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the nearest relative of the husband, especially when they have children. The natives are easily deceived by their priests, and from this arise a thousand silly practices which they religiously preserve. Their life is passed in the country watered by the Dabaiba River.
I quote some other similar particulars which have been reported to me by trustworthy witnesses who have visited these southern countries. It is well to remember that these details have been omitted by Egidius Gonzales and his companions. Besides Egidius, a number of other captains have, as I have stated, frequently explored with their fleets these immense regions and tribes towards the south.
Not to mention many errors peculiar to them, there is one amongst the caciques of this country like unto which I have never read or heard anything. The king and the nobles alone are considered to have immortal souls. Other people possess souls which die with their bodies. An exception exists for indispensable servants of princes and those amongst them who, when their masters die, choose to be buried alive with them. In fact they are convinced that the souls of kings, once freed from their human bodies, enjoy perpetual delights, in evergreen gardens where they eat, drink, play, and dance with young women, or divert themselves as they did in their lifetime. This is the tradition handed down from their ancestors and for them is an article of faith. For this reason, numbers gladly cast themselves into the graves of their masters. If the prince's servants fail to fulfil this duty, their souls forfeit immortality and perish. We have already noted the same custom among the widows of caciques in other regions.
Each year the heirs of the cacique and the lords repeat the funeral ceremonies, according to ancient rites. The ceremony proceeds in the following order: The cacique or lord invites his subjects and neighbours to the tomb. Each one brings some of the usual wine but the organiser of the ceremony supplies all the food. Men and women, but especially the women, pass the whole of the first night watching, during which they give vent to mournful cries, deploring in funeral canticles the fate of the dead, especially if he has been killed by his enemies in war; for although they are content with so little in their life, the barbarians nourish eternal hatred amongst themselves.
They speak in offensive language of the life and morals of the victorious enemy, heaping furious insults upon him; they call him tyrant, cruel traitor, accusing him of having triumphed over their master and ravaging the country by fraud, and not by courage and virtue. Such indeed is the habit of these barbarians. Presently they bring a figure representing the enemy, and engage in mimic combat with it, wounding it and finally cutting it into bits, as a sterile sort of vengeance for their master. Then they give themselves up to eating and drinking, until drunkenness and nausea overtake them.
They have intoxicating herbs, from which they manufacture different drinks, as the Flemish make beer of barley and fruits, and the Galicians cider from apples. Afterwards they begin to dance and sing until they drop exhausted, exalting the virtues of their master, congratulating him on being good, generous, devoted to his people, self-sacrificing for the good of his subjects, free-handed in distributing seeds amongst them,—this being the chief duty of the cacique,—and finally upon being a brave soldier, and a skilful general in war. The lamentations are renewed and they begin again to deplore his death, crying, "He has robbed us of you, O illustrious Prince! Alas! the fatal day that has deprived us of such a great joy. Alas, unfortunate creatures that we are, to have lost such a father of the country!"
After many repetitions of these laments and others of the same sort, they turn to the reigning cacique and praise his merits, his courage, and his other virtues. They surround him, leaping and dancing like the furies of the carnival; regarding him with respect and adoring him, declaring that they behold in him the present and future remedy of past misfortunes, and the consolation for all their troubles.1 Like courtiers, they declare him to be the most elegant of the elegant, the handsomest of the handsome, the most generous of the generous; pious, gracious; in a word, they overwhelm him with all sorts of praises and compliments.
