William Allen's Narrative of the 1841 Niger expedition
William Allen's Narrative of the 1841 Niger expedition

Royal Navy1841 Niger expeditionBookChapter XI ◄► Chapter XIII



Communication of the Egyptians with the interior of Africa - Conquest of many tribes in the interior - Sabaco, an Ethiopian prince, reigns over Egypt - Immigration of Copts into Ethiopia - Some of their customs adopted by the Abyssinians - Analogies between many of the observances of Abyssinia and West African tribes - Religious rituals of the West Africans probably borrowed from the Egyptians- Orders of priesthood - Mysterious ceremonies associated with the priestly office - Secret religious societies of Africa - Offerings to the deities - Sacred animals - Customs connected with mourning for the dead - Yam festival, its apparent connexion with some Coptic ceremony - Various observances common to Egyptians, still met with among the West African tribes - Identity of design in many of their manufactures - Aggri beads found among several African tribes - Inferences to be deduced from all these circumstances.

Numerous and great indeed, have been the changes of weal or woe that have taken place throughout the widely-extended family of mankind, since the distant period when Noah's youngest son retired with that dreadful curse, "A servant of servants shalt thou be;" but the proscribed race still bears with it, and is to bear yet longer, the utmost fulfilment of that malediction. Sunk and degraded in the scale of humanity, the civilized world has looked on them but as indeed enduring slaves, nor stopped to inquire whether the dark skin might not contain beneath it human feelings, high impulses, and germs for improvement. The history of the negroes in the middle ages, even, is enveloped in a darkness, illustrative of the sad fate which for thousands of years has been gloomily suspended over them, and, except of Cush or Ethiopia, so often referred to in Holy Writ, and which perhaps did not include the southern and more central parts of that vast continent, we have few records. Now, however, that our own enlightened country, is striving to repay in some degree, the debt so long due to the Africans, everything which can throw light on their condition, social relations, institutions, and connexion with other nations, anciently or in modern times, is examined with deep interest. We have, therefore, ventured to put together a number of particulars, which, though imperfect, will, we trust, induce others who visit Africa to look more deeply into the subject, and to trace still further the analogies which exist between the institutions of the Western Africans and those of the Abyssinians and Copts. That such analogies are numerous cannot be questioned, though they are obscure ; but if we remember how long an interval has elapsed, since these nations exerted an influence over the internal parts of their continent, and the proneness of a persecuted race to stand still, as it were, while others more favourably situated were progressing, we may regard the coincidences as fair indications of the source from whence they were derived.

Of the communications kept up by the Egyptians in the earliest ages with portions of the interior of Africa, there are too many records to leave any doubt; and it would seem that what was at first the field of commercial enterprize eventually became the scene of wrong and oppression. "Many black nations were conquered by the early monarchs of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties, as the Toreses, the Tareas, and another whose name is lost, as well as the Cush or Ethiopians.

{Sir Gardner Wilkinson has here put a note, referring to a figure, No. 12, represented at page 385 of the first volume of his 1st series, as being the one illustrative of the tribe "whose name is lost." On looking at this, we were struck at once by the peculiar outline of physiognomy: the thick lips, the manner of arranging the hide waist-wrapper, the armlets, the appearance of beads round the neck; leaving but slight doubt of its having been a tribe of South-western or Central Africa. In corroboration of this opinion, we find, at page 404, vol. i., black slaves, with their women and children, taken from a representation at Thebes. The features, hair, and mode of putting on the waist-covering of the male, exactly corresponds with the one referred to at page 385, vol. i., while the loose waistcloth of the female is narrow-striped, and worn precisely as obtains to the present time among nearly all the nations of Western Africa. The elongate, pendulous breasts of the mothers are truthfully shown, as also the beads round the necks of the women and children, and the waists of the hitter, in whom the hair is shaven or clipt, so as to leave little bunches or patches, a custom observed to this day among all the tribes on the banks of the Niger, and many of the coast inhabitants. The smaller children are shown to be carried by the mother in a sort of basket, which rests "à posteriori," a modification of which is yet found among the Bluebarras and Krus, the kanki of the Fantis, and the very general way of securing the infants to the back, or resting on the hip. There is also, at page 385 of the same volume, a figure (No. 9) of a black from the interior of Africa, who wears a loose dress very much resembling the tobe, still so commonly used in the upper part of the Niger and in Central Africa. He has also the massive ivory or metal bracelets. If this and the preceding figures are compared with Nos. 13, A, B, C, D, depicted as the true Cush or Ethiopian, we cannot avoid coming to the conclusion, that the conquered nation "whose name is lost" was one from Central or South-western Africa.}

