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Witchcraft In Louisiana
by [?]

The Indian medicine men or priests have many ways of deceiving their people. A French officer found that the people of a certain tribe believed very much in an idol which a medicine man had set up. This idol was called by a long name, Vistee-poolee-keek-apook. The Indians, when they stood near, would sometimes hear it speak, and this seemed to them a very wonderful thing.

A French officer named Bossu tried to find out what made the idol talk. He found a long reed, such as we call a cane pole, running from the back of the idol’s head to a cave or hollow in the rocks behind the idol. This reed had been made into a hollow tube. In the cave there was a medicine man who talked into the tube. The words coming out of the other end in the idol’s head were heard from the mouth of the idol, as if the idol were speaking. Bossu showed the Indians the trick, and then got one of his soldiers to destroy the idol.

The soldier that destroyed the idol was so brave, that the Frenchmen had given him a nickname which means “fearless.” The medicine man declared that some dreadful thing would fall on Fearless because he had destroyed the idol. In order to make his people believe in the power of this god that had been thrown down, he told them that there was a witch or evil spirit which came to the village in the shape of a little black panther. He said, that, whenever he pronounced the name of his god, this little black panther would instantly disappear.

You see, the cunning old medicine man had somehow got hold of a large black cat with yellow eyes. Cats were not common among the Indians, these animals having been brought by the white people. Such a cat as this, the Indians had never seen. The medicine man kept the cat in his cabin, and trained it. He would strike it with a whip, crying out every time he struck it, “Vistee-poolee-keek-apook!”

The poor cat became afraid of the long ugly name of the Indian god, because the whip and the name always came together. One day the black cat crept into the cabin of an Indian woman to get something to eat. The medicine man who was near by saw it. He said the name of his god in his common voice. The cat, which the Indians believed to be a witch, jumped like lightning through the hole in the cabin that was used for a window. The Indians really believed that they had seen an evil spirit in the shape of a little black panther, and that it disappeared when the medicine man spoke the name of his god.

After that, every time an Indian saw this black cat, or little black panther, as it was called, he spoke the name of this terrible god. Of course, the black cat with yellow eyes ran away. Tired out at last with being driven off in this fashion, the cat disappeared entirely, and took up its home with the wild animals in the woods, where it could not hear the terrible name of the idol any more.

Bossu afterward made use of the Indians’ belief in spirits for his own purpose. One of his soldiers had been killed by one of the Indians. Bossu could not find out who killed the soldier, or even to what tribe the Indian that killed him belonged. He wanted to punish or frighten the murderer in order to save the lives of the rest of the French soldiers.

He called the chief of the Indians, and told him that one of his men was missing. He said he was sure the man had not run away. He therefore asked that the Indians should find the man, and said, that, if he were not found, he should have to think that some of the Indians had killed him.