Concerning their Worship, and Festivals.
Wednesdays and Saturdays are the days, when people, who have any business with the Gods, come and address themselves; that is either to pray to their God for health, or for their help in some weighty matters, as in War &c. or to swear concerning any matter in controversy, which is done before the Idols.
But one of their great and frequent businesses with their Gods is for the Recovery of health. And that God or Devil that hath made them sick, in his power only it is to restore them. Therefore when they feel themselves sick or sore, first, they use means to know which God or Devil hath been the cause or author thereof. Which to find they use these means. With any little stick they make a bow, and on the firing thereof they hang a thing they have to cut Betel-nuts, somewhat like a pair of Sizzars; then holding the stick or Bow by both ends, they repeat the names of all both God and Devils: and when they come to him who hath afflicted them, then the Iron on the bow-string will swing. They say by that sign they know their ilness proceeds from the power of that God last named; but I think this happens by the power of the Hands that hold it. The God being thus found, to him chiefly they offer their oblations and sacrifices.
There are nine Deities, which they call Gerehah, which are the Planets (reckoning in probably the Dragons head and Tail.) From whom proceed their Fortunes. These they reckon so powerful, that if they be ill affected towards any party, neither God nor Devil can revoke it.
When they are disposed to worship these Gerehah, they make Images of Clay according to the number that stand disaffected, towards them, which by certain Magick Tricks they know these Images, which are made by the Weavers, they paint of divers colours, of horrible and monstrous shapes; some with long tusks like a Boar, some with hornes like a Bull, all in a most deformed manner, but something resembling the shape of a man. Before them they prostrate Victuals, the sick party sitting all the while before them. These ceremonies are always celebrated in the night with Drums and Pipes and dancing until almost day, and then they take these Images and cast them out into the high ways to be trampled under foot: and the Victuals taken away and eaten by the attendants, and despicable people that wait there on purpose.
When they worship those whom they call Devils, many of whom they hold to be the Spirits of some that died heretofore, they make no Images for them, as they did for the Planets; but only build a new house in their yard, like a Barn very slight, covered only with leaves, and adorn it with Branches and Flowers. Into this House they bring some of the Weapons or Instruments, which are in the Pagods or Temples, and place them on Stools at one end of the house, which is hanged with Cloth for that purpose, and before them on other Stools they lay Victuals: and all that time of the Sacrifice there is Drumming, Piping, Singing, and Dancing. Which being ended, they take the Victuals away, and give it to those which Drum and Pipe, with other Beggars and Vagabonds; for only such do eat of their Sacrifices; not that they do account such things hallowed, and so dare not presume to eat them, but contrariwise they are now looked upon as polluted meat. And if they should attempt to eat thereof, it would be a reproach to them and their Generations.
These Spirits or Gods are local. For those which they worship in one County or part of the Land, are not known or owned to have power over the People in other parts. But each Countrey hath several Spirits or Devils, that are peculiar to those places, and do domineer over them, and are known by several names they call them by: under whose subjection the People do acknowledge themselves to be: and, as I well perceive, do stand in a greater awe of them, than they do of them, whom they call and own to be their Gods.
And indeed it is sad to consider, how this poor People are subjected to the Devil, and they themselves acknowledge it their misery, saying their Countrey is so full of Devils, and evil Spirits, that unless in this manner they should adore them, they would be destroyed by them. Christians they do acknowledge have a Prerogative above themselves, and not to be under the Power of these infernal Spirits.
I have many times seen Men and Women of this People strangely possest, insomuch that I could judge it nothing else but the effect of the Devil’s power upon them: and they themselves do acknowledge as much. In the like condition to which I never saw any that did profess to be a worshipper of the Holy Name of JESUS. They that are thus possest, some of them will run mad into the Woods, screeching and roaring, but do mischief to none; some will be taken so as to be speechless, shaking, and quaking, and dancing, and will tread upon the fire and not be hurt; they will also talk idle, like distracted folk. This may last sometimes two or three Months, sometimes two or three dayes. Now their Friends reckoning it to proceed from the Devil, do go to him and promise him a reward if he will cure them. Sometimes they are cured, and sometimes die. The People do impute this madness to some breach of promise that the Party affected had made to the Devil, or else for eating some fruit or Betel-leaves dedicated to him: For they do dedicate some fruit-trees to the Devil; and this they do, to prevent People from stealing them (which few will dare to do after such a Dedication) and also to excuse themselves in not bestowing their fruit upon any that might ask or desire it. But before this dedicated fruit is lawful for them to use, they must carry some of it to the Temple.
