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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 12: About the government of the heathen, the elevation of their king, and their war medicines,   pp. 1-5

Page 5

cola and the blood of dogs and hens are sprinkled on it, and many eggs
are broken over it. They have such faith in these sorts of things that
they believe that if they have them they have help and remedy for all
their necessities. And so if they want rain they address this medicine,
soaking the animal tails in water and raising a cry towards heaven. They
do the same if they want the sun, or health, etc. And if the devil does
not reply, they say that their medicines have done him harm, and
responsibility falls on their (medicine) woman, for each king keeps his
own who is called the King's Medicine-woman. These women enjoy such
privileges, and their husbands are so jealous, that while they hold this
office, they nay not accept or receive anything (direct) from the hands
of a male native. If any man tries to give them anything, they must put
it on the ground, from which the wreteched woman picks it up and takes it.
Nevertheless, they can accept anything from another woman, for they say
that a female, who does not make war, cannot spoil medicines or harm
adversaries. Only these women can eat with the king any kind of meat or
bird, except a cock.
I shall conclude the chapter by describing the nebrina medicine.
A village is approached by those bent on war. A fog then arises which
prevents one man seeing another, and hence, God willing, the attackers
have the victory. (But) this did not happen to Messera or Gaspar Bure,
the chief of Pogomo, however much he believed in this medicine. The enemy
whom these savages attacked were few in number, but the medicine was no
help at all to him. When they heard the sound of the attack, the defenders
rushed up so fiercely that poor Bure, in order to save his life from the
hands of the Calus, fled with such haste that he lost even his shirt.
The vessels in which they mix these potions are made of the horns of
animals. No one can claim to be a grandee if he does not own a fine4 and
elaborately twisted ram's horn. These are the infernal reliquaries of all
the kinds of Manes, who arrived with these goods; and the native heathen
when they received them paid for them with the money of idolatry, which
the Manes themselves did not see in such a light because they are a
warrior people who are more interested in the art of war. But today in
this Province it is all one. /F-3|


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