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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 4: The domestic institutions of the heathen, their lifestyle and customs,   pp. 1-4

Page 4

these natural materials. All of them usually carry metal rings, of
Moorish brass or tin, on their fingers. Their trunk, face and limbs are
marked with a thousand pictures of snakes, lizards, monkeys, birds and so
on. When they present gifts, these gifts turn out to be a miserable cock,
or a mat, or a bucket of rice or salt; and with these for bait, they deal
with us as first-class usurers would. If it were not like this everything
would be ruined. They say that a cock is the most suitable present, and
they use these in their sacrifices. As well as braiding their hair, they
shape it into a thousand elegant patterns, shaving it with knives and
leaving portions to form various shapes, some oval, others like half an
orange. Some of them look like monks. In sum, the sight of their heads
provokes laughter. Their teeth they always keep very clean. They draw out
their eyelashes and say they do this in order to see better. They eat any
kind of food, but it seems that they prefer those with a strong smell, for
they never salt anything, not even meat, even when all of it has been smoked.
They use these ( ? smoked meats) in their ciga, a dish like a selada,
cooked in oil.   They are exceptionally greedy when it comes to eating meat
of all kinds, and for pork they would sell themselves. They behave most
kindly to those who are sick. They do not employ blood-letting, saying that
it is bad to lose what is vital to life; however those educated in our ways
do this. But they use scarifying, and various medicines in the form of
herbs and health-giving plants, which they boil in wine or water and either
drink or wash the body with; and they have powders which are used as oint-
To bring this chapter to an end we shall discuss their abominable
custom of cabondos, women of a nefarious kind. Someone goes to one of their
villages to deal in cola, rice, etc. He selects his host, who parades in
front of the trader his whole household of women/wives and tells him to
chose one. If he says that he does not want a woman, no more happens and
this puts a stop to the thing. But what man does, and shall we praise him
if he does ? If he wants a woman, he is given one, for all purposes; and
they are content to accept this, out of self-interest. For apart from the
normal expenses, as~long as the trade goes on with the woman's parents and
relatives, and until he leaves, the poor 'son-in-law? pays up - because he
clothes the 'father-in-law' and pays very steeply for these devilish
arrangements. If it happens that after saying he does not want a woman the
guest takes one from a neighbour, they attack and rob him. And if after
taking one he goes off with another of those he was shown, his own woman
reports him. All the children that wives of these panders have by those men
to whom their husbands give them are accepted by the husbands as their own,
without any fuss. Since profit is made by being a pander, men prize the role,
to the extent that they will go long journeys and endure great hardships
( 7 to offer their wives). Such fathers do girls here have, etc.


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