priests or missionaries, have become well known to the Indians, and, having
been adapted to their mythology, are literally believed to have taken place.
Vide " The Algonkin Legends of New England " for further illustration of this.
i68 OLD RABBIT, THE VOODOO.
" Wut trick ? " asked Granny, leaning forward eagerly and
dropping her quill unheeded on the glowing hearth.
" Des one o' dem Oby pison," said Aunt Mymee, coolly.
" You kyarn' git all de greegins (ingredients) foh hit hyeah, so I
don't mek no bones ter tell yo' dat hit am er powdeh mek outen
de same hef ob snails an' lizuhds an' crickits an' scorpums dry
down an' beat fine. Huh ! ef yo' git dat on er man's haid, he
ha'r all gwine ter fall off an' he eye git dim an' he vittle lose
dey good tase an' he gwine ter hyeah de soun' o' crickits an'
frogs an' de likes in his yeahs, an' he gwine ter be slow lak de
snail an' spotty lak de snake an' he be dumb (stupid) lak de
lizuhd, an' he gwine ter be ez full ob misery ez er Injun am ob
lice. Dat so, an' he meat gwine ter swivel on' he bones gwine ter
crack an' he marrerdry out. Trick, huh ! Wut yo' name dat ? "
" Oh, poor dogs ! " cried Tow Head, transferring her
sympathies. " Do, dear Aunt Mymee, take that trick off."
Mymee laughed grimly. " De way ter git er trick off," she
said slowly, a am ter git er biggeh one mm nurr cunjerer an*
putt hit onter de one dat done hit dat am, ef hit er sprunkle-
trick. Wid er bag-trick ur er image-trick, hit am diffunt.
Nemmine, dough, dis night. I study up sumpin foh dem dawgs,
ef yo' go 'long up ter de House good."
Tow Head, in quite a frenzy of remorse and sympathy,
agreed to do anything for the hound's sake, and was led away a
Aunt Mymee enlivened the night as she disappeared from
view by singing in cheerful tones the following, as Granny said,
" owdashus " words, which are supposed to echo the sound of
the devil's forge :
"Bang-go ! Pang-go 1
Did yo' ev-veh
See de debbil,
On he wood an'
A-t'arin' up de groun' wid he Ions; toe-n-n-n ail?"
AUNT MYMEE had been in what Granny designated as "a
turr'ble takin','' the cause of which was the loss of her most
powerful fetich, the luck-ball she had talked to and called by
her own name as if it were her double. Her superstitious
terrors when she discovered the loss were realty pitiable ; her
overbearing manner towards the other negroes quite forsook
her, her limbs were palsied and her complexion bleached to that
awful greyish pallor so much more shocking to the beholder
than the lividness of a Caucasian. She had missed the precious
ball in the morning, when she was dressing herself, and hastily
felt in her bed, expecting to find it there. Not finding it, she
snatched off the covers and shook the pillows vigorously. The
floor was next scrutinised. No ball could be found. Then Aunt
Mymee went wild. Her morning duties were forgotten, she ran
hither and thither, looking in all possible and impossible places
of concealment and obstinately refusing to state what she had
lost. Finally, with a groan of despair, she flung herself down
on her cabin floor in a cowering heap and quavered out that
she would be better off in her grave, for an enemy had stolen
her luck-ball, and her soul as well as her luck was in it.
Her daughter's pickaninnies, in great excitement, spread the
news, but scarcely had Granny and Aunt Mary begun to enjoy
it when they had " ter lafF out o' turr side o' de mouf " ; Tow
170 OLD RABBIT, THE VOODOO,
Head proudly marched to the cabin with an exceedingly dirty
little bag in her hand and desired to know if Aunt Mymee's
soul was " tied up in that nasty thing ? "
Evidently it was. Aunt Mymee sprang up with a joyful cry
and kissed the bag and hugged the finder, then sternly de-
" Huccome dat yo' got dat medout me a-knowin' ? "
" Found it by my bed this morning."
" Oh ! honey, w'yn't yo' fetch um ri' off ? "
" I didn't see you. Mamma dressed me this morning."
" Did yo' " Mymee's voice sank to an anxious whisper
M show dat ball unter 'er ? "
" No," said Tow Head, with great positiveness, " I didn't.