These last were long at war with the Egyptians, and part of their country, which was reduced at a very remote period by the arms of the Pharaohs, was obliged to pay an annual tribute to the conquerors;" {Wilkinson's Manners and Customs of the Egyptians, 1st Series, vol. i., p. 387.} and we find among the representations, of those engaged in bringing the acknowledgment of their subjection, during the reign of Thothmes III. in the eighteenth dynasty, long rows of negroes, figured in waistcloths of narrow striped manufacture, and some with armlets and beads round their necks, who bear elephants' teeth, woods, pottery, and animals; some of which latter depicted in the Temple of Kalabsha, convinced Burckhardt that the Copts had extended their warfare "into a country inhabited by lions, cameleopards, apes, and elephants, none of which are found in Nubia or Dongola," and "that the battles must have been fought 'to the south of the civilized country of Ancient Merëe.'" {Burckhardt's Travels in Nubia, p. 119}

{Referring to various articles in use by the Egyptians, Sir Gardner Wilkinson says, "The first (ebony) came from the interior of Africa, and formed with ivory, gold, ostrich feathers, dried fruits and skins, the object of the annual tribute brought to Egypt by the conquered tribes of Ethiopia and the Soodan." - 2nd Series, vol. i., page 82.}

This intercourse, though for the most part aggressive, must have enabled the black races to become acquainted, at least partially, with the arts and usages of their civilized oppressors; and since slaves were also included in the list of exactions, some of whom, with a natural attachment to home, would endeavour to escape, and return to their native districts, might thus bear with them recollections, of what had obtained among their Coptic masters.

Perhaps the first direct impulse towards a change in the negro institutions was exerted by Sabaco, an Ethiopian prince, who conquered the Egyptians, and who, according to Herodotus, reigned over them fifty years; when, having been advised in a dream to put the priests to death - a deed repugnant to his nature - he preferred retiring from the government, having held it for that period, as predicted by his oracle; and returned to his native country, where it is probable he introduced many Egyptian arts and customs {Vide Wilkinson, 1st Series, vol i. p. 133}. The most important event, however, for that end, occurred in the time of Psamatichus, who ruled over Egypt about 600 years B.C.. This king having given much offence to his Egyptian troops, by "keeping them in the distant frontier towns of Marea, Daphne of Pelusium, and Elephantine," they became disaffected, and to the number of 240,000 retired into Upper Ethiopia. "They entered the service of the monarch of that country, and in return received a considerable extent of territory upon the confines, from which the Ethiopian prince ordered them to expel a tribe of people at that time in rebellion against him; and this migration of the Egyptian {Vide Wilkinson, as deduced from Herodotus, 1st Series, vol. i., p. 153.} troops introducing the arts and manners of a refined nation, had a very sensible effect in civilizing the Ethiopians." {That these were already acknowledged as an altered nation we find the prophet Jeremiah, chap, xxv., v. 24, about the date of that occurrence, alluding to kings "of the mingled people that dwell in the desert," and Ezekiel, at a rather later period, about 570 years b.c. in his denunciations against Egypt, Ethiopia, and Libya, (chap. xxx., v. 4 and 6) speaks of them as "all the mingled people."}

