University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Africa Focus

Page View

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

Chapter 10: The way of life of these heathen and their customs, also a discussion of their superstitions and idolatry,   pp. [unnumbered]-3

Page 3

Their idol comprises a bundle of sticks, as already stated, and also
two short antelope horns which are attached to two of the sticks, and these
are anointed with blood and covered with feathers. These sticks lie above
-the bundle. This abominable idol, this turd, is placed in a little hut
shaped like an oven and made solely of clay. Here are also placed some
bolis made of gourds, containing red beans.  To this place the people make
their way in order both to give thanks for favours received and to seek
remedies in times of trouble. The priest, whose office is here filied by
magicians, enters the hut, and closes and blocks the entrance with a mat,
while everyone else waits outside. He touches [? makes a sound with]7
the boulis to call on the evil spirits, according to his superstitious
belief, and the poor heathen believe that he is invoking their dead. The
devil replies to questions with a cry which has no meaning, but the priest
expounds it as he wishes. And so they give the priest credit (for the
contract), and will not deviate a jot from what he says to them. When
someone dies, all he owns they bury with him; and they kill cows, which they
buy for this purpose when they need them and when there is a supply in the
ports. (At burials) they do not kill people, (but) if a woman with a child
at breast dies, they put the living child in the ground with the mother.
They are such brutes that they say that this must be, because if God had
wished the child to live he would not have taken away the person who
sustained it. At wakes, the men perform war-dances with great yells. All
are masked and they make a thousand threatening gestures with their spears
as well as other war-like motions. They especially do this when the burial
feasts are those of their captains or of warriors who died in battle, since
they hold these persons in very great veneration. The women, who remain
within doors, make their lamentations at night and at dawn, by chanting
verses; and during this period they all shave their heads, smear white clay
over them, and wear a slatted bonnet dyed white, with no top in it. They
hang a collar of cibe leaves around their necks and cover part of their
body with a skirt of bark, which is beaten out like esparto grass. /f.37v/


Go up to Top of Page