She told me, once, when I was telling her about Uncle John's
Jack, never to say anything more about such wicked idol-ertry,
and I promised I wouldn't, and I always keep my promises if
I don't forget. Grandma says that is my best trait."
Aunt Mymee heaved a sigh of relief.
" Dat's er good chile, don't pesteh yo' ma," she said, ap-
provingly, as she began to fumble at the strings wrapped (not
tied) round the neck of the dirty bag that had raised such a
" What are you doing, Aunt Mymee ? "
" Gwine ter gib Lil Mymee er drink. Dat wut she arter, I
reck'n, w'en she bust loose. I ain't gun 'er no drink sence er
week ergo de day 'fo' yistiddy, an' she boun' ter hab one wunst
er week. I wuz dat tuk up wid new-fangle noshins dat I fegit
'er, an', lo an' beholes ! wut does I git fob hit ? "
" Shall I bring you a gourd of water ? "
" No, honey. Lil Mymee, she don' sup watteh," said Aunt
Mymee, lifting a dirty little yarn ball out of the dirty little linen
1 This same incident also occurred almost exactly as here related to my
brother Henry P. Leland when he was twelve years of age. The old black
cook of the family had lost her " cunjerin' bag," when my brother found it. It
contained a chicken's breastbone, ashes, and rags. C. G. L.
AND OTHER SORCERERS. 171
bag. " She sup wut Big Angy name eau-de-vie, an' dat sholy
am de watteh ob life fob huh, kase ef she don' git un she die."
Aunt Mymee produced a black bottle of Little Mymee's
elixir of life, better known to the general public as whiskey, and
proceeded to moisten, first the ball, then herself therewith ; after
which ceremony she restored the ball to its proper receptacle,
mended the broken string, which had been the cause of its loss,
and made it an ornament to her person by slinging the string
over her left shoulder and under her right so that the ball rested
under her right armpit. She had, beforehand, be it understood,
slipped out of the various waists of her raiment, so that the ball
should lie against her naked body, with no intervening fold of
calico or flannel to absorb its " strenk."
* How that ball was made, what were its components, Tow
Head did not, at that time, know, though she gathered from
the half-whispered gossip of the other aunties that it was the
work of " King " A , a Voodoo doctor or cunjurer of great
powers and influence.
This A was a curious half-barbarian, who never stayed
long in a place, made his entrances secretly and mysteriously in
the night, never confided in any one, never spent money for
anything but whiskey, never lacked for the good things of this
world, and never was reduced to the inconvenience of begging
or stealing, although he was as the lilies of the field " that toil
not, neither do they spin." No cabin refused him shelter and
the best bed and food it could afford. No one knew whence
he came or whither he was going. When four taps were heard
above the latch, some one flew to usher in the guest. " A 's
dar" was the unspoken conviction. How he came was a matter
of conjecture ; it was generally conceded that he travelled at his
ease on some strange steed of the devil's providing.
As soon as he was settled in his temporary quarters that is,
had eaten of everything in the larder, drunk generous pota-
1 This is African, as still practised on the Guinea coast.
OLD RABBIT, THE VOODOO,
THE KING OF THE VOODOOS.
AND OTHER SORCERERS. 173
tions of whiskey, and taken possession of the best chair a mes-
senger was sent out " to pass the word around " that he had
In the course of the night the answer came in the persons of
scores of darkies, some of them from a distance of many miles,
who eagerly purchased his remedies, charms and " tricks."
When she was a child Tow Head never once caught sight of
him, but in after years she had more than one interview with
this " king " of occult " cussedness." When she saw him her
disappointment was extreme. There was nothing royal either
in his appearance or demeanour. He was, as he is, a black,
sweaty, medium-sized negro, half-naked, altogether innocent of
soap, and not dispensing the perfume of Araby the blest. 1 His
eyes were snaky, his narrow forehead full at the eyebrows but
shockingly depressed above. His nose was broad and with a
flatness of nostrils emphasized to the perception of the beholder
by the high, bony ridge that divided them. His chin was nar-
row and prominent ; at first glance, it seemed broad by reason
of the many baggy folds that surrounded it after the fashion of
a dew-lap. He was far from beautiful when his features were
in repose, but the time to fully realise that he was a self-chosen
disciple of his Satanic Majesty was when he unclosed his great
rolling lips in a silent laugh. The yawning cavern thereby dis-
closed, with its double guard of yellow, broken, "snaggy" teeth
set in gums un wholesomely red, and its ugly, wriggling tenant,
a serpent-like tongue, were, in themselves, more awe-inspiring
than any charm or curse that issued therefrom.