It is impossible such an influx of intelligent colonists - not forgetting other frequent communications with Egypt - could fail to cause great alterations, and the introduction of many religious and civil institutions among the negroes; and this once commenced, would like the circle in disturbed water, gradually diffuse itself among remote tribes, and though leaving but slight impression on the more distant, still enough, to show it had reached them. The Negroland of Abyssinia, until the engrafting of Judaism and subsequently Christianity, presented numerous proofs of this connexion with the Egyptians, from whom they had borrowed many of their customs and laws, some of which even remain, though modified, to the present time; but the long interval, with its several mutations, leaves us in obscurity as to the actual extent to which that influence was exerted. The manner in which both Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus refer to Ethiopians, civilized and barbarous, show that the habits and manners of some were changed, and we must incline to the opinion of the learned Bowdich, that the transition of some of the former to the southward, is proved, in the numerous coincidences still existing between the ancient Abyssinian customs and observances and those of the Ashantis and some other Africans. Nor is it improbable that the expeditions of Ptolemy Evergetes, Cornelius Balbus, and Septimius Flaccus, had also their share in obliging the negroes to move south and west. Be that as it may, the tide of emigration has been gradually setting in these directions, and the traditionary statements of many of the West African tribes, lead to the presumption, that scarcely any of them had their origin in the localities they now inhabit, but much further to the north and east.

{Vide an Essay on the Superstitions, Customs, and Arts, common to the Ancient Egyptians, Abyssinians, and Ashantees, by T. E. Bowdich, Esq., 1821. Page 11 to 18.

This valuable, but unfortunately very scarce publication, we were unable to consult, until we had put together materials from other sources, yet we have thought it due to that distinguished and learned traveller, to substitute the following large extract, which explains so clearly the causes of the migration to the south and west.

"The Ashantees and their neighbours, must have again been disturbed from time to time, by the several emigrations of the nations of the Mediterranean, whom Buache, in his researches for the construction of a map of Africa for Ptolemy, has at once discovered by the identity of the names, in the neighbourhood of the Mediterranean, and south of the Niger. The Mimaces, for instance, are laid down by Ptolemy, a little south of Tripoli; and again, a little west of the modern Yarriba. The Nabatharae close behind Algiers, and also where Dahomey now exists. The Dolopes in the present dominion of Tripoli, and again where we expect to find the Negro Kingdom of Kulba. The Blemmyi in three places: on the Arabian Gulf, near Rees Ageeg; on the eastern frontier of Abyssinia; and south of the Equator, a little above the track of the traders from Loango to Nimeamay. The Astacures are found, in Ptolemy, on the confines of Tripoli, and again south of the Niger, near where our informants described the modern kingdom of Atagara to be, so that some trace of the name seems to be preserved.

"The Daradi, another of Ptolemy's emigrant nations, (although they do not appear to have advanced beyond the modern Bergoo in his time,) probably afterwards proceeded further westward, and founded the existing kingdoms of Daura, the neighbour of Cassina. The Gallas are still found south of Abyssinia, and also in the interior of the Grain Coast of Guinea. Cornelius Balbus subdued Gallas on the northern bank of the Niger. Browne learned that the people of Dageon, the neighbours of Darfour, came originally from the vicinity of Tunis.

"Many more instances might be given of the same names being found at remote distances north and south of the Niger, whilst other nations, as the Samamicii, originally from the coast of the Mediterranean, near Lebeda, do not appear to have reached the Niger in Ptolemy's time, but to have rested in their progress on the northern frontier of the Negro Kingdom of Asben. It appears that the Arabs, whom Pliny and more ancient writers affirmed to have settled from Syene as far up as Meroe, have since that time penetrated south-westward into the interior of Ethiopia; for in the accounts and MSS. charts which I have received from the natives, Wadey was always distinguished as the first Arab dominion, and its inhabitants were said to use a different diet, and their ambition only to be repressed by the great power of the Emperor of Bornou. This progress of the Arabs inland must have contributed to the dislocation of the Ethiopic or Negro Nations.

