Meriah Khonds

[Extracted from Réclus, Primitive Folk, pp. 311-31.]

The goddess was warned to hold herself in readiness, the feast was preparing.

The three first days were spent in orgies, which we are told were indescribable, and in which women sometimes figured in the accoutrement of men, armed as warriors. It was necessary to thrill the torpid senses of the great spouse of the Sun-God, to stir her sleeping fecundity, to excite her desires by naively lascivious spectacles. There was an uproar of singing and shouting, a confused noise of tambourines and bagpipes, answered by the echoes from hill to hill. The young folks jigged and frolicked about, and whilst they danced, the girls scraped the ground with their heels, and pressed it with caressing fingers "Awake, awake, Earth, our friend!" Thus at the festivals of seed-time, did the Latins invoke Ops Consiva, whilst scratching the earth with their nails. Each has made himself as fine as possible, has bedaubed himself with red. The copper glitters, the iron jingles. The hunters strut about in their bear or tiger skins, or feathered like a cock of the jungle or a pheasant of the woods, whilst the zealous of both sexes shake their brooms and plumed thyrses to simulate flights of peacocks. The miserable heroine has been thoroughly washed, and has been made to fast, that she may be as pure within as without; she is dressed in new clothing. In solemn procession she is conducted from door to door, then led away into the dark forest, the abode of the Goddess. Beneath the green, leafy garlands, the priest binds her with cords to a flower-bedecked May-pole, thirty or forty feet high, surmounted by a peacock's head.

Here the peacock, king of the agricultural feast, evidently represents the Sun, as many suns as golden eyes upon the fan. The throne whereon the Great Mogul was seated was in the shape of a peacock spreading his glittering gems:

"May the happy days of Delhi return! Bless the seat which thy peacock lights up with his jewels!"

The royal seat of Burmah represents a peacock, and also a hare, a symbol betokening the two-fold solar and lunar descent; the standard of the dynasty bears a peacock flying upon a silver field. A Garro sorcerer took part in no religious rite before he had shod himself with sandals and stuck peacock feathers in his hair. The Khonds swear by the quills of this bird, also by the tiger and the termite. The elephant is another symbol of the Sun, in his character of spouse of Demeter; and before the elephant women bow themselves, they smear his temples with vermilion, and make their children step in his foot-prints. Therefore it is not surprising that the image of the king of the forest should often adorn the sacrificial stake. It sometimes happens that a second pole is set up in honour of the Goddess, who is then represented by three stones, in middle of which a copper peacock is buried.

Let us return to the victim. She has been crowned with flowers, anointed with oil and melted butter, and painted with yellow saffron, the colour of the spirits of light and of heaven. And now the people fall down and worship her. They worship her as another Tari. For in the truly orthodox conception of sacrifice, the consecrated offering, be it man, woman, or virgin, lamb or heifer, cock or dove, represents the deity himself. It was for this that the Mexicans dressed it in all the pomp of the vestments and attributes of the Immortal it was to personify. The execution of wretched slaves, of detestable malefactors, was pitiful and mean; but glorious was the immolation of God or Goddess, and how marvellous the virtue of their blood outpoured!

Tari, says the Khond legend, had intended to submit each time to the sacrifice in her own person. She wished to do like the great King Vikramajit, who (more zealous than the worshipful Saint Denis or even the blessed Saint Oriel) cut off his own head every evening, and carried it as an offering to the Devas. But the worshippers of the Goddess saw some difficulty in this system, and assured her that it would suffice if she caused herself to be slain by proxy. Tari was graciously pleased to yield to the reasons given. She accepted the theory, which has since had the force of a dogma, that the gods ask nothing better than to be immolated for the benefit of mankind, but they have often other things in hand, and at the crucial moment may not be disposed to come up to the scratch. If they do not intervene in person, they will intervene by deputy, become incarnate in meriahs or mediators. The meriah will be the plenipotentiary of the god, the agent of his power, his other self.

