chapter  II
Sorcery and Suicide as Legal Influences
Pages 15

An interesting denouement, illustrating the legal aspect of sorcery, is furnished by the custom of finding out the reasons for which a man has been killed by witchcraft. This is achieved by the correct interpretation of certain marks or symptoms to be seen on the exhumed body. Some 12 to 24 hours after the preliminary burial, at the first subsequent sunset, the grave is opened, the body washed, anointed and examined. The custom has been forbidden by Government Orders-it is 'disgusting' to the white man, who anyhow has no opportunity nor any business to be there-but it is still surreptitiously practised in remoter villages. I have assisted several times at an exhumation and once, when it was done somewhat earlier, before the sun had set, I was able to obtain photographs. The proceedings are highly dramatic. A throng presses round the grave, some people rapidly remove the earth amid loud wailing, others intone magical spells against mulukwausi (corpse-devouring and man-killing flying witches) and spit over all those present with chewed ginger. As they come nearer the bundle of mats enshrouding the corpse, they wail and chant louder and louder, until the body is uncovered amid an outburst of screams and the throng sweep and press nearer. All urge forward to see it, wooden platters with coco-nut cream are given to those nearest to wash the body with, ornaments are taken off the corpse, it is rapidly washed, wrapped up again and

buried. During the time it is out the marks have to be registered. It is not a formal affair and differences of opinion are frequent. Often there are no clear marks and still more often people cannot agree in their verdict.