"The expedition of Cornelius Balbus (the last Roman general who enjoyed the honour of a triumph,) who reached the Niger, and marched for some time on its northern bank, (apparently where the modern Negro kingdoms of Noofee, Yaoora, and Fillani, are now situated,) must doubtless have disturbed many of the colonies and aborigines, and induced movements to the south of the Niger. The previous expedition of Seutonius Paulinus, (who seems to have passed near where Park understood the source of the Niger to be, into the country of the Perorsi, placed by Ptolemy between the Gambia and the coast,) must also have contributed to the secondary movements of the Ethiopians.

"Septimius Flaccus, according to Marinus of Tyre, made a three months' expedition into the interior of Africa, proceeding from the country of the Garamantes into Ethiopia, and traversing Libya. Julius Maternus, according to the same author, was employed four months in a similar enterprise, having departed from Leptis Magna, or the modern Lebeda, to join the Garamantes at Garama, in order to invade Agysimba, the country of the rhinoceroses. Ptolemy objects to the unreasonable length of time allotted to these marches, without reflecting that they were neither likely to be direct, long, or rapid. As no great lake, or considerable river, is mentioned as existing in Agysimba, it has been concluded that they neither reached the Niger or the neighbourhood of Timbuctoo, or Houssa. This may admit of argument, but that such extensive expeditions must have compelled or induced many nations and tribes, not very remote from the Niger to emigrate further southwards for safety, cannot be doubted.

"Probus undertook an expedition against the Blemmyi, near the frontiers of Thebes, vanquished them, and sent several prisoners to Rome. Diocletian transported considerable numbers of the Blemmyi and Nobatae, to an island in the Nile near Elephantine, accorded them temples and allowed them to choose their own priests. Before the reign of Diocletian, the Roman frontier extended to within twenty-three journies of Axum. Thus then it would appear, that tribes or nations of the more civilized Ethiopians were ejected by the great Egyptian emigration; pressed still farther by the conquerors, whose invasions were recorded at Axum and Adulis; again dispossessed by the enterprising Carthaginian colonies spread from Cyrene to the Atlantic; by the Numidians, Gaetulians, and Garamantes, driven southwards by the Romans; and ultimately arrived at their present situation, through a series of internal wars and emigrations, positively recorded in their own historical traditions, but otherwise unknown to us. Many of the superstitions and customs which these people had previously adopted from the Egyptians, are still existing, and many must have been lost or corrupted in their change of abode, and their consequent connexion with the less civilized Ethiopians."}

We are not therefore surprised, on comparing the littoral inhabitants of Western Africa, to find the proofs of their former connexion but faintly discernible, and especially in the arrangement of their governments.

The learned essay {Bowdich's Essay} to which we must refer our readers, clearly traces the resemblance, in several points, between the Abyssinians and Ashantis, not only in many of the observances but also in the title of royalty. Thus according to Mr. Salt, the prefix of the Ethiopian or shepherd kings was Za or Zo, which at a later period was written Zaï or Saï, from which Bowdich very properly inferred, the Ashanti designation of Ozzaï or Ossaï - sometimes used simply Zaï or Saï - to have been taken, and we believe the Ezzeh or Issa, (royal title of Ibu and Nufi kings) as also Attàh of the Eggarahs to have been so derived. This appears the more probable, when we discover existing among these somewhat rude tribes, certain offices attached to royalty even in the African clay palace; thus we have called attention, at Cape Coast, to the retinue of the Akim caboceers, and also those of the chiefs of Abòh, and Iddah, where we find, head musicians, fan-bearers {Vide vol. i., page 146.}, cane-bearers, persons holding situations similar to the απομυιοι of Hesychius, who drove away the flies by means of chowries, and above all the office of king's mouth {Vide vol. i., pages 216, 289}, or royal interpreter,- Kal-hatze of Abyssinia,-it being contrary to etiquette, for those sovereigns to communicate directly with any one. We find too, the same respect for royalty at Iddah as obtained among the Abyssinians, namely, that the king was neither allowed to eat or drink in the presence of any person. At Iddah it was carried so far, as even to suppress the display of the commonest emotions of our nature {Vide vol. i., pages 289, 293, and 296}.

