The Mafulu eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 290 pages of information about The Mafulu.

There are also women who deal with cases believed to be caused by the presence in the stomach of a snake, which has to be got out.  Here the operator takes a piece of bark cloth, with which she rubs the front of the patient’s body, but without any incantation.  Then, as she removes the cloth from the body, she makes a movement as though she were wrapping up in it something, presumably the escaped snake; and afterwards she carries the cloth away with her, and the cure is thus effected.

A man with toothache will say that “a spirit is eating my teeth.”  The people seem to have a knowledge of something inside the teeth, the nature of which I am not able to state definitely, but which apparently is, in fact, the nerve, and they recognise that it is in this something that the pain arises; but I could not ascertain the connection between this something and the spirit which is supposed to cause the trouble.  If the aching tooth can be got at, they adopt a method the native explanation of which was translated to me as being a drawing or driving out of the mysterious something from the tooth.  This is done in some way with an ordinary native comb, without extracting the tooth itself; but how it is done I could not ascertain.  There is no incantation connected with the operation.  Another cure is for the patient to chew the leaf of a certain tree (I do not know what tree), so that the sap of it gets into the hole in the tooth, and thereby, as they think, draws or drives out this nerve, or whatever the something may be.  The Fathers of the Mission told me that both these two remedies do really appear to be effective.

Wounds are the speciality of many healers with special knowledge of the curative properties of various plants, and who gather the plant, make an incantation over it, boil it in water, and then with that water wash the wound.  There are also men who operate surgically on wounds with knives made of stone or shell or bamboo.

Charms, probably of a poisonous nature, are used generally for the warding off of sickness, these being carried in the little charm bags.

A general and universal cure for all ailments is a piece of bark, tied with a piece of string to the neck or head, all neck ornaments having been first removed.

I regret that as regards all these matters I am only able to indicate shortly and generally the methods of cure, and can give no further explanation concerning them.

Death and Burial.

(Ordinary People.)

When a man or woman is regarded as dying, he or she is at once attended by a woman whose permanent office it is to do this, and who has other women and girls with her to assist her, these others including, but not necessarily being confined to, the females of the dying man’s own family and relatives.  The house is full of women; but there is no man there.  This special woman and the others attend the dying man, [97] nursing him, washing him from time to time, and keeping the flies away from him; but they apparently do not attempt any measures for curing him, their offices only beginning when he is regarded as dying.  In the meantime they all wail, and there are also a number of other women wailing outside the house.

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The Mafulu from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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