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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 23: Superstition and the aspects of this false devotion,   pp. 1-5

Page 4

Now it is time to discuss the drawing of lots or matis, as performed
by the heathen of Serra Leoa. There are many different kinds. The first,
divinatoria, employs stones or pieces of wood in order to gain knowledge
concerning hidden matters or the future. This is always an evil practice.
The second kind, divisoria, consists of drawing lots in order to learn what
will happen to someone: this is licit, when it is not intended to seek
information from the devil but merely to select from random possibilities
about the future. The third kind, consultoria, is in order to know what to
do in a future circumstance. If done in expectation of action from the
devil it is very wrong, for one should not expect nothing from him. But if
it is in expectation of being God's will then it is licit. For instance,
two persons are equally in extreme need, and I can only help one : in this
case I may consult God as to which one it should be. This is the case
stated by St. Augustine, "When human means easily applied are not available,
it is for God to decide",   Div        , Tom.2,Q.95,art.8.  See Tolet
in the
Summa ad primum praeceptum Decalogi, where he gives examples.    But it is
necessary tin-t this should be done reverently and not for profane reasons.
With regard to vain observance, this occurs in the tacit invocation of
the devil, when men seek by this to employ devices which lack the inherent
virtue to bring about the desired effect. An infamous example in this
category is the notorious practice of multiplying prayers and fasting; when
done in order to acquire scientific knowledge, this is as if knowledge could
flow into one.   Similarly the curing of headache and various other disorders
of men and animals by pronouncing certain prayers. Stopping bleeding by the
use of vain means, such as saying nonsense words or ridiculous words,
normally involves invocation of the devil. In this case ignorance prevents
it being a mertal sin; but after being warned, it is just this. However if
such prayers are free from all evil intent and are said out of devotion,
this is not evil. But it is best to follow the practice of the Church and
say the Pater Noster and Ave Maria. Accidents come in here : if one steps
out of the house on the left foot and stumbles, if the cock crows as one
leaves by night, if one dreams about an unhappy event. Ignorance alone
excuses wickedness in these and other similar beliefs : if one goes to sea
on a Thursday, etc; if one carries false relics, or even true ones in
certain circumstances, as if the Gospel was written on blank paper.
Similarly when false results are promised : he who dies in sin while
fighting in the war, and so on. People of this kind rely much on their


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