The practice for one or more judges to attend the king in time of war in Abyssinia, is still observed by the Ashantis and Eggarahs; indeed among the latter, the chief and second judges are the generals of the army {Vide vol. i., page 326}. It is however in the religious rituals, that we properly look for the greatest number of coincidences, inasmuch, as it is natural to man to retain longer unaltered, those customs and ceremonials which connect his thoughts with the Great Spirit, whom even the most benighted Pagan cannot but acknowledge; and here we are inclined to believe, that the mystical allegories of the ancient Egyptians, have been the foundation of those fetiche absurdities, which are so blindly followed by the Negro races to this day. Among that singular people, the sacerdotal appointments were not only the most honourable, but the most influential, and even their kings had probably only a nominal superiority over those, who pretended alone to be the intermediators between men and the deities. "The sacred office of the priests, by giving them the exclusive right to regulate all spiritual matters, as well as to announce the will, threaten the wrath, and superintend the worship of the gods, was calculated to ensure them universal respect," {Vide Wilkinson's 1st Series, Vol. i., p. 257} - and they seem to have taken great care that any sublimer knowledge or belief in the attributes of Omnipotence they themselves entertained, should be concealed from vulgar speculation, under the fabulous guise of a plurality of gods. We can readily conceive that a religion, which thus offered as it were tangible evidence of a communication with superior Being, would soon find votaries among those black races, who had an opportunity of observing the veneration of the Egyptians; and that the dark and imperfect views of theology which might thus be received, would only tend to develope the forms of polytheistic paganism, which we observe now to obtain among so many African races. If their oppressors thus openly worshipped deified animals, can we wonder at finding the barbarous negro following such example? How far then at the present day, do we notice the operation of that same religion, at places the most remote from the centre of its first propagation?

Take the whole Inta race, the Krus, the Edeeyahs, and the large family of Ibus, with their offshoots, the people of Bonny, Calabar, and Cameroons, and among all we find a graduated priesthood, secondary only in name to the kings or chiefs, by whom they are entrusted with almost every office of importance or wealth; who, in common with their subjects, look to these juju men to avert the wrath of the deities or propitiate their favour;- who place the most implicit confidence in their powers of good or evil, and who imagine they can communicate directly with the great Spirit. {"Next to the king, the priests held the first rank, and from them were chosen his confidential and responsible advisers." - Wilkinson's 1st Series, vol. i., p. 257.}

Among the Egyptian hierarchy not only were there certain secret rituals at each stage of advancement in the sacred office, but there existed a separate order of observances - the mysteries - of which Sir G. Wilkinson says: "From all we can learn on the subject, it appears that the mysteries consisted of two degrees, denominated the greater and the lesser (like the Eleusinian, which were borrowed from Egypt), and in order to become qualified for admission into the higher class, it was necessary to have passed through those of the inferior degree, and each of them was probably divided into ten grades." "The honour of ascending from the less to the greater mysteries, was as highly esteemed as it was difficult to obtain." {Vide Wilkinson's 1st Series, vol. i., p. 267.}

Even princes were not privileged to initiation into the highest order until their accession to the throne, when, in virtue of their kingly office, and as president of the religion, they then became entitled.

Now existing to the present day, there are among nearly all the West Africans, certain mysterious societies connected with the priests or juju men, who are alone said to conduct the ceremonials: they are divided into classes, and the kings and fetiche-men are at the head of them. Thus the "Almouseri" of the Footatoros, the "Purrah" of the Timmanis and Bulloms, the Samo of theSoosoos, the Mumbo-Jumbo of many tribes, the secret religious orders of the Akus, and the free Egbo of the Old Calabar and Cameroons.