On this principle, the Khonds and their like set up their victim as a divinity, flatter her, laud her beauty, sing her praise, dance around her. At nightfall they rush forward to touch her; the unhappy creature brings good luck! In the twinkling of an eye, she is stripped of her raiment, which is torn to pieces amongst those who contend for it. They scent their hands in her hair, scrape off her cosmetics; entreat some spittle, which they will carefully spread over their faces. Thereupon the multitude withdraws, leaving the new Goddess firmly fastened to the stake, her throne, her column of glory; they leave her alone, hungry, trembling, naked, in the chill of night, amid the terrors of the forest, to await the horrible tragedy of the morrow. What a vigil! The new daughter of the Gods is deemed to be in intimate converse with great Tari, who has become her mother and patron. The immense solitude, the frightful silence, broken only by the mewing of the tiger, the yells of wild beasts, the mysterious voices of the forest uttering words unknown, what have these to say to the poor child? What answer has she to give to the eternal constellations, gazing down upon her with their steady eyes, to the twinkling stars that sign to her: To-morrow thou shalt be one of us?

In the morning, the whole village returns to make an end. Music, uproar; fifes, gongs, little bells; deafening shrieks and screams. They intoxicate themselves with noise and tumult, like the Bacchantes of old; as at the Mysteries of Eleusis, "they eat of the tambourine, they drink of the cymbal." For there are things to which men could never make up their minds, had they not drowned reason in drunkenness, and deadened every tender feeling in riotous excitement; did not each mean to say: "It is not my fault!" Then the crowd alone is responsible; that is, no one. The axiom, "the whole is the sum of its parts," does not apply to multitudes.

Be this as it may, the people surround the poor girl, pity her, remind one another that only yesterday she was treated as a pet, a playmate in every amusement; they recall the words, the smart replies, the touching traits of the sufferer who is struggling in her bonds: "See how she cries! Shall you have the courage to kill her. How merry she was, how she loved to sing, how fond she was of laughing! You know that she was your boy's sweetheart? She thought she should bring you a grandson." More than one honest paterfamilias, who would be in despair if the unfortunate girl should escape, weeps, is moved to pity, as much or more than the rest; he thereby is enabled to shed some exquisitely sweet tears, and cause other kindly souls to shed them also, and, what is far more, to make the meriah sob, which is a good omen! We are not told that the victim bound to the stake was ever delivered. The dramatic instinct is in-born in us, the coarsest and most brutal feel now and again the need to pity; an unexceptionable proof that they are charitable and sensitive. And then it must not be forgotten that the luckless girl is already a Goddess. If she bursts into tears, the clouds will shed beneficent showers upon the fields; her breast, heaving with sighs, shaken with sobs, will communicate life to the seeds sown, fertility to the soil.

When the emotion is at its height, the officiating priest gives the signal; the multitude grows calm, and ranges itself around in an orderly manner. The divine spirit enters into the priest and inspires him, causes him to tell of the origin of the sacred institution:

"In the beginning was the Earth a formless mass of mud, and could not have borne the dwelling of a man, or even his weight; in this liquid and ever-moving slime neither tree nor herb took root.

"Then God said: Spill human blood before my face! And they sacrificed a child before Him. ... Falling upon the soil, the bloody drops stiffened and consolidated it."

This is a somewhat general belief. Several Indian Rajahs have been known to shed human blood upon the foundations of public edifices; but the illustrious Shah Djihan was content to slaughter animals upon the first stone of Delhi. Burmah rocked under foot, until Rani Attah solidified it by a sacrifice. A connected idea: Erin, the Isle of Saints, emerged from the waves every seventh year and then sunk again, until an angel threw a piece of iron on it to keep it steady. The two rocks which were to be the foundation of Tyr, floated hither and thither, until they had been sprinkled with blood: "Beneath the libations of sacred blood the wandering hills took root in the waves, and on these rocks, henceforth immovable, the sons of earth raised Tyr, the large-breasted city."'

The Negroes also made the like discovery for themselves. The Grand Jagga had a man beheaded upon the spot which his palace was to occupy; he walked through the gushing blood towards the points of the compass, then gave the first blow with the pick-axe.

