[Obeah Man] Autograph Letter Signed "Daniel French" to an unnamed male correspondent about the Obeah Man on Demerara.
Six pages, 12mo, closely written, fold marks, good condition. "[...] on Obeah as practised in Demerara, I have exceedingly little information to give, having had but little personal contact with it and only knowing it as a thing much talked about and I believe, largely made use of by the black people. It is no uncommon thing for a person bearing ill will towards another to resort to an Obeah man in order that he may work them some harm. The people beleve that these men really have power to effect great things, though the patiernt, who is to receive the harm may be at a considerable distance from him. The individuals practised against are expected to fall sick and pine away. The black people believe pieces of glass, nails and the most unlikely things are by means of Obeahism lodged in their bodies and cause them illness." People who think they are victims can ind somenone shilled in "relief". An Obeah man will go to the patient's house but French knows nothing beyond that. "I believe he usually gives the patient to understand some evil thing is buried in the ground close to the house [...] [he will] discover the evil thing when it suits his convenience." It's easy, he thinks, to give proof of having improved the patient's condition. French theorises about impressionability of the victim. But "I am not disposed to deny real power in the Obeah man. I incline to the belief that it is possessed in some instances." He tells the story of a Mr [William] Barrington, a missionary at some time in Demerara, giving his Devon address. He "was located at a village called 'Craig', on the Demerara River. This place was known as 'Sodom' on account of the abounding wickedness and it might be regarded as the headquarters of Obeahism." Barrington would know more than him, and have had closer contact. He continues, Amongst the Aborigines there is a similar thing which they call Pei. The Pei-man professes equally with the Obeah man, to have intercourse with spirits and to accomplish what he does by their means." One of such men, by the influence of a preacher, was converted "he was an old blind Indian and he referred his blindness to this agency. When spoked to on the subject he always protested that in his unconverted state he possessed real power - that it was no mere pretence and that he was wont to have intercourse withspirits. When converted it entirely left him and of course all desire to make use of it. He asserted, I believe, that he was practising against another Pei man - that the other was the stronger and hence his own blindness." He goes on to describe a "very distressing scene [he] was called upon to witness about 24 years ago, at a village called Victoria on the East Coast, Demerara". He'd been sent for by an intelligent "Christian woman" who was "in great distress on account of the most unaccountable doings in her house. She had very few things in her house and her floors were bare as is usual in that country. What few things she had became alarmingly restless and with considerable violence moved from their places. Glass bottles came with force down stairs as if hurled by someone from the top, a tea tray left its place no one, I believe, being near to handle it. The tester of a bedstead I remember seeing move violently up and down - no one being near; also a saucer [...] These doings continued for several days and night. No one was harmed [...] but it was observed generally to fall close to a girl, who, it appeared had run away from an old woman who had the repute of being an Obeah woman. Mrs Heny, now Mrs Castello, had taken her in and desired to shelter her; but she and others were to connect these starnge movements with the circumstances of the young girl and so [...] sent her away. And so it was, as soon as she was gone all these strange doings ceased. At the time, I was quite unable to connect these things with any human agency [...]" Note: "The work in Essequibo was commenced by an English missionary Brother, Mr. Daniel French, about the middle of the last century" "Essiquibo, Guyana" - Demerara now part of Guyana.