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

Page 2

they eat out-of-doors, in the streets, where they can be seen; anyone
passing can join in if they so wish. Hence the tagarra, or gourd, from
which they eat is common to all. The man of standing, the slave, the
child, all dip their hand in; and he who is most forward and vigorous,
whoever he is, is allowed to have the best of the dish.  Similarly, when
a cow or goat is killed, as many persons as are present have a share.
They carry superstition to the point where the following can happen.
A Portuguesewho was living in the land because at this period it was
completely at peace (within), was walking along the shore reciting his
prayers when a canoe happened to return in a battered condition, from a
raid, with many of its crew dead.  (The survivors) threw themselves in a
rage on the poor man and killed him, saying that he was to blame for their
lack of success, which was due to the magic of his prayers by which he hall4\1
arranged with God for their trouble and losses.
The Bijagos are especially lacking in decency and they force the     i
captives they bring back into the vice of sensuality, even in public. The|
behaviour towards the captives is most tyrannical, for they ill-treat the
and torture them in various ways. Captives who are rejected when offered
for sale, they (used to) wound and kill, although today they no longer fo
this practice, as stated in the marginal note to chapter 9 above. When
leave to go to war they anoint themselves with ochre, charcoal-dust and whi'
clay, and they cover their heads with hen's feathers. Before they leave if
harbour, a female magician steps into the canoe and breaks a roLten egg ov3
it, at the traditional part for this ceremony, in the stern. Then she take,
a mouthful of salt water, and splatters it around the stern, so that the
water touches the bolis and jars of beans. At the prow, the captain hold5
up to the sky some antelope horns; and he begs for a successful journey,
without rain or or other difficulties, for numerous prizes, and for the
safety of the warriors.  At this they all shout and raise their oars in th1
air; they lower them and row so vigorously that in no time the canoe has
disappeared, leaving the woman who performed the ceremony behind on the sho
The captain has a fixed period of time /f.37/during which he is to return,
and if at the end of this period he does not appear, the best warriors arm
themselves and set off in the direction they think appropriate.  Trumpets
blown, and those men who are located where they can hear them assemble by
following signals given by the trumpets.  The women remain at the harbours
where they maintain a look-out until the men re-appear.                 
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