This for certain I can affirm, That oftentimes the Devil doth cry with an audible Voice in the Night; ’tis very shrill almost like the barking of a Dog. This I have often heard my self; but never heard that he did any body any harm. Only this observation the Inhabitants of the Land have made of this Voice, and I have made it also, that either just before or very suddenly after this Voice, the King always cuts off People. To believe that this is the Voice of the Devil these reasons urge, because there is no Creature known to the Inhabitants, that cry like it, and because it will on a sudden depart from one place, and make a noise in another, quicker than any fowl could fly: and because the very Dogs will tremble and shake when they hear it; and ’tis so accounted by all the People.
This Voice is heard only in Cande Uda, and never in the Low Lands. When the Voice is near to a Chingulaye’s house, he will curse the Devil, calling him Geremoi goulammah, Beef-eating Slave be gone, be damned, cut his Nose off, beat him a pieces. And such like words of Railery, and this they will speak aloud with noise, and passion, and threatning. This Language I have heard them bestow upon the Voice; and the Voice upon this always ceaseth for a while, and seems to depart, being heard at a greater distance.
When smaller Devils do fail them, they repair unto the great one. Which they do after this manner. They prepare an Offering of Victuals ready dressed; one dish whereof is always a red Cock. Which they do as frequently offer to the Devil, as Papists do Wax-Candles to Saints. This Offering they carry out into a remote place in the Woods, and prostrate it to the honour and service of the Grand Devil, before which there are men in an horrible disguise like Devils, with Bells about their Legs and Doublets of a strange fashion, dancing and singing, to call, it it were possible, the Devil himself to come and eat of the Sacrifices they have brought; the sick Party is all the while present.
I have hitherto spoke of their ordinary and daily Worship, and their private and occasional Devotions; besides these they have their solemn and annual Festivals. Now of these there are two sorts, some belonging to their Gods that govern the Earth, and all things referring to this life; and some belonging to the Buddou whose Province is to take care of the Soul and future well-being of Men.
I shall first mention the Festivals of the former sort. They are two or three. That they may therefore honour these Gods, and procure their aid and assistance, they do yearly in the Month of June or July, at a New Moon, observe a solemn Feast and general Meeting, called Perahar; but none are compelled, and some go to one Pagoda, and some to another. The greatest Solemnity is performed in the City of Cande; but at the same time the like Festival or Perahar is observed in divers other Cities and Towns of the Land. The Perahar at Cande is ordered after this manner.
The Priest bringeth forth a painted stick, about which strings of Flowers are hanged, and so it is wrapped in branched Silk, some part covered, and some not; before which the People bow down and worship; each one presenting him with an Offering according to his free will. These free-will Offerings being received from the People, the Priest takes his painted stick on his Shoulder, having a Cloth tied about his mouth to keep his breath from defiling this pure piece of Wood, and gets up upon an Elephant all covered with white Cloth, upon which he rides with all the Triumph that King and Kingdom can afford, thro all the Streets of the City. But before him go, first some Forty or Fifty Elephants, with brass Bells hanging on each side of them, which tingle as they go.
Next, follow men dressed up like Gyants, which go dancing along agreeable to a Tradition they have, that anciently there were huge men, that could carry vast Burthens, and pull up Trees by the Roots. &c. After them go a great multitude of Drummers, and Trumpetters, and Pipers, which make such a great and loud noise, that nothing else besides them can be heard. Then followeth a Company of Men dancing along, and after these Women of such Casts or Trades as are necessary for the service of the Pagoda, as Potters and Washer-women, each cast goeth in Companies by themselves, three and three in a row, holding one another by the hand; and between each Company go Drummers, Pipers and Dancers.
After these comes an Elephant with two Priests on his back: one whereof is the Priest before spoken of, carrying the painted stick on his Shoulder, who represents Allout neur Dio, that is, the God and Maker of Heaven and Earth. The other sits behind him, holding a round thing, like an Umbrello, over his head, to keep off Sun or Rain. Then within a yard after him on each hand of him follow two other Elephants mounted with two other Priests, with a Priest sitting behind each, holding Umbrello’s as the former, one of them represents Cotteragom Dio, and the other Potting Dio. These three Gods that ride here in Company are accounted of all other the greatest and chiefest, each one having his residence in a several Pagoda.