It is unfortunate, that except the last, so little is known of the organization of any of these societies, All of them are, however, reputedly in connexion with the priesthood, and are said to have arisen out of mysteries observed by them. The rites of initiation are performed at night in a retired part of the woods, and death is the punishment for those, whose temerity or curiosity might tempt them to overlook the sacred proceedings. {The feast of Minerva, at Sais, took place at night, each person bearing a light; it was intended to represent the allegorical history of Osiris, which the Egyptians considered the most solemn mystery of their religion.}

Mr. W.F. Daniel, who had various opportunities of becoming acquainted with some particulars respecting the free Egbos of Calabar and Cameroons, says the Egbo is sub-divided into several grades, of which there are eighteen or twenty; of these the highest and most aristocratic has been termed Grand Egbo. All orders of Egbo have their own appropriate day of ceremonious observance; but it is only on days set apart for the performance of the mysterious rites of Grand Egbo that every house within the town is closed, none of the inhabitants being permitted to leave them, under the penalty of death, or severe corporeal punishment, &c. The king is at the head of the highest class of Egbos, &c.{Proceedings of the Ethnological Society of London, 1846; also vide vol. ii., p. 241 of this narrative}

We cannot hear of the existence of societies so singularly and systematically arranged, among tribes so rude and barbarous, without feeling convinced, that they were borrowed from those of the more distant inhabitants of Egypt, the features, as far as can be gathered, being so identical in both.

According to Porphyry, "the Egyptians either considered animals the real deities, or represented them (their gods) with the heads of oxen, birds, and other creatures, in order that the people might abstain from eating them;" and each town or district had its own especial one, who was supposed to preside over its interests. Now what are the intermediatory agents of the West Africans to this time? Are they not animals held in various degrees of veneration and respect, or their rudely-carved representatives? Thus,- the sacred crocodile of a portion of the Intas, the snakes of Dahomey and of Brass River, the shark of New Calabar, the iguana of Bonny, &c.; and there is scarcely a tribe of Western Africa that has not one or more of these figuring at the head of their religious observances; and so far from destroying or using them as food, it is one of the most serious crimes to injure them.

In tracing the coincidence still further, it appears not a little singular, that the Coptic priests should have made use of exactly the same animals, in their oblations to the deities, as still obtain among most of the negro races of West Africa, viz., goats, sheep, gazelles, and white fowls, which were the sacrificial animals; and the blood and heads of these were considered the most appropriate offerings to their deities {Vide vol. i., pages 117, 249. Vol. ii., page 199; According to the testimony of Herodotus and Plutarch, the religious festivals and observances of the Egyptians, were principally held about the time of new, and full moon; the periods still observed by the tribes of Western Africa. (Vide vol. ii. p. 224.)}, and the priests alone were permitted to immolate them. The objects of animal worship were multifarious, and each held in respect according to its supposed importance; and not only did the Egyptians reverence them as symbols of their gods, but they also believed in evil genii, who presided over sublunary matters and the elements,- these, according to Iamblicus (De Mysteriis,) were the demons or δαιμονες, from which arrangement, we suspect, must have been deduced the division of good and evil spirits, confided in so implicitly by all the West Africans.

Of the various deities among the Ethiopians {Vide Wilkinson, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 241}, Neph was an especial object of adoration. He was represented by a ram's head, his emblem; {in the Egyptian saloon of the British Museum, there is a statue of Pioeri, prince of Ethiopia, in the reign of Rameses II., kneeling, and holding an altar, on which is a ram's head. It is from Belzoni's collection} and this was worn as a common charm or amulet by the devout of all classes; it is therefore a strange analogy, that not only in the worship of the Great Spirit, but even among the penates of the West Africans, particularly the Krus, Ibus, Edeeyahs, and Bimbians, the head of the male sheep or goat should be the chief offering, and that the skull should afterwards be retained about the person as an amulet, chiefly by the priests or juju men. While thus alluding to specific deities, we think it not improbable that the Nis-rah or Great Spirit of the Krus, may have been derived from a complication of Neith, the god of wisdom, and Ra, the physical sun {among the Duallas, or people of Cameroons, the word A'luba, signifies God, the Great Spirit, and also the Sun.}; and that even the Moh (idol, but sometimes used to express the Great Spirit) of the Edeeyahs, may have had its origin in the Maut - nature or mother; and which was sometimes represented among the Egyptians under the form of a cat's head, an animal - especially the Genetta Richardsonii, the wild cat of Fernando Po - which is held in deep veneration by the Edeeyahs {Vide vol. ii., p. 200.}.