When Tow Head saw him she meekly asked for some talis-
man to insure good luck to a friend.
" Fetch me," said the ogre, " er ha'r ur two fum de body o* de
one dat wants de luck, an' er dollah, an' I mek yo' er luck-ball."
1 Like nearly all the persons described in these chapters, A was not
quite a negro. His mother was a pure-blood Indian, and the son spoke
Indian as naturally as English. C. G. L.
174 OLD RABBIT, THE VOODOO,
Tow Head explained that the " ha'r " could not be obtained.
The friend was on the other side of the ocean.
" Den fetch de money an' I kin hab red clobeh (clover) stan'
in de place o' de ha'r."
Tow Head " fotch " the dollar and then, as she demonstrated
that she was something of a witch herself, by repeating the
formula she had learned from Aunt Mymee for preparing a
" tricken-bag," she was not only furnished the ball but, in ad-
dition, was taught how to make it.
This is one way to prepare a " tricken-bag " :
Take the wing of a jaybird, the jaw of a squirrel, and the
fang of a rattle-snake and burn them to ashes on any red-hot
metal. Mix the ashes with a pinch of grave-dust the grave of
the old and wicked has most potency in its earth moisten with
the blood of a pig-eating sow ; make into a cake and stick into
the cake three feathers of a crowing hen wrapped with hair from
the head of the one who wishes an enemy tricked. Put the
cake into a little bag of new linen or cat-skin. Cat-skin is better
than linen, but it must be torn from the haunch of a living cat.
Whatever the bag is, it must be tied with a ravelling from a
shroud, named for the enemy and then hidden under his house.
It will bring upon him disease, disgrace, and sorrow. If a whip-
porwill's wing is used instead of a jay's it will bring death.
"Dat's toll'ble," A - declared. " Des tolTble. Thee
(three) am er good numbeh, but fo (four) am betteh in de
makin' up ob tricks. Good Ian' ! x de daid deyse'fs got ter mine
de fos (fours) ef yo' mek um plenty nufF. Fo' time fo' time fo'
(4x4x4) am de gret numbeh. De daid an'de debbils gotter
mine dat. Des see me mek dis hyeah luck-ball an' kote (quote)
A spread his materials, consisting of red clover, dust,
tinfoil, white yarn, and white sewing-silk, on a table, called for
* Good land ! a land ! A common American interjection, not confined to
AND OTHER SORCERERS. 175
a bottle of whiskey, and, when the last-named necessity of
modern " cunjerin " was produced, proceeded to business. He
broke off four lengths of yarn, each length measuring about
forty-eight inches. These were doubled and re-doubled into
skeins of four strands each and spread in a row before him.
To each skein was added forty-eight inches of sewing-silk folded
as the yarn was.
" Dar now ! " he said, " De silk am ter tie yo' frens unter yo',
de yahn am ter tie down all de debbils. Des watch me tie de
knots. Hole on dough ! dis fust ! "
The " fust " proceeding was to fill his mouth with whiskey.
Then ensued a most surprising gurgling and mumbling, as he
tied a knot near the end of the skein nearest him. As it was
tightened, he spat about a teaspoonful of tobacco-perfumed
saliva and whiskey upon it.
" Dar now ! " he said, " dat's er mighty good knot. Dey
ain't no debbil kin git thu dat."
" Stop ! Stop ! You are not dealing fairly with me. You
promised that I should hear your incantation, and you mumble
so that I cannot distinguish a word."
" Ise a-kotin in (quoting in) de name o' de one de ball am foh.
Des wait twell I git thee (three) mo' knots tied in dis hank an'
den I kote out loud foh de turrs."
