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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 3: The public institutions of the heathen, including their laws and legal arrangements, and the deficiencies of these,   pp. 1-6

Page 3

at a crossroads so that people will know he was a thief and that he   ||j4
died for this crime. Adulterers are punished with death or enslave-
ment, and witches are treated the same way. Gossipmongers have their
ears cut off.                                                        IIIS
Before going on to discuss the civil government in peacetime, as
is appropriate for this chapter, let Us first comment on the inadequacil
and superstitious nature of their diabolical system of justice. I call|
it 'diabolical' because normally the' proofs of guilt are obtained by
immoral procedures, such as divination, which they call matis.    To
discover a thief, they boil water in a pot, and while it is boiling
put a hand into it, at the same time naming the villages and the people
living in each. If as they name a place the hand is scalded, they
believe that the thief lives theft. Continuing with the ceremony, the11l
then name the persons (in that village), and when the hand is scalded
the person they are naming is the guilty one, and they proceed againstl
him. They have another judicial proot w'ich they call 'proof by snail
or as the heathen call the creature, atinco. They fill up the shell, a.
large one, with water containing aeban, a special medicine, and the
bark of macone, a very poisonous tree whose fruit when crushed makes afi
paste used to poison arrows. After ceremonially sprinkling the outer Iil
part of the shell, they then boil it with its contents; and wher. it is
boiled, they take a straw and draw cut some of the preparation, and     
pour this over a certain part of the body of the accused. They then VII
scrape the skin with a knife and if any comes off, the accused is
guilty,  But if not, he is absolved, and his accuser is punished.
(a) "My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declared
unto them: for the spirit of whoredom hath caused them to err,
and they have gone a-whoring from under their God", Hosea 4:12.    
This was the form of divination among the Hebrews. Thus Jerome
and St Cyril. For divination among the Chaldaeans, see
Ezekiel 21:21. They throw lots, they do not fall as they wish Ill
they should believe that God is not on bad terms with them.


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