At daybreak they leave the house, bearing an image of the dead to a boat which has been prepared; it is dug out of a tree-trunk and capable of carrying sixty rowers. In fact it is reported that very lofty trees grow in this country, especially lemon-trees, which are plentiful and of which I recently learned that they possess a quality I had before ignored. The planks of the lemon-tree, in addition to their already well-known properties, are incorruptible, for they are bitter to the taste and are never attacked by the pest of worms, which, wherever the sea is deep, bore the hulls of ships more effectually than an auger. These worms are called by the Spaniards bromas. This boat, which is held to be that of the dead, is filled with drinks, herbs, fruits, such as he loved during his lifetime; also with fish, meat, and bread. The administrators of the cacique have had it already prepared against the moment when the organiser of the ceremony shall come out of his house. The guests raise the boat on their shoulders and carry it round the house, bringing it to the place from which they started, where they burn it together with all its contents. They believe the smoke from this fire is agreeable to the dead man's soul. While this is happening, the women, who have drunk immoderately, let down their hair, strip themselves naked, and foam at the mouth as they stagger forward. Their legs tremble under them, and they cling to the walls or fall, sprawling as do the Bacchantes; or they snatch javelins from their husbands' hands, clashing them together. They brandish lances and wave spears and arrows. In their wild march they shake the house, and finally, wearied out, they throw themselves stark naked on the ground and sleep the sleep of exhaustion.
1 In other words: Le roi est mart, Vive le roil
Such ceremonies have been especially observed in an island of the South Sea called Cesucuo, which the Spaniards under the leadership of Espinosa visited.
There is another moral trait of theirs, which is not exactly chaste, but which I do.wish to omit. When the young men give themselves up to these follies and games, singing their arreytos, they pierce the virile member with the bone of a fish called in Latin and Spanish rate and in Greek flirts; continuing to skip and jump while their blood flows on the floor. A powder which they use on the wound, and which was discovered by the bovites, who discharge the functions of doctor, surgeon, and priest, cures it in four days.
Sorcerers and soothsayers are highly esteemed and nothing is undertaken which they do not inaugurate, whether it is hunting, or fishing, seeking gold in the mines or pearls in the shells; the natives do not dare to move a foot unless the sorcerer, torquerugua as he is called, has first declared the moment to be propitious. There exists among them no forbidden degree of affinity and relationship, and fathers marry daughters, brothers their sisters; widows, even those who have no children, pass with the rest of the property to the heirs by right of succession. It is said that they are obscene and debased.
A singular custom prevails in our islands of Hispaniola, Cuba, and Jamaica, where a marriageable woman who has granted her favours and prostituted herself to the greatest number is reputed to be the most generous and honourable of all. The following story, amongst others, is a singular proof. Several Spaniards, in company with islanders from Jamaica, crossed to Hispaniola having with them a very beautiful woman, who had until then kept her virginity and remained chaste. The Spaniards agreed amongst themselves to accuse her of meanness, and they were so skilful and persistent that they transformed that young girl into an enraged woman, who determined to accept the embraces of any one who wanted her. She, who formerly resisted everyone, showed herself more than generous to all who solicited her favours. Throughout the archipelago there is no worse insult than to be called mean. It is just the contrary in many ways from the continent, where the women are chaste and the men so jealous that they strangle adulterous women.
I will terminate this part of my narrative dedicated to you, Most Illustrious Prince, with an extraordinary prodigy. What remains to tell, or what I may learn later, the Sovereign Pontiff has enjoined me, by a parchment just communicated to me, to dedicate to himself.
Near the source of the Dabaiba River lies a country called Camara, the last syllable pronounced long. The recollection is still preserved amongst its inhabitants of a frightful tempest mingled with whirlwinds, which suddenly broke from the east upon that country, tearing up all the trees by the roots and carrying off many houses, especially those built of wood. While the tempest raged two birds, almost similar to the harpies of the Strophades celebrated by the poets, were blown into the country. They had the face, chin, mouth, nose, teeth, eyes, eyebrows, and physiognomy of a virgin; one of these birds was so heavy that no tree was strong enough to support it. It is even alleged that when it rested on a rock to pass the night, the mark of its talons was distinguishable. It seized people in its claws, and carried them off to devour them on the summit of the mountains, as easily as hawks rob chickens. The other bird was not so large, and was doubtless the offspring of the first.
The Spaniards who went up that river a distance of four