Sure enough, when the mumbling, spitting, and tying had
been repeated three times, he laid down the skein, took up the
second one, filled his mouth with whiskey, began to tie a knot,
" Gord afo' me, Gord ahine me, Gord be wid me. May dis
ball fetch all good luck ter Charles Leland. May hit tie down
all debbils, may hit bine down 'is innernies afo' 'im, may hit
bring um undeh 'is feet. May hit bring 'im frens in plenty,
may hit bring 'im faithful frens, may hit bine um to 'im. May
hit bring 'im honeh (honour), may hit bring 'im riches, may
hit bring 'im 'is haht's afesire. May hit bring 'im success in
j;6 OLD RABBIT, THE VOODOO,
evveht'ing he hondehtakes, may hit bring 'im happiness. I ax
foh hit in de name ob de Gord."
This he repeated four times, then spat upon the knot, took a
fresh drink of whiskey, began on a second knot and repeated the
whole performance, exactly as he did also when he tied the third
and fourth knots. When this second skein had its four knots
tied, he laid it against the first. Before the two had lain several
" Now," said he, " ef yo' gotter fair membunce (an' I reck'n
yo' has, kase yo' look lak er ooman strong in de haid, er mighty
strong ooman in de haid) I 'low dat yo' knows dat chahm off by
haht. Dat's yo' look out dough, kase I ain' gwineter holler hit
no mo'. Ise gwine ter say hit sorf (soft) w'iles I ties de fo' knots
in dem urr two HI hanks."
When the muttering and spitting at length ceased, and four
little skeins with four little knots in each lay side by side, Tow
" What is the use of tying all those knots ? "
" Dem knots ! W'y dem knots am in fo's (fours) an' dey tie
down aH de debbils debbils is 'fraid o' fo' time fo' time fo'.
Likeallwise, de knots bine yo' frens unter yo'. Dey ain't no
debbil kin git thu dem knots."
" What is all that other stuff for ? "
"Stuff!" the " cunjer-man's " tone was indignant. " Des
wait twell dat stuff git a-wuhkin'. Dat ar piece ob file (foil)
rupisent (represents) de brightness ob dat HI spurrit dat gwine
ter be in de ball, dat clobeh am in de place ob de ha'r offen
de one dat gwine ter own de ball, dat dus' am innemies' dus, r
an' hit am ter bline de eyes ob de innemies."
So saying, he drew three of the skeins towards him, twisted
them into a little nest and gave them a copious bath of saliva
" It seems to me that conjuring is mostly whiskeying."
'Dey's er heap o' pennunce (dependence to be placed in)
AND OTHER SORCERERS. 177
whiskey, sholy, dough in de outlandish kyentry fum whurs dey
fetch de niggehs in de fust place, dey tek some sort ob greens
an' putt um in er gode (gourd) wid watteh an' set um in de sun
twell dey wuhk (work ferment), an' dat go in de place ob
Tow Head would fain have asked other questions, but the
" king " waved his hand to enjoin silence. Again he had
recourse to the whiskey-bottle, and once more he began to mur-
mur his incantation, pausing only to spit upon the red clover
.blossoms and the encircling leaves and upon the tinfoil, as he
placed them in the little yarn nest and sprinkled them liberally with
enemies' dust a powder that looked as if he had picked it up at
a gas-house, although he declared it was dust gathered where
the river sand and the clay of the bank met. Suddenly, with a
dramatic flourish, he plunged his hand into his bosom and drew
forth a ball of white yarn. From this he began to wind the
thread about the little woollen nest, all the time keeping up
the muttering of the incantation and the attendant punctiiation
of saliva and whiskey. In a few minutes, he had made a new
ball of a little over an inch in diameter. This was a " luck-
ball." He held it suspended by a length of yarn and began to
talk to it in most caressing tones.
" Promuss dat yo'll be er good ball."
.The string began to twirl as if unwinding.
" Dat's right ! I know'd yo'd be good."
" You have left out a skein," interrupted Tow Head.
" Dat wuz a-puppus," was the lofty reply. " Now, ef yo*
want de good ob dis hyeah ball, yo' ain't gwine ter flusteh me
Tow Head was stricken dumb.
The " king " shut his eyes and proceeded to give an uncanny
exhibition of ventriloquism.
