truth, and the effect of elephant-horns and the never-ceasing guilty unsteadiness would be attributed song yelled with the greatest enthusi- to the unmistakable action of the great asm by the thousands of natives. The Fetish in causing the girl to stumble candidates alone were perfectly silent and fall. and motionless; the leaves were still The girls of Krobo were either unimbetween their lips and each girl hung peachably virtuous or else possessed a her head in evident timidity. It seemed remarkable amount of feminine confias if they were dreading some part of dence, for although more than seven the ceremony which was apparently hundred of them passed over that slipclose at hand, and we looked forward pery rock, the great Fetish gave to with curiosity to what was coming. each, with one exception, that steadi
Fast and furious grew the dance of ness of foot which was taken as the the priests round the rock, and waxing certain sign of unimpeachable respectahotter and more excited they leaped bility. The only exception was and twisted themselves in horrible con- unfortunate little girl about twelve or tortions. Forbidding - looking fellows thirteen years old, who, before she had they were, with long, woolly hair advanced a yard up the side of the rock, strangely twisted and plaited ; streaks managed to entangle her white rod beof white clay, drawn in thin lines on tween her feet. Giving a despairing the black skin, gave them a ghastly ap- cry, the poor creature threw her hands pearance, while hanging all over their over her head and fell face downwards bodies were a number of small bundles on the rock. A terrible shout rent the of coloreıl rags, bones, animals' claws, air ; the poor child, who seemed almost feathers, and all sorts of fearful and unconscious and paralyzed with fear, wonderful charnus and fetishes.
was seized by the howling priests, When this dance had lasted a certain dragged along the ground, and in a motime, King Sakitti made a signal. The ment the crowd closed over them. girls were then arranged in single file, With startling suddenness the song and we found that they were each to had changed, and in the place of the climb up and down the rock in turn. minor chant, which though rather moIt was explained to us that this was notouous was not unpleasant, an unutthe test by which it could be decided terably dismal howl rose from all whether each maiden was a fit candi-1 sides. The tom-tons were immediately
silenced, and only the long, white | mony of their initiation. I was not elephant-horns blew an unearthly wail told whether the loathsome portions of which re-echoed among the rocks and their apparel were taken with them in hollows of the mountain. At the same their seven days' seclusion, but we must moment the sun happened to be sud- hope not. On the seventh day, howdenly obscured by a cloud, and all color ever, their bodies would undergo a secseemed to have faded away into de- ond purification ; the white beads round pressing gloom. The effect of the the hips would be exchanged for a vast sudden transition was most dramatic, number of strings of colored ones, from and so unearthly, and at the same time which would hang, back and front, a savage, was the song now sung, that a handsome silk cloth, velvet, or even cold shudder ran through my whole brocade. This cloth, rather short in frame. " What will be done to her ? ” front, would be very long and narrow I excitedly asked the interpreter, think- behind, sometimes seven or eight feet ing of human sacrifices and similar in length, so long, in fact, as to necessihorrors.
tate its being tucked or tied up. This “She will be sent off the mountain, narrow cloth constitutes the " tail " for never to return," answered the man, which the Krobo girls and women are looking stolidly in front of him. “She famous on the West Coast of Africa; is unworthy."
the young women of this tribe being I was about to insist that the king generally known as “Tail-girls ” rather should answer my question, when I than by the native term Otufo. No was assured by one of our party, a expense is spared by the Kroboes on white trader who had inhabited the the adornment of their girls while on country for some time, that no bodily the Fetish-Mountain, and the materials harm would befall the girl, but that, which form the tail are often of a very being henceforth an outcast, she was costly description. A vast quantity of no longer looked upon as forming part beads, bracelets, and necklaces are also of the tribe and could be taken posses- placed on them, aud on their heads a sion of by any one. I was neverthe- very curiously shaped hat. Formed ex. less not satisfied, and, remembering the actly like an inverted flower-pot and of frequent instances of human sacrifices considerable size, this hat is made of brought home to the Kroboes, I deter- very finely plaited straw. It fits well mined to bear the incident in mind for on to the head, and is glued to its place future inquiry.
so that it cannot easily be detached. It A few minutes later, the priests re- is to be loped that these headdresses turned into the circle, and instantly the are occasionally changed, otherwise – drums beat again and the people at but we will not pursue this part of the once resumed the monotonous chant. subject farther. The costume of the The girls continued one by one to pass Otufos is completed by a pair of curiup and down the rock, and the cere- ously shaped anklets. They are rudely mony proceeded without further inci- fashioned of iron, and when shaken dent.
emit a sound like that of a cracked We were told that when all the girls bell. As they can only be taken off had passed the ordeal, they would be with great trouble, a skittishly inclined taken in a body to two or three villages Tail-girl would have some difficulty in set aside for the purpose, and there concealing the direction of her wherewould be confined for seven days to abouts. the houses. During this time they When the girls have been finally would not be in freedom for a moment, invested in this brave attire, they are nor would they be allowed to utter a definitely enrolled in the body of Otufos. word. They would be cared for and For the next four or five years they fed by the priestesses, and at the end of will never leave the mountain, or be the seven days they would be released, out of sight of one of the guardian in order to take part in the final cere-priestesses. They will do no work,