Allan Kardec

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Evocation of spirits in Abyssinia

In the “Voyage aux sources du Nil”, in 1768, James Bruce tells the story we reproduce below, regarding Gingiro, a small Kingdom located south of Ethiopia, east of the Kingdom of Adel. The story is about two Ambassadors sent to the Pope around 1625, by Socinious, King of the Ethiopia, having the Ambassadors to cross the Kingdom of Gingiro.

“Then, says Bruce, it was necessary to notify the King of Gingiro about the arrival of the entourage and request an audience with him. But at that time he was occupied with an important operation of witchcraft, without which the sovereign would not dare doing anything else.”

“The Kingdom of Gingiro can be considered as the first, on this side of Africa, where the strange practice of predicting the future through the evocation of the spirits and via a direct communication with the devil has been established.”

“The King thought convenient to wait for eight days before conceding an audience to the Ambassador and his companion, the Jesuit Fernandez. Consequently, on the ninth day they got permission to visit the court, which they did in the same afternoon.”

“In Gingiro nothing gets done without resorting to magic. It can thus be seen how much human reason is degraded, a few leagues away. Do not tell us that such a weakness is due to ignorance or the heat of the region. Why would heat induce man to become wizards, which would not happen in a cold climate? Why would ignorance stretch man’s power to the point of making him transpose the limits of ordinary intelligence and giving him the faculty of communicating with a new order of beings, inhabitants of another world? The Ethiopians, who embrace almost all Ethiopia, are blacker than the Gingironeans. Their land is hotter and as the latter, they are indigenous to the lands they inhabit, since the beginning of the centuries. However, they neither worship the devil nor pretend to have any communication with him; they do not sacrifice humans in their altars; finally, one cannot find, among them, any trace of similar atrocity.”

“On those parts of Africa which have open communication with the sea, slave trading has been in place since the remotest centuries but the King of Gingiro, whose domains are almost entirely confined to the center of the continent, sacrifices to the devil the slaves he cannot sell to man. It is there that this horrific costume, of shedding human blood in all ceremonies, begins.”

“I ignore”, says Mr. Bruce, “its reach towards southern Africa, but I consider Gingiro as the geographic limit of the devil’s Kingdom, on the northern part of the peninsula.”

Had Mr. Bruce seen what we witness today, he would not have found anything frightening in those practices employed in Gingiro. He only sees a superstitious belief in them whereas we see their cause in the fact of falsely interpreted manifestations, which could be produced there, as anywhere else.

The role that the devil plays in their culture is not surprising. Firstly, it is necessary to observe that all barbaric peoples have attributed to a malefic power everything that they could not explain. Second, a sufficiently ignorant people, capable of sacrificing human beings, certainly could not attract superior spirits to their environment. By their nature, those spirits who visit them can only confirm them in their beliefs. Besides, one has to consider that the peoples of certain regions of Africa have preserved a large number of Jewish traditions, later mixed with some formless ideas of Christianism where they adopted the doctrine of the devil and the demons, as a result of their own ignorance.

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