1 Quite true. This is the pombi or maize-beer of Africa, used in magic.
C. G. L.
178 OLD RABBIT, THE VOODOO,
" Now," said he, addressing the ball, as he dangled it between
his thumb and finger, " yo' name is Leland, Charles Leland.
Ise gwine ter sen' yo' er long way off unter er master, er mighty
long way off, 'crost big watteh (the ocean). Go out in de
woods an' 'fresh yo'se'f 'fo' yo' staht. Go 'long ! Do yo'
hyeah me ? Is yo' gwine ? Is yo' gwine way off ? Is yo'
climbin' ? Is yo' climbin' high ? "
After each question there was a series of answerings, growing
fainter and fainter as the spirit of the ball was supposed to go
farther and farther away.
After the last question there was a long pause. Then " Charles
Leland " was invited to return. As he was a long way off, the
" king " listened attentively to the faint murmur that came in
reply, even pressing forward the rim of his ear to catch the faint,
The answer was evidently what the " king " desired, for he
continued to question and receive replies, and each time the
question was fainter, and the reply louder. " Is yo' stahted ?
Is yo' comin' closter ? Is yo' gittin' nigh ? Is yo' back ? Is
yo' in de ball ergin ? "
All of " Charles' s " replies were in the affirmative. When he
was once more at home, he proclaimed the fact by causing the ball
to spin and dance in the most surprising manner. When he
finally relapsed into quietude, he had another shower-bath from
his summoner's mouth. Then there was nothing more to be done
but to wrap the ball in tinfoil and a little silk rag. The only
instructions given were to place the ball in a linen bag, attach it to
a string of flax or hemp and direct the one for whom it was
named to sling the string over the left shoulder and under the
right, so that the ball should rest under the right arm. From
thence he must be taken once a week and bathed in whiskey,
otherwise its strength would die. At any time " he" could be
taken out and consulted or confided in. His approval or dis-
approval could be felt by the owner, at once, and his help
AND OTHER SORCERERS. 179
relied on if asked for. Only one warning was given. " Don't
tie no knots in he kivvuz (covers)." x
Just such a ball was the one Aunt Mymee lost and found.
All her acquaintances knew as well as she did what it was to
her ; the matter was a theme of gossip all day and inspired
Granny and Aunt Em'ly to relate stories of other and more
precious luck- balls when evening came on.
Aunt Em'ly's story of Ole Rabbit's silver bubble came first.
" One time, de Debbil's ole ooman, des foh 'muse huhse'f an'
pesteh folks, mek de spoht (sport) ob flingin' er silveh blubbeh
inter de pond, an' den she gin out dat whoso git um git all de
good luck dat am in de worl', an' she mek up er turr'ble speunce
(experience, deeds) dat all han's am boun' ter go thu, ef dey git
"What experience, Aunt Em'ly? "
" Des hole on, honey, hole back de hosses an* we git dar
bimeby. Hit Ole Chuffy we aim arter now. Dis de way he
sot out, an' he des natchel honed arter dat ball. He uster go
down by de big pond at de aige o' de swamp an' set dar an'
study 'bout hit all times o' de day an' night. 'Pear lak he
kyarn' git hit offen he mine 'tall ; he tork about hit daytime,
he dremp 'bout hit twell he res' bin cl'ar spile. He go on
dataway twell he drap off der skin an' bone. He git dat desput
dat he lay off ter ax ole Miss Debbil ef she won't please 'um gin
'im dat blubbeh, kase he bin know dat ole ooman sence he wuz
knee-high ter er hoppehgrass, an' he he'p 'er out wunst ur
twiste w'en Ole Blue Jay kyar tale 'bout 'er ter er ole man.
