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From Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa,
chapter called "Stalking the Wild West African Idea," 1899.

"...Blood from a wound on a woman is held in high horror. This has probably something to do with the drawing of blood constituting grounds of divorce among the Igalwa. A Fan told me that a man in the village, who was so weak from some cause or other that he could hardly crawl about, had fallen in to this state by seeing the blood of a woman who had been killed by a falling tree. The underlying idea regarding blood is of course the old one that the blood is the life.

"The life in Africa means a spirit, hence the liberated blood is the liberated spirit, and liberated spirits are always whipping into people who do not want them. In the case of the young Fan, the opinion held was that the weak spirit of the woman had got into him. I could not help being reminded of the saying one often hears from a person in England who has seen some tragedy, --'I cannot get the horror of it out of my eyes.' This 'horror' would mean to an African a spirit coming from the thing itself.

"Charms are made for every occupation and desire in life--loving, hating, buying, selling, fishing, planting, travelling, hunting, &c., and although they are usually in the form of things filled with a mixture in which the spirit nestles, yet there are other kinds; for example, a great love charm is made of the water the lover has washed in, and this, mingled with the drink of the loved one, is held to soften the hardest heart. Of a similar nature is the friendship-compelling charm I know of on the Ivory Coast, which I have been told is used also in the Batanga regions. This is obtained on the death of a person you know really cared for you--like your father or mother, for example--by cutting off the head and suspending it over a heap of chalk, as the white earth that you find in river beds is called here, then letting it drip as long as it will and using this saturated chalk to mix in among the food of anyone you wish should think kindly of you and trust you. This charm, a Bassa man said to me, 'was good too much for the white trader'...."

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad


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