At the religious festivals of the Copts, libations were poured out for the gods, and sometimes sprinkled about the floor; and this is still observed among the West Africans, among whom we know not a tribe which does not make a practice of spitting out the first mouthful, or pouring on the ground a little of every fluid they partake of; and this they say is intended as an offering to the fetiches or jujus; and in their oblations to these idols, palm-wine or rum always accompanies the other articles of food.

The affectionate respect evinced for the memory of the dead by the Egyptians, induced them to preserve by various methods the remains of those they had cherished in life; and not only was the period of mourning long, but at various seasons the family met together, to revive the reminiscences of the departed. Among the Western Africans, of course it would be in vain to look, for anything assimilating to so costly and difficult a process as that of embalming, although the Ashantis smoke the bodies of the dead to preserve them {King, an intelligent African, who was left in charge of the 'Amelia' schooner at the Confluence, states in his journal, that some Bassa youths, who worked at the model farm, did so to obtain cowries sufficient to bury their father, in a proper manner; they had kept the body five months, by smoking it over a fire, frequently washing it, and repeating the preservative process, as also decorating it with powdered camwood}; and in every tribe where cotton clothes are found, the deceased is wrapt up in various quantities according to his wealth; and several articles of ornament are either buried with him, or placed over the grave, as we had occasion to point out, in describing places visited by the Expedition {Vide also vol. ii., p. 201 and 229 of this narrative.} Both in Egypt and Abyssinia, lamentation was made for the dead; a sort of wake being held, on the assembling together of the relatives and friends, who tore their hair, and likewise bewailed the loss, which is just as it is observed by the West Africans. That this could not have been engrafted on the Abyssinians by their adoption of Judaism, is certain, inasmuch as the Jews were forbidden to do so. - (Lev., chap, xxi., verses 1 and 5; also chap, xix., verses 27 and 28.) Nor did it arise among the other negro races from any connexion with Mahommedanism, since, by the Koran, women were prohibited from mourning at funerals, and the celebration of the virtues of the deceased was not allowed; yet both of these practices are invariably attended to by the Krus, Intas, Ibus, Eggarahs, and Edeeyahs.

The Coptic families {the people of Cameroons, and Old Calabar, bind a piece of black or dark blue cloth round the head, and neither wash or change their waistcloths for several weeks while mourning for the dead; they are literally in "sackcloth and ashes." The Egyptians wore black on similar occasions} mourned seventy-two days; and it is somewhat odd to find among rude people such as the Krus, that after an interval of three months or moons, prayers for the dead and mourning are again observed; while the simple Edeeyahs have the seven days of lamentation, and one moon or month of mourning. We doubt not if all the circumstances attendant on the demise of persons in the other tribes were known, we should be able to trace many coincidences referrible to a common origin, as well as that of placing food and libations on the graves of the deceased,- a custom we opine to have been taken from that of the Egyptians, who had also their offerings for the dead.

But of all the African observances of fixed character, perhaps that of the "yam custom" is the most singular on many accounts. It is one which nearly all tribes adhere to; and though there may be some slight difference in the period, still it is common to all; and the manner in which it is carried out among all of them, evinces that it must have had its origin from one and the same source. Thus the Krus, Intas, Dahomians, Ibus, Eggarahs, and the littoral inhabitants of Cameroons, Bonny, Calabar, Fernando Po,- all mark the season of planting their yams and grain, by a religious ritual, and a festive meeting of all the tribe. With the exception of the Ashantis, and perhaps the Ibus and Eggarahs, the ceremony is untainted by human blood; the offerings being goats, sheep, and white fowls, portions of which, after being roasted, are laid together with palm-wine, as oblations before the idols: this done, they continue the entertainment for several days. Whether this had any connexion with the feast observed in the month Athyr, when the Egyptian husbandman began to sow his corn, or was copied from the form of general thanksgiving to the deities, on the rising of the fertilizing waters of the Nile, it would be difficult to surmise; but we may reason, that it was taken from some one of the many similar Coptic institutions.