She lak mighty well ter see 'im cut he shines dat mek 'er laff
* I received this luck-ball in a letter when in Copenhagen. It appeared to
be such a mysterious or important object, that an official was specially sent
from the post-office with it to the hotel where I was staying, and I received it
from him. The reader may find an account of how I myself have seen luck-
bags made by witches in Italy, in " Etruscan Roman Relics in Popular Tradi-
tion." (London : T. Fisher Unwin. 1873.) C. G. L.
i8o OLD RABBIT, THE VOODOO,
w'en she git de low-downs fum quoilin' (quarrelling) wid de
Debbil. He know dat, so he go roun' de pond ter de aige ob
de slough hit wuz in de wanin' ob de moon, in co'se, kase dat
am w'en de Debbil an' he folkses am de peartes'. Yessir ! hit
wuz at de wanin' ob de moon, an' dekine (kind) ob er moon dat
corned in new 'way down in de souf-wes', a-rollin' in de sky pun
eend stiddier a-settin' on huh back. Now den, dat wuz er wet
moon, hit wuz er moon de Injun kin hang he queeveh o' arrehs
on, kase de watteh gwine ter run out an' dey be no huntin'.
Hit wuz er mighty red moon too, wid sto'ms (storms) a-mum-
blin' in de hot a'r roun' hit. Hit wuz er mighty good night
foh cunjerin' an' a-callin' up de goses an' de booggers (bogies)
an' de laks ob dem, but Ole Bunny, he done fegit dat hit bin
a-rainin' at dinneh-time w'en de sun wuz a-shinin'. Ef he t'ink
o' dat, he know 'tain't no use ter go out an' call up de ole
ooman, kase rain in de sunshine am de sho sign dat de Debbil
bin a-lickin' her.
" Well ! he dat 'stractid 'bout de ball he ain't hed dat in
membunce, so he go ter de ma'sh an' he wait an' he watch, an'
bimeby, he see de smoke rise, 'way out yondeh. Den de
jacky-me-lantuhns (jack-o'-lanterns will-o'-the-wisps) come
bibbitty-bobbitty by. Den he tek de red clobeh leabes an'
heads dat he fotch a-puppus an' he strow dem on de groun' an'
he set down on um, an' he wait an' he wait.
" Den de brack smoke come nigher an' nigher.
" Den hit stop.
" Den he holler out
' My honey, my love,
Come oveh 1 come oveh ! ' "
" Ez offen ez de smoke stop he holler dat.
" Wut he holler dat foh ? Kase hit de way ter mek dat ole
'ooman-debbil, come on. All de 'oomans, honey, debbil ur
AND OTHER SORCERERS. 181
no debbil, run todes dat kine o' tork. Co'se dey do ! All de
men-folks kin spressify (express themselves) ter dat.
" Well ! at de las', w'en he holler dat twell he mouf wuz ez
dry ez er beanpod arter fros', de smoke git closte, den hit paht
open in de middle an dar wuz de debbil's ole 'ooman ! "
" Was she awfully, awfully ugly ? "
" Huh ! dat she wuzzent ! De debbil ain't no fool He kin
" DAR wuz DE DEBBIL'S OLE OOMAN."
pick out de good looks de same as de nex' un. She wuz ez
putty ez er painter (panther) an' ez sassy ez er yalleh gal
(mulatto). She got one fut lak Ole Rabbit dough, an' de urr
lak er deer. Huh han's, dey wuz w'ite an' putty, but dey got
de claw 'pun de eend lak er pussy-cat's."
" Did she claw Old Rabbit ? "
" Nuh, but I ain't 'ny dat (deny that) w'en he see dat ole
'ooman he trimmle lak de leabes. He look an' he sees dat
182 OLD RABBIT, THE VOODOO,
she bin a-cryin', an' dat mek 'im wish dat he c'd mek he
mannehs (bow) an' cl'ar out.
a( Wut fetch yo' hyeah ? ' she ax, 'way down deep lak er
burner-bull. * Wut fetch yo' hyeah ? ' sez she, ' hyeah mungs
de daid ? Yo' place am mungs de libbin. Go 'way ! Git
yo' gone ! ' sez she.
" Wid dat de smoke shet in wunst mo' an' staht, wimly-
wamly, wimly-wamly, des a trim'lin' 'long, sorter slow, lak de
shadder w'en de win' blow de cannel des de leases' lil mite.
44 Den, oh my ! Chuffy, he wuz skeert, but he des mek out
' M-M-M-My h-h-honey, m-m-my 1-1-love,
M My t-t-turkle-d-d-d-dove 1 '
" De res' un hit stick in he thote an' he kyarn't fetch hit out,
but, nemmine ! dat stop 'er, an' den he git de strenk ter baig
an' plead foh de lil silveh ball.