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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 7: Aptitudes of these heathen, and their superstitious rites and ceremonies,   pp. 1-14

Page 13

size like one of the pair of trunks which form a load (on pack-horses).
They are of wood and quite hollow within. At the top there is a slit
two palm-spans in length which corresponds to a well-placed sound-opening
on a musical instrument, and sometimes this runs the length of the
bambalou. The width of the opening is about that of a hand.   The bambalou
is sounded with two sticks, like a drum, and in this way they announce
whatever needs to be communicated in any matter of peace or war concerning
the villages so that those far-off can hear it. And there is an immediate
reply from the person in charge of the bambalou in the next locality. When
a war breaks out, within an hour it is known over a distance of 20 leagues.
If there are settlements all the way the information is passed along more
easily, even if the houses lie a league apart, since each tells .the next.
They use these bambalous to solemnize funeral ceremonies.  This will
suffice for bambalous.
Before we discuss burials I want to conclude my references to the trad
of the land by mentioning an important commodity, wax. Some 8-10 leagues
inland there is much trade in this, in response to the demand from the
whites who go there, and from different places they obtain about 200
quintals, which is the total roaching Cacheu from Banhu territory. As
stated above, this territory also supplies a variety of foodstuffs, etc.
Although these heathen in their burials follow the normal custom of
the other heathen in almost all aspects of the ceremony, let us now say
something about them in conclusion. When a sick man dies, they straightway
ask him not to flee away but to reveal who ate him. In the excess of their
malice and ignorance they do as their ancestors did.  Do they hate any of
their fellow citizens? Four of the heathen then carry the dead man on a
wooden grating like a bier, and sometimes they add the cloth the man wore
when he died. They quickly make their way around the village, from one
side to the other and through the open places.  And whenever the ministers
of the devil stop, it is said and falsely believed that /f.29/ the people
in that spot late' the dead man.  Then they take him to be buried in the
forest, carrying away with the body all the precious possessions it was
found he had, such as cloths, etc. The wretch whom the bier accused (by
stopping) has to pay. His house is attacked and a host of his children
are enslaved. Spite is (thus) one of the heads under which those who are
sent to our Spanish lands [i.e. the Indies 7 are acquired, although
this has been so strongly condemned in the bull promulgated by His
Holiness in the year    -    on the subject of the purchase of Brasilians.


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