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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 9: The famous islands of the Bijagos heathen, the fertility of their soil, and the character and industry of their inhabitants,   pp. 1-6

Page 3

3. '>
And so they say that the sea has no king, neither can it be disposed of by
/f.34v/ will. Since what arrives on beaches belongs to the first who seizes
it, why not the same for what is found at sea? Especially since it involves
much more trouble, including, as well as difficulties of many sorts, a
constant risk to life. If the Portuguese call them 'chickens', they retort:
"You are Frenchman's chickens".
When the Bijagos are making their preparations ashore for a voyage, the
captain begins by consulting some magic medicines at the same time as he
states the intended locality. If the results are as he wants them to be,
kills some cows, as many as are required for his men, then he announces
(details of) the journey, and the warriors who are going to go with him eat
the meat. But the Bijagos are so credulous regarding omens ) that if anyone
falls into the sea after they leave, or if they hear certain birds calling,
or they hear certain other sounds which they regard as a bad omen, they
return home. But if nothing obstructs them along their route then when they
reach the place which is to be attacked, and they reach it always at night,
they send out spies who know the entrances and exits of the place like natives.
Such spies are sometimes natives of the land who have been captured when
and who have continued to live among them willingly and have been permitted
take a wife, if they deserved this. When the message comes-back that the
inhabitants are asleep or engaged in feasts and off their guard, the Bijagos
enter the place and set fire to the houses, all of which consist only of
The inhabitants rush out in order not to be burned and the Bijagos are ready
fpr them outside, so that when the poor wretches emerge they kill them if
resist and make captives of all they can. What happens to the village depends
on the course of the battle and the number of people involved. If it resists
fiercely, the enemy forces withdraw very cautiously until they reach the
canoes they left in the sea, with three or four men remaining in each to
bring them ashore when required. When the Bijagos return victorious with
their plunder, their wives and the rest of the people come to help them to
unload the spoils of war, which they then offer to their chinas in gratitude.
The chinas are mostly horns of cows, sheep or other animals, covered with
hens' feathers and splattered with blood.f)
(e) A characteristic of generally all idolaters, such as the Manes, etc.
They call these events correr (?)
(f) The idol of the Bijago heathen. It is a bundle of sticks the thickness
a Bengal staff, and a palm-span and a half long. They kill a hen over it,
anoint it with the blood, and place the feathers on it. Similarly with a
goat, cow, etc.


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