Doubtless this belief was based upon the more or less perspicuous observation, that in zoology the formation of the skeleton generally coincides with the appearance of red blood, the agglutinous properties of which have been remarked. It was concluded that the sprinkling of blood gives consistency to mud, and also to flesh, clay of another sort. In the old days, blood cost so little! ... But let us return to our text.

"And by the virtues of the blood shed, the seeds began to sprout, the plants to grow, the animals to propagate.

"And God commanded that the earth should be watered with blood every new season, to keep her firm and solid. And this has been done by every generation that has preceded us.

"One day, Tari, seated upon a stone, was eating apples. And behold as she peeled them, the goddess cut her finger, and the blood dripped upon the soil, and moistened the arid ground. And forthwith, from every tiniest drop sprang up rice-plants, and the country began to bloom."

"Tari gazed long upon that rice, so thick, so green. She understood how great were the virtues of blood. If but a few drops had caused this plenty, what fertility would not flow from her veins wide opened! Then thought Tari to offer herself as a sacrifice. Tari came forward, and held up her brow to the knife, saying: "Behold me, I am the meriah, I come to be immolated."'

"The Gods and men answered: 'Thou sayest well, thou doest well, O Tari Pennou! But if we immolate thee once for all, the virtue of thy sacrifice will grow weaker day by day. It will be better to sacrifice thee every year, and each time that there shall be need.

"'For this cause, O Pennou, shall thou enter into the bodies of meriahs at the season of seed-time, or when evil spirits shall lay waste the earth, puffing forth the empoisoned winds of drought, the miasms of sterility and pestilence. Then shall thou be sacrificed for the good of all.'

"And the thing was agreed upon between Tari, the Gods, and men. Since, O Khonds, has it been ever thus.

"Wherefore, then, O people, do ye lament? And thou, meriah, why dost thou scream, why dost thou sob? This is no fault of thine or ours, or of the kinsfolk who sold thee. Thou hast been bought, thou hast been paid for. By our labour and the sweat of our brow have we acquired thy person, therefore have we not sinned against thee. A sacrifice is needful thou, he, she, what mailer? The lot has fallen upon thee, Fate has pronounced judgment. When fresh harvests must be borne by the weary and exhausted earth, how shall her strength be restored if not by blood? Give thine, give it as Pennou gave hers, without faltering!"

Let us introduce a parenthesis. Whether the aborigines have borrowed this portion of their worship from the Hindoos, or whether the two religions are alike in nature and origin, it is incontestable that the Khond theory of sacrifice is identical with that developed in the Bhagavat-Gita:

"Together with man, the Creator created sacrifice, saying: It is by virtue of sacrifice that you shall propagate yourselves. Men! sacrifice shall be your cow of plenty. By it ye shall make the Gods live, and the Gods shall make you live. And by thus causing one another to live, ye shall enjoy a happy existence. But whoso eats, without giving to the Immortals a share of the victuals which spring from them, is no better than a robber. Those who are honest and upright think first of the Gods, and afterwards of themselves. By caring for naught but the belly, men swallow down sin. There is no life but such as proceeds from food, and food is derived from the rains caused by sacrifice.'"

Brahma is the "imperishable sacrifice"; Indra, Soma, Hari, and the other gods, became incarnate in animals to the sole end that they might be immolated. Purusha, the Universal Being, caused himself to be slain by the Immortals, and from his substance were born the birds of the air, wild and domestic animals, the offerings of butter and curds. The world, declared the Rishis, is a series of sacrifices disclosing other sacrifices. To stop them would be to suspend the life of Nature. Siva, to whom the Tipperahs of Bengal are supposed to have sacrificed as many as a thousand human victims a year, said to the Brahmins: "It is I that am the actual offering; it is I that you butcher upon my altars."

