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Alvares, Manuel, 1526-1583, et al. / Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone : (c. 1615)

Chapter 11: The Island of Bissau and the nature and characteristics of its inhabitants,   pp. 1-6 ff.

Page 4

reckon that the china should be cast into the sea before the king dies.
The savages attribute all such storms to their own dead.    The jagarefe
-the second person (in the kingdom), after the king, as it were, and is the
v'king's chief councillor. On him depends the whole government of the kingdom
since the king does nothing without him.
That is enough about the land. Now we shall discuss the wakes of the
heathen and their burials. When an important king of the Papels dies, the
first thing done is to have a large cage made from thick canes, in the
lower compartment of which is put a he-goat of astonishing size and in the
other compartment a large dog. Over this cage another smaller one is built
and intertwined with the first, and in this is placed the king, beautifully
dressed in Portuguese style if he ruled lands or ports where whites live,
his body having been previously washed in wine. The cage is covered with
capis of various kinds, with coverlets and with other fine cloth. At the
front lie the heads and tails of two or three of the first cowi that were
killed. For two or three days they process through the town carrying this
bier of sorts, while uttering loud and sincere lamentations. No-one can be
seen who is not plastered with earth all over, his head shaver., and with
ropes around his neck and waist. In great distress and sorrow the Papels
praise the dead king, saying that never had he an equal; and some are so
affected that as an expression of mourning they refuse to eat, or to sleep
on a mat, or to wash off their covering of earth. Everyone throughout the
land makes his contribution to the burial, by killing cows or goats, or by
presenting cloths; and it is not only the natives who assist -n this way,
for even those foreigners in neighbouring lands who have rel.,atives living
here support the occasion with their offerings. In the case of one of the
more important kings, the expenses are so great that they exceed the value
of 200 black slaves. This happened at Bissau when Fernao, alias Fena, died.
He was a great friend of ours, for he used to practise good works towards
the whites, by ransoming with his own money any whites who fell into the
hands of the other heathen, and this on his own initiative and without
making demands first. Again, when our ships were being harassed by
pirates and were run aground /f.39v/ in his ports, they were safe there and
enjoyed his protection, for no-one was permitted to harm them or remove any
goods from them. It was because he was so keen to retain our friendship
that he was once almost killed by a cannon-shot. A French ship, escorting
a Portuguese vessel it had taken, came to this port to ransom the prize.
The Portuguese community arranged with the king's Council for the French
be told that, when they brought the stolen ship in and came ashore themselves,
they wiould be given as a hostage the king's eldest son. But the hostage


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