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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: The offerings of these heathen, and the society of Menas,   pp. 1-4

Page 2

:; :
those who make these offering to find a remedy for thero   l   - t D    
instance, those blind in one eye recover their sight, ands     n,0I tb±.4a
done as a greater chastisement, by impressing on them their ignorance,,"
point they do not grasp.
Now let us come to the second subject of the chapter. It is an''
age-old custom among the natives that when their daughters reach the age
of ten or twelve years they put them in a training-school for their
superstitious creed. Tangoma, who is the Superior, chooses for its
location a secret place in the forest. Here the novices stay three or
four months, secluded from all social intercourse and contact, even with
their own parents. Such an ape has the devil become (that he imitates
the monastic novitiate) I During this period of time, the master of the
school occupies himself in teaching the girls the rt4ngmof the society and
other ceremonial matters. It appears that to teach/Like this is enough to
enable the devil to make them believe all these lies. The rules are
unclean, as >1ll their practices are. The first lesson is to give words
new meaning. Hence, when these cursed nuns afterwards speak to each
other, tstonel means twoodt, with the result that they can only be
understood among themselves, and what they say cannot be understood by
others or learnt by them. The devil has always encouraged and still
encourages this sort of secretiveness among his own, and it has been the
cause of the ruin of great edifices of sanctity. Apart from the male
guardian, the girls have an abbess (or female instructor). From the time
they begin this infernal exercise, the novices wear nothing. As their
parents cannot visit them because of the strictness of their seclusion,
they arrange for the girl to be provided with what is necessary, their
servants placing whatever they bring at the door of this inferno. The
girls do not come to collect it, because they consider it an abomination
to be seen during the period of this dreary institution, especially by
their parents or relatives. So the master takes care to have the
donations collected, and he divides them among all the pupils, in keeping
with the rules. The master's name means'deprived of bcth sexes', and
indicates the great purity of behaviour practiced by the whole group
during this period. The nuns are called Menas. Each year they number
fifty or sixty. During the period of seclusion, the signal for meals is
given with a drum, this being sounded for lack of a bell. The same happens
at the time of their baths, bathing being a practice much followed by all
categories of the heathen. /f.70/ Sounds of great feasting and of
dancing to music can be heard coming from this place: this indicates, as
said above, that the master teaches them through songs, and they reply to
him in the same way.


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