And the Hindoo religion is in agreement with all religions that have been self-conscious. Quetzalcoatl (if space allowed, we might comment upon the multiplied and astonishing resemblances between the symbolism of Mexican sacrifices and those of the meriahs), Quetzalcoatl pricked his elbows and fingers so as to draw blood, which he offered up on his own altar. For nine days and nine nights the Scandinavian deity Odin was, in Odin's honour, hanged upon a tree shaken by the winds:

"I know I was hanged upon the tree shaken by the winds for nine long nights. I was transfixed by a spear; I was vowed to Odin, myself to myself."

Even at the present day, the prophet Elijah, invisible upon Mount Moriah, continues to send up the smoke of holocausts as a sweet savour to the Eternal: "For were it not for the perpetual sacrifice, the world could not subsist," say the Rabbis. Philo of Byblos relates the myth of Belus the Elder offering up his son Belus the Younger. Belus sacrificing Belus became the precursor of the Eternal Jehovah. But let us resume the thread of our liturgy:

"All living things suffer, and thou, wouldest thou be exempt from the common anguish? Know that blood is needful to give life to the world, and to the Gods; blood to sustain the whole creation and to perpetuate the species. Were not blood spilt, neither peoples nor nations nor kingdoms could remain in existence. Thy blood poured forth, O Meriah! will slake the thirst of the Earth; she will be animated with fresh vigour.

"In thee has Pennou been born again to suffer; but thou, Goddess in thy turn, shall be born again into her glory. Then, Meriah, remember thy Khond people, remember the village where we reared thee, where we cared for thee!

"O Tari Meriah! deliver us from the tiger, deliver us from the snake! O Pennou Meriah! grant that which our soul desireth!"

And then each begins to explain what he has most at heart Scarcely are the invocations at an end, before the djanni seizes his hatchet and approaches the meriah. She must not die in her bonds, since she dies voluntarily, of her own free will, as they say. He loosens her from the stake, stupefies her, by making her gulp down a potion of opium and datura, then breaks her elbows and knees with the back of the hatchet.

Though obviously the same at bottom, the ritual varied as to the details of execution. Most districts had their special methods. The divinity feasted bore divers names. Some invoked the Earth, others the Sun; and in this latter case, three men, at least, were immolated, placed in a line from east to west. Victims were stoned, beaten to death with tomahawks or heavy iron rings bought on purpose; they were strangled, they were crushed between two planks; they were drowned in a pool in the jungle, or in a trough filled with pigs' blood. A method to suit every taste. Here a large dose of some narcotic was administered to shorten suffering; there, on the contrary, the desire was to increase it, on the pretext that the more painful the sacrifice, the more efficacious it would be. Sometimes the victim was slowly roasted, a torment chosen as the most cruel of any; sometimes she was despatched by a blow to the heart, and the priest plunged a wooden image into the gaping wound, that the mannikin might be gorged with blood. Elsewhere the meriah was fastened to the stake by her hair, four men dragged her legs apart and extended her arms in a cross, and the djanni cut off her head; or else, seizing her by her four limbs, they held her in a horizontal position, her face towards the sun; the priest pronounced a short prayer, and severed her neck, which dripped into a hole, the blood flowing in streams into the Chthonic Goddess. Others made use of a more complicated process: to cause the victim to fall head foremost into the pit they suspended her over the opening by heels and neck. That she might not be strangled, she instinctively clutched the sides of the trench with her hands, and the priest with his carving knife set about slashing her ankles, thighs, and back; at the seventh stroke he cut off her head. When the thing was done, he thrust the red and sticky iron into the stake and left it there until the next sacrifice. After the third execution, the blade had deserved well of the people; they came in great pomp to unfasten it, and take it to retire upon its laurels in a temple. There was yet another method. The djanni forced the sufferer's head into a cleft bamboo, the two halves of which were drawn together with a cord by an assistant. The crowd had only been waiting for this moment; with drunken shouts and savage yells, they rushed upon the quarry, and each set to work with nails and knife; all tore off a Strip of palpitating flesh, all helped to mangle and dismember.

The use of a cutlass, it should be observed, is already evidence of a certain mollification in manners, for many sacrificial offerings were torn to pieces; witness the living goat mangled in the mysteries of Bacchus Zagreus. Anciently it was a man who was rent into fragments upon the altar of Dionysus Omostes, Dionysus the Raw-Eater.

