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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 5

not the son, for they had prepared a trap by dressing up a slave in all
manner of fripperies and pretending that he was the son. However the enemy
were apprehensive of treachery, and when the king appeared in the port they
fired a cannon whose shot went through a cloth the king was wearing. He was
not harmed, and it seems that the Lord wished to preserve the barbarian in
gratitude for the affection he had shown the Portuguese nation.
While the feasts continue in the village, the grave is being prepared.
To determine where the mouth of the vault shall be, the king's chief china
is brought to the place, her (?) ears are cut off, and the blood running
from where those organs used to be marks out the spot. Later all the chinas
are strangled. But first they feast and dance, beautifully dressed, in the
great burial-ground, in honour of the deceased. From here these women are
led away, some of them already in a condition approaching death, since they
are given a concoction of musk in a bitter oil to reduce their sensations
during the terrible draught of death; and as well as drinking it, they place
some on their eyes.   The way they are sacrificed and killed is as follows.
Two strong blacks take a rope made of mal-ia, which is from a tree and
resembles one of our osiers in being very flexible, and they place the rope
over the eyes and mouth (of the victim), and then pull on the rope, and so
she is killed. Some of them are so cruel that even if the victim is still
breathing,-they will leave her and pass on to deal with the others. And
thus they kill some thirty or forty women, the number depending on the
wealth of the king or noble. The king's chief china serves in this role
(of executioner) by killing the women who belong to nobles, flinging their
necks; and somedf them are so eager (to die) that she kills them with little
effort (?). This king's china has special privileges. Without anyone
preventing her, she is permitted to take anything in the land she fancies,
cows, goats, foodstuffs, wine, etc. When the (sacrificial) ceremony is
completed, the king is buried, and with him those persons he chose (to have
with him) during his lifetime. Some of these are happy to die with him
because they enjoyed his affection: others would escape /f.40/ if they could
and would prefer to be sold (as slaves) because they value life.
This large vault is lined throughout with cloths. In it there lie only
the king, his chief china on whom he rests his head, and three other women,
one beside each arm and one at his feet, supporting them. The opening of
the grave is closed, this being about the size of the bottom of a cask, and
on it is placed a very carefully-made earthenware pot, with a lid, and into
this some wine is put. Over the grave they build a hut made out of thatch,
in order to protect the site from the rain. A man is given the task of
lighting a fire there nightly. In a nearby burial-ground the (other) chinas


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