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Almada, André Alvares d', fl. 1594, et al. / Brief treatise on the rivers of Guinea
Part I (1984)

Chapter 4. Which discusses the Kingdom of Borçalo, where Jalofos and Barbacins live; and all else in this district. [translated text],   pp. 30-40 and 41


Page 32

32.


them even better than did the dead king.
4.       Among this people, as among the others we have discussed, legal
judgments are decided by the king in company with the elders, who act
like (our) judges, or by the governors of localities, always with the
assistance of old men of long experience. One;party presents its case,
the other argues against it; evidence is then brought forward, and the
matter is resolved between them. When the case is doubtful and there
are no witnesses, they make use of thwo terrifying judicial ordeals, to
which the plaintiff and defendant must submit. One is called the
'ordeal by irons and the other the 'ordeal by water'. I consider them
both very difficult ordeals. That by iron is undergone in this way.
They bring to the place a blacksmith, or they go to his house. He puts
a small piece of iron in the fire and works the bellows until the iron
becomes as red as live coal. The person who has to undergo the ordeal
says these words: 'God knows the truth; if I have done such and such a
thing, as is said of me, may this iron burn my tonrguo so thaut I never
speak again'. As soon as these words are said, the blacksmith picks up
the iron with his tongs, so that a thousand sparks dart from it; and the
person who said the words takes the tongs in his hand, and licks the red-
hot iron with his tongue, thrice. If he is unharmed, he and has support-
ers prance around and sentence is given in his favour. But those who do
not dare to take the ordeal are condemned. For the ordeal by water, a
large pot of water is placed on the fire in the early morning, and as
soon as it comes to the boil, with the water bubbling and jumping, they
throw in a needle or a pebble which falls to the bottom. The person
taking the ordeal washes his hands in cold water and speaks words similar
to those stated above, and (then) puts in his hand and draws out the
needle or stone three times. If he escapes unharmed, without being
scalded, judgment is given for him; but those who are scalded are
condemned and must pay (a fine to) the ac -iser. Often me, become slaves
in this way, and their whole lineage (tc


 


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