Tari, worthy kinswoman of Moloch and other "gods of blood," is not the only one of her kind amongst the Khond divinities. A crowd of other genii from the air, from the earth, from under the earth, need blood, much blood. If they are not gorged with it, the soil will remain arid and unfertile; neither rain nor sun will appear in due season.

Our ancestors the Kelts also had their meriahs; they bought slaves, treated them liberally, and when the year had run its course, led them with great pomp to the sacrifice. Each twelve months the Scythian tribe of the Albanes fattened a hetaira and killed her with spear thrusts before the altar of Artemis. When the fitting moment returned, hierodules, who had been fed with dainty meats, were sacrificed to the Syrian Goddess. "The spirits of the Earth thirst for blood," said Athenagorus. At the Thargelia.the Athenians splendidly adorned a man and woman, who had been entertained at the expense of the State, and led them forth in procession to be burnt at the confines of the open country. At the festivals of Patrae in Achaia, wild beasts were thrown upon a flaming pile; amongst the Tyrians, sheep and goats; the worship of Demeter and that of Moloch are scarcely distinguishable from each other.

    "Mos fait in populis, quos condidit ad vena Dido,
    Poscere cxde Deos veniam, ac flagrantibus aris,
    Infandum dictu, parvos imponere natos;
    Urna reduce bat tniserandos annua cams
!"

Let us pass over the horrors of Carthage, repeated at Upsala by the Scandinavians, at Rugen and Romova by the ancient Slavs. Until quite lately, the people of Ispahan celebrated the "Feast of the Camel," or "Of the Sacrifice of Abraham;" note the synonym. The high-priest of Mecca sent an adopted son of his own, mounted upon a consecrated camel. This animal was led in great pomp through the town; at a given moment the king let fly an arrow against its side. In a trice the poor beast was struck down, hewed in pieces, cut in slices, torn to bits, carried off and distributed far and near; every one wanted some of him, were it but the tiniest fragment, to put into a great pot of rice. The Ghiliaks, and also the Ai'nos, adopt a bear cub, pet and fondle it, treat it like a spoilt child, until a moment comes when they contend for pieces of its flesh. Contemporary negroes do not consider the puny results of their agriculture are over-dearly bought by impaling or decapitating young maidens magnificently decked out, being persuaded that blood is needed to attract the rain. The Red-skins profess the same dogma. Thus the Pawnees kill a captive from the Sioux, inflicting horrible torments upon him, and sprinkling the bean and pumpkin fields with his blood. The Wolves offer up a virgin to the Genius of Maize. In Mexico and Nicaragua the victim, before being slain, received more than royal honours, for it was desired that he should represent the divinity causing himself to be immolated for the good of all men. We are not told that his flesh was buried in the fields, but his heart, the fountain of blood, was the perquisite of chiefs and priests. These examples may suffice.

Of the meriah who has been hacked and torn to pieces, the djannis leave nothing but the entrails and the head, and the latter is generally denuded of its hair. But birds and jackals have not long to pick and gnaw, for on the morrow entrails, skull, and skeleton are burnt, together with a ram. The ashes, gathered up with care and some solemnity, are given to the winds, that they may be disseminated throughout the country; in some places they are mingled with corn and seeds which it is desired to protect from the attacks of insects. These ashes 1 possess all the properties of the living flesh, all the virtues of the blood which gives to rice, wheat, and millet the faculty to maintain and sustain life. Were it not for their action, the indigo could not acquire its beautiful blue colour, the camphor would not be deposited in the stem of the camphor-tree. Were they not smeared upon the threshold, houses and granaries would be invaded by the spirits of fever, pestilence, and famine.

