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Chapter X

oncerning their Learning,

Astronomy, and Art Magick.

Their Learning is but small. All they ordinarily learn is to read and to write. But it is no shame to a man if he can do neither. Nor have they any Schools wherein they might be taught and instructed in these or any other Arts.

Their Books are only of their Religion and of Physick. Their chief Arts are Astronomy and Magick. They have a Language something differing from the vulgar tongue (like Latin to us) which their Books are writ in. They learn to write upon Sand, spreading it upon the ground, and making it smooth with the hand, and so write the letters with their fingers to bring their hand in use.

They write not on Paper, for of that they have little or none; but on a Talli-pot leaf with an Iron Bodkin, which makes an impression. This leaf thus written on, is not folded, but rolled up like Ribbond, and somewhat resembles Parchment.

If they are to write a Book, they do it after this manner. They take the Tallipot leaf, and cut it into divers pieces of an equal shape and size, some a foot, some eight inches, some a foot and an half long, and about three fingers broad. Then having thus prepared the leaves, they write in them long ways from the left hand to the right, as we do. When the Book is finished they take two pieces of board, which are to serve for the cover of the Book. To these boards are fastened two strings, which do pass thro every leaf of the Book, and these tye it up fast together. As the Reader hath read each leaf, he lifts it up, and lays it by still hanging upon the strings, and so goes to the next leaf, something resembling Bills filed upon Wyre.

The Gonnies, who are men of leisure, write many Books of Bonna, that is of the Ceremonies of their Religion: and will sometimes carry them to great Men, as a present, and do expect a reward.

The King when he sends any Warrants or Orders to his Officers, hath his Writings wrapped up in a way proper to himself, and none else do or may fold up their leaves in that manner but He.

They write upon the Tallipat leaves Records or matters of great moment, or that are to be kept and preserved: but for any ordinary business as Letters, &c. they commonly use another leaf, called Taulcole. The leaves of which will bear a better impression than the Tallipat, but they are more stubborn, and harder than the other, and will not fold.

But to speak a little of their Astronomy. They who have understanding in it, and practise it, are the Priests of the highest Order, of which the present King’s Father was. But the common sort of Astronomers are the Weavers. These men can certainly foretel Eclipses of the Sun and Moon. They make  Leet, that is Almanacks that last for a Month. They are written upon a Tallipat leaf, a little above a foot long, and two fingers broad. In them are told the Age of the Moon, and the good Seasons and times to begin to Plough or to Sow, or to go a Journey, or to take any work in hand. On this precise time they will be sure to sprinkle their first Seed, tho they sow all their Field it may be a Month after. And so they will begin to set forth at the very moment, tho possibly they will not go till some days after.

These Astronomers tell them also when the old year ends to the very minute. At which time they cease from all work, except the Kings, which must not be omitted. They acquaint them also with the good hour of the New year, they are to begin to work. At which time every Man and Woman begins to do somewhat in their employment they intend to follow the ensuing year. They have also another season directed them by their Astronomers: that is, when to begin to wash their heads, which is assigned to every one according to the time of their Nativities, which Ceremony they observe very religiously.

These Astronomers, or rather Astrologers, are skilful in the Knowledge of the Stars, and Planets, of which they reckon nine: ’tis supposed they may add the Dragon’s Head and Tail. By which they pretend to foretel all things concerning the health and recovery of Sick Persons; also concerning the fate of Children born, about which the Parents do presently consult them, and save their Children or kill them according to the fortunate or unfortunate hour they tell the Parents they were born in. When a Person is Sick, he carries to the men his Nativity, which they call Hanna hom pot, upon the perusal of which they tell his destiny. These also direct fit times for beginning Journeys, or other undertakings. They are likewise consulted concerning Marriages by looking upon the Man and Womans Nativity.

They reckon their Time from one Saccawarsi an ancient King. Their year