It has often been a question, whence so many of the West African races borrowed the practice of circumcision, which although not universally followed in any tribe, is yet pretty generally adopted by the inhabitants of the banks of the Niger, and by the subdivisions of the Ibu family: as it is observed among some who have no trace whatever of Islamism, in their religious or domestic customs, we may conclude it to have been introduced along with the others to which we have already called attention. That it was practised from the earliest times, appears on the evidence of Herodotus, who says that its origin, both among Egyptians and Ethiopians, may be traced to the most remote antiquity, but he knew not from whom it might have been borrowed. From inscriptions and devices on the monuments of Upper and Lower Egypt, Sir G. Wilkinson, thought it must have been in use long before the arrival of Joseph or the Exodus of Moses, and it continued to be more or less kept up to the latest times, so that when their country was overrun by the disciples of the prophet, that institution at least accorded with the impostor's views.

Another practice, which being common also to the Arabs of later times, might be supposed to have had its origin in the spread of Mahommedanism in Western Africa,- we allude to painting, or rather colouring the eyelids of the women and children, with preparations of galena or antimony; a fashion very generally met with among many of the Negro people we are referring to- and at Iddah, we were not a little surprised to find metal and leather bottles very similar in shape to the Kohl bottles of the Egyptians, with styles or bodkins, for the purpose of applying the pigment; and at Cameroons and Bimbia, far removed from the influence of the prophet's followers, the same mode of disfiguring the eyelids was found. Now, we can scarcely imagine that they would have adopted a troublesome fashion, which at best could have but slight distinction on their dark skins, if they had not at some period noticed it, as in use among a lighter coloured and more civilized people.

Many, therefore, are the coincidences between the institutions and customs of the swarthy negro and those of the ancient Coptic family of the same continent; and in pursuing the question of their former connexion, we might also adduce proofs from several of the manufactures, or rather from identity of design, in their rude attempts at imitation. Thus we call attention to the narrow-woven cloth, with a blue border, the figure and outline of their swords, daggers, cowrie and brass armlets, the earthern lamps, musical instruments, met with at Iddah and Ashanti, and other places; the shape and texture of the palm-leaf baskets, the crescentic middle portion of the African stools, so similar to the head-stools of the Copts, &c.

{The daggers figured in Sir G. Wilkinson's Egyptians, 1st series, vol i. p. 318, not only resemble very much in their conformation those in use among the inhabitants of the Upper Niger, but the mode of decorating the blade with cross marks is also an indication whence the latter was borrowed. The daggers, number 3 and 7, at p. 406, of Wilkinson's 1st series, vol. i., p. 406, shew also an evident resemblance}.

[illustration: Arms, Ju-jus, &c.]

Lastly, as a direct proof of the intercourse between these (so differently circumstanced) inhabitants of the great African continent, we may notice the presence of Aggri beads, such as were manufactured by the Egyptians alone, in at least three tribes with which we are acquainted, viz., the Krus, Fantis, and Eggarahs, among whom we have found them of unquestionably Coptic character; and we have it on the evidence of the talented Bowdich that they are also met with at Ashanti. We believe, a consideration of all these different circumstances will go far to prove, that much of what now obtains among the negro races of Western Africa - both in their government, forms of religion, and civil institutions - were adopted from the numerous though imperfect opportunities they had, of becoming acquainted with those of the ancient Egyptians. As before stated, "if we remember the proneness of a persecuted race to stand still as it were, and the long interval which has elapsed since the date of that communication," we may rather wonder at being able to trace in their rude institutions, any comparison with those from which they had borrowed them.

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