The murderers contend for the remains of the victim, that they may bury them at once in their gardens, or hang them on a pole above the stream which waters their fields, for after sun-down the sacrificial flesh has lost its efficacy. The villages which have clubbed together for the sacrifice, organise relays, and perform miracles of speed. It is no matter whether a cultivator buries the whole corpse in his enclosure, or only the end of a little finger, the effect is the same. Upon this fundamental dogma djanni and Christian theology coincide. The divine flesh works by quality and not by quantity; it acts by its nature, and not by its bulk; it is not a manure to be spread by the cart-load, but a luminous point shining far and wide. Chthonism or Catholicism, the mystery is formulated in identical terms: the Supreme Being becomes incarnate, that he may communicate of his substance to the faithful who eat him. Tari transmits her fertility to the soil by the mediation of the meriah. The activity of the flesh made divine ceases at the limits of the consecrated property, and never passes those limits. The devotees of Christ are denied the ability to communicate by proxy. In the same way, when a Khond proprietor would make his furrows fruitful by means of a shred of sanctified flesh, he cannot get a friend or neighbour to supply him. The first to strike the incarnate Tari, the foremost to open those fertilising veins, to cut into the muscles which contain life, seizes upon the most delicious mouthful, the crowning slice. No cultivator but longs to be served before the others, but all dare not risk the dangerous privilege. For you must know that the first to use his knife is, as it were, magnetised by the divine contact. If he were slain immediately, his body also would communicate fertility to the fields. Consequently each village makes choice of a skilful and sturdy champion, wrapped in several folds of cloth, and thus iron-proof. Whilst he is striving to get the first bite out of the meriah, his friends keep watch that he himself receives no hurt.

It would seem as if the Khonds must be desirous to pour blood, endowed with such precious qualities, down their own throats rather than to sprinkle it over their fields. Thus the Komis of Arracan riddle a bull, tied to a stake, with arrows, and men, women, and children suck the blood flowing from the wounds. But in the Khond race feeling has conquered logic, and they are willing to content themselves with the blood of sheep or buffaloes, butchered in the name of Tari, to cure diverse sicknesses, such as madness and demoniac possession. When they make appeal to the ordeal or judgment of God, some rice is soaked in this blood, and the perjurer who tastes it falls dead, slain by the Goddess on the spot. For a long while these bloody rites were only known to the civilised inhabitants of the surrounding country by vague rumours. It was only in 1836 that Russell, a witness of these atrocities, officially informed the Directorate of the East India Company about them. But how was the monstrous custom to be abolished?

Originally the people of the plain had themselves offered up meriahs to the agricultural divinities; but civilisation, as it crept up the courses of the rivers, slowly drove this cruel practice before it At the beginning of the century, the Southern Khonds had already forsaken it, whilst the highlands remained unshaken in their orthodoxy. Each of the two camps hoisted the standard of one of the divine pair. The abolitionists held out for Boura, the Sun, the Supreme Creator. They declared him to be in a huff with his spouse, and indeed the whole feminine sex, who, it appeared, had brought evil and sin into the world. The conservatives, on the contrary, took the side of the Earth, the Universal Mother, and taught that the shedding of meriah blood was needful for the consolidation of the body politic, was the cause of their own tribal association, and even of the existence of foreign nations and all human society. The discussion grew warm, the rivalry became more pronounced, the southern kindred began to loathe the customs of their ancestors. He who had been present at one of these butcheries was looked upon as contaminated by the bloody effluvia; he would have endangered his life had he shown himself until seven days were past and gone. The Solarians, zealots for Boura, would not strike a spade into the ground during the five or six days preceding the full moon in December, this being the period at which the Demetrians were interring the meriah flesh. They even posted sentinels on the frontier, to hinder a foeman from soiling their land by bringing a fragment of the poisonous substance there. The Sun-God would not have pardoned this desecration of a country he had made his own; he would have avenged himself by terrible plagues. And there was a contingency no less dangerous; the demons and inferior deities might get a taste for this food, and no longer care for any other:

"At Cattingya we have a jungle well stocked with game, in consequence of the saline efflorescence there, of which all animals are fond. Lo and behold, a rival tribe, to play us a trick, bury some carrion there. ... Ever since, there has been no venison except for the hunters of Gourdapour, whilst we from Cattingya always return empty-handed. Why? Because the demons favour those who have given them a taste for human flesh!"