Behind go their Cook-women, with things like whisks in their hands to scare away flies from them; but very fine as they can make themselves.
Next after the Gods and their Attendance, go some Thousands of Ladies and Gentlewomen, such as are of the best sort of the Inhabitants of the Land, arrayed in the bravest manner that their Ability can afford, and so go hand in hand three in a row; At which time all the Beauties on Zelone in their Bravery do go to attend upon their Gods in their Progress about the City. Now are the Streets also all made clean, and on both sides all along the Streets Poles stuck up with Flags and Pennons hanging at the tops of them, and adorned with boughs and branches of Coker Nut-Trees hanging like Fringes, and lighted Lamps all along on both sides of the Streets, both by day and night.
Last of all, go the Commanders sent from the King to see these Ceremonies decently performed, with their Soldiers after them. And in this manner they ride all round about the City once by day and once by night. This Festival lasts from the New Moon until the Full Moon.
Formerly the King himself in Person used to ride on Horseback with all his Train before him in this Solemnity, but now he delights not in these Shows.
Always before the Gods set out to take their Progress, they are set in the Pagoda-Door, a good while, that the People may come to worship and bring their Offerings unto them; during which time there are Dancers, playing and shewing many pretty Tricks of Activity before him; To see the which, and also to shew themselves in their Bravery, occasions more People to resort hither, than otherwise their Zeal and Devotion would prompt them to do.
Two or thee days before the Full Moon, each of these Gods hath a Pallenkine carried after them to add unto their honour. In the which there are several pieces of their superstitious relicts, and a Silver Pot. Which just, at the hour of Full Moon they ride out unto a River, and dip full of water, which is carried back with them into the Temple, where it is kept till the year after and then flung away. And so the Ceremony is ended for that year.
This Festival of the Gods taking their Progress thro the City, in the year 1664. the King would not permit to be performed; and that same year the Rebellion happened, but never since hath he hindred it.
At this time they have a Superstition, which lasteth six or seven days, too foolish to write; it consists in Dancing, Singing, and Jugling. The reason of which is, lest the eyes of the People, or the Power of the Jacco’s, or Infernal Spirits, might any ways prove prejudicial or noisom to the aforesaid Gods in their Progress abroad. During the Celebration of this great Festival, there are no Drums allowed to be beaten to any particular Gods at any private Sacrifice.
In the Month of November the Night when the Moon is at the Full, there is another great solemn Feast, called in their Language Cawtha Poujah. Which is celebrated only by lighting of Lamps round about the Pogada. At which time they stick up the longest Poles they can get in the Woods, at the Doors of the Pagods and of the King’s Palace. Upon which they make contrivances to set Lamps in rows one above the other, even unto the very tops of the Poles, which they call Tor-nes. To maintain the charge hereof, all the Countrey in general do contribute, and bring in Oil. In this Poujah or Sacrifice the King seems to take delight. The reason of which may be, because he participates far more of the Honour, than the Gods do, in whose name it is celebrated; his Palace being far more decked and adorned with high Poles and Lights, than the Temples are. This Ceremony lasteth but for one Night.
And these are their Anniversary Feasts to the honour of those Gods, whose power extends to help them in this Life; now follows the manner of their Service to the Buddou, who it is, they say, that must save their Souls, and the Festivalin honour of him.
To represent the memorial of him to their eye, they do make small Images of Silver, Brass, and Clay, and Stone, which they do honour with Sacrifices and Worship, shewing all the signs of outward reverence which possibly they can. In most places where there are hollow Rocks and Caves, they do set up Images in memorial of this God. Unto which they that are devoutly bent, at New and Full Moons do carry Victuals, and worship.
His great Festival is in the Month of March at their New-years Tide. The Places where he is commemorated are two, not Temples, but the one a Mountain and the other a Tree; either to the one or the other, they at this time go with Wives and Children, for Dignity and Merit one being esteemed equal with the other.