Here, too, would it have been well to say, "Let it alone, let it go?" Would it have been well to wait until the waxing civilisation, which had already suppressed meriahs in the south, should also suppress them in the north? That would have meant to wait patiently for centuries, or at least for two or three generations. The English Government, which directly intervened in so many less important matters, understood that they must here act a sovereign's part. Nothing could be easier in theory than to forbid human sacrifices, by a mandate for which good reasons were assigned. But it was very shortly recognised that before the Company could here have the last word, they would be obliged to break up the civil and political organisation, and possibly to destroy a portion of the people; in any case, to set out upon a succession of massacres and summary executions, the end of which it was difficult to foresee. The cure would have been worse than the disease. For some time the East India Council cautiously felt their way. The first systematic act, inspired by Macpherson, was the official recognition of these scattered tribes. They were made to understand that the Calcutta Administration had constituted itself their centre, and federated them under, its presidency, declaring that in future it would take cognisance of their principal affairs, their quarrels and differences. For once, the central authority showed itself as benevolent as resolute and prudent, and understood that a regulation stuck on the point of a bayonet would not suffice to suppress a religion. Troops were sent, commanded by intelligent officers and good men; such are to be found when they are sought for in earnest. Amongst these picked men we must give a first place to Macpherson and Campbell, Taylor, Russell, Ricketts, Mac Vicar, and Frye, who during the years 1848-1852 were at work in the most ill-famed districts.

Fulfilling their truly civilising mission with tact, the expedition avoided both bustle and brutality. They requisitioned the victims designed for future sacrifice, and set them free by fifties and hundreds. Although sufficiently numerous to crush any resistance that might have been offered, the troop was careful to avoid collisions; which did not hinder it from occasionally having to show its teeth and make its way by main force. Generally, the officer summoned the caciques, and explained to them what he required and why, not letting them go until they had sworn: "May the earth refuse me her fruits, may rice choke me, may water submerge me, may the tiger devour me and my children, if I violate the engagement I take upon myself and my people to renounce the sacrifice of human beings!"

After they had taken the oath, there was no need for further disquietude, for the Khonds are men of their word. As a precautionary measure the age, name, and number of all the children were registered, especially the poussiah progeny, serfs or slaves, who might have been substituted for the titular meriahs. The British announced that they should come in following years to make inquiries. To set the Khond consciences at rest, Campbell cheerfully agreed that the Government and all its functionaries should be declared responsible before heaven and earth for the cessation of the sacrifices; he took a solemn oath by which the wrath of all the gods and goddesses was diverted upon his own head. Only, to show himself more powerful than their Olympus, he laid hands one day upon some idols, reputed the most terrible of all, and had them trampled, as malefactors, beneath the feet of his baggage elephants.

The last act, and by no means the easiest, was to reassure the meriahs. For some few who, pale and trembling, took refuge in his camp, dragging the end of a chain, or bearing the marks of irons on their wrists and ankles, significant foretastes of the martyrdom in preparation, there were a far greater number of victims who fled their liberators and hid themselves behind the murderers. They had been led to believe that the foreigner was reserving them for more horrible torments than immolation to Tari; reserving them to be tortured, that their blood, shed drop by drop, might bring back the water to the dried-up pools of the plains; to be devoured by the sacred tigers, which the Queen of the Indies probably kept. They could not recover from their astonishment when they were declared free to go or stay. Some were placed with young chiefs or ambitious personages, with a tacit engagement that the Government would show favour to their husbands. Those put into the missionary schools were married to Protestant converts; but it was noticed that they did not come to very much good; their instructors reproached them with being capricious and insubordinate, idle and greedy. Some have been known to take to flight and return to their own villages, declaring that it was insupportable to them to dwell with strangers, and that they preferred to be butchered by their own kindred. Is it to be believed that certain ambitious girls were vexed, and regretted the glorious chance they had had of becoming goddesses? A number of meriahs were already wives and mothers. The idea that they must forsake their families drove them to despair; but it was given out that the union of each of them with her lover should be declared a valid marriage. Directly this decision was arrived at, several, who had concealed themselves, suddenly made their appearance. The prospect of being immolated, sooner or later, terrified them less than the certainty of being immediately taken away from their surroundings and their afflictions.

Poor creatures, who resigned themselves to a horrible death that they might enjoy love and maternity for a while! They had accepted their own sacrifice, being themselves convinced that their immolation would be really salutary, and that their blood would spring up again in blessings for the community.

As for the djannis and patours, they were disturbed, but not convinced; they would gladly have resisted to the end, but what reply was possible to the powerful arguments of cannon and muskets? It was sufficiently plain that Loha, the Sun, that Boura, the Lord of Hosts, were not of a stature to strive with an English colonel. Thus it became needful to yield.

To yield or rather to come to terms. For religion, even amongst savages, never owns itself beaten. The Church shows the most pacific disposition, the most conciliatory temper, directly she encounters folks who are prepared to take a decided course; under such circumstances, she is admirable at a compromise, ingenious in finding means of accommodation with heaven. To the violent she shows the treasures of her indulgence, lets them take heaven by storm; but to those whom she suspects of weakness, her arrogance knows no bounds; to the vanquished she has never known pity.

When they saw themselves driven back by gunners and carabineers, the Khond theologians made the opportune discovery that Tari had recommended, but by no means commanded, that human victims should be brought to her, and that other offerings, apes, monkeys, or wild pigs, would suit her almost as well At the right moment, they perceived that meriah flesh is superior to other flesh relatively but not absolutely; that a man's head is worth more than a dozen bovine heads, but less than a hundred. Thus it was possible to come to an agreement.

For a long while the immolation of a person was the supreme net of religions, the grand method of purchasing the favour of the celestial or infernal powers, so far as these two can be distinguished. But as knowledge waxed, faith waned. Pity came into play. The cultivator discovered that to obtain rain in due season, it was little matter whether he shed the blood of a child or a lamb upon the altar of the cloud-god; and henceforward he preferred to sacrifice the young of a sheep rather than his own son. He was, however, far as yet from suspecting that, blood or no blood, it would rain neither more nor less. The representatives of the deity were forced to make up their minds to the unseasonable discovery, and accept the modifications it imposed. Alas, they resigned themselves, not being able to do otherwise! Directly a priest accepted a bull, directly he allowed rams to be given in the stead of a man, fiction was substituted for reality, orthodoxy began to vanish into nothingness. Substitutions, continually growing bolder, marked the decline and measured the degeneracy of the dogma. The Gods by allowing themselves to be haggled with, found themselves diddled and tricked; their portion was pared down to a shaving. When the Hindoo Gods were still akin to Tari and Loha, meriahs, many meriahs, were sacrificed to them also; but in time the man was replaced by a horse, the horse by a bull, the bull by a ram, the ram by a kid, the kid by fowls, the fowls by flowers, many flowers. "Too many flowers!" exclaimed Calchas. Formerly a magnificent banquet was served to Porusha Medha, a hundred and twenty-five persons, not one less; men and women, boys and girls in the flower of their age. But reform supervened; and now the victims were bound as before to the stake, but afterwards, amid litanies to the immolated Narayana, the sacrificing priest brandished a knife and severed the bonds of the captives; then served the dainty-bred god with what? A meagre repast of melted butter! Thus the Persians came to present to the Genius of Fire, not the covenanted bull, but a hair, one single hair, shown from afar off. The Slavs substituted an offering of mere toys, and some scent, for butcheries of men. The Chinese, who are always ingenious, reduced paper dolls to ashes. Likewise the Romans, having engaged to furnish Tiber with a yearly feast of thirty men, supplied him with so many mannikins of osier. They had promised hinds, which they came to replace by ewes, clearly specifying that these ewes were called "hinds." Elsewhere, instead of human heads, cocoa-nuts, or heads of garlic or poppy, were stuck on spears.