The Mountain is at the South end of the Countrey, called Hammalella, but by Christian People, Adam’s Peak, the highest in the whole Island; where, as has been said before, is the Print of the Buddou’s foot, which he left on the top of that Mountain in a Rock, from whence he ascended to Heaven. Unto this footstep they give worship, light up Lamps, and offer Sacrifices, laying them upon it, as upon an Altar. The benefit of the Sacrifices that are offered here do belong unto the Moors Pilgrims, who come over from the other Coast to beg, this having been given them heretofore by a former King. So that at that season there are great numbers of them always waiting there to receive their accustomed Fees.
The Tree is at the North end of the King’s Dominions at Annarodgburro. This Tree, they say, came flying over from the other Coast, and there planted it self, as it now stands, under which the Buddou-God at his being on earth used, as they say, often to fit. This is now become a place of solemn worship. The due performance whereof they reckon not to be a little meritorious: insomuch that, as they report, Ninety Kings have since reigned there successively, where by the ruins that still remain, it appears they spared not for pains and labour to build Temples and high Monuments to the honour of this God, as if they had been born only to hew Rocks, and great Stones, and lay them up in heaps. These Kings are now happy Spirits, having merited it by these their labours.
Those whose Ability or Necessity serve them not to go to these Places, may go to some private Vihars nearer.
For this God above all other, they seem to have an high respect and Devotion; as will appear by this that follows. Ladies and Gentlewomen of good Quality, will sometimes in a Fit of Devotion to the Buddou, go a begging for him. The greatest Ladies of all do not indeed go themselves, but send their Maids dressed up finely in their stead. These Women taking the Image along with them, carry it upon the palms of their hand covered with a piece of white Cloth; and so go to mens houses, and will say, We come a begging of your Charity for the Buddou towards his Sacrifice. And the People are very liberal. They give only of three things to him, either Oyl for his Lamps, or Rice for his Sacrifice, or Money or Cotton Yarnfor his use.
Poor men will often go about begging Sustenance for themselves by this means: They will get a Book of Religion, or a Buddou’s Image in a Case, wrapping both in a white Cloth, which they carry with great reverence. And then they beg in the name of the Book or the God. And the People bow down to them, and give their Charity, either Corn, or Money, or Cotton yarn. Sometimes they will tell the Beggar, What have I to give? And he will reply, as the saying is, as much as you can take up between your two fingers is Charity. After he has received a gift from any, he pronounceth a great deal of blessing upon him, Let the blessing of the Gods and the Buddou go along with you; let your Corn ripen, let your Cattle increase, let your Life be long, &c.
Some being devoutly disposed, will make the Image of this God at their own charge. For the making whereof they must bountifully reward the Founder. Before the Eyes are made, it is not accounted a God, but a lump of ordinary Metal, and thrown about the Shop with no more regard than any thing else. But when the Eyes are to be made, the Artificer is to have a good gratification, besides she first agreed upon reward. The Eyes being formed, it is thenceforward a God. And then, being brought with honour from the Workman’s Shop, it is dedicated by Solemnities and Sacrifices, and carried with great state into its shrine or little house, which is before built and prepared for it.
Sometimes a man will order the Smith to make this Idol, and then after it is made will go about with it to well-disposed People to contribute toward the Wages the Smith is to have for making it. And men will freely give towards the charge. And this is looked upon in the man that appointed the Image to be made, as a notable piece of Devotion.
I have mentioned the Bogahah Tree before, which in memory of this God they hold Sacred, and perform Sacrifices, and celebrate Religious Meetings under. Under this Tree at some convenient distance about ten or twelve foot at the outmost edge of the Platform, they usually build Booths or Tents; some are made slight only with leaves for the present use, but some are built substantial with hewn Timber and Clay Walls, which stand many years. These Buildings are divided into small Tenements for each particular Family. The whole Town joyns, and each man builds his own Appartment: so that the Building goes quite round like a circle, only one gap is left, which is to pass thro to the Bogahah Tree: and this gap is built over with a kind of Portal. The use of these Buildings is for the entertainment of the Women. Who take great delight to come and see these Ceremonies, clad in their best and richest Apparel. They employ themselves in seeing the Dancers, and the Juglers do their Tricks: who afterwards by their importunity will get Money of them, or a Ring off their Fingers, or some such matters. Here also they spend their time in eating Betel, and in talking with their Consorts, and shewing their fine Cloths. These Solemnities are always in the Night, the Booths all set round with Lamps; nor are they ended in one Night, but last three or four, until the Full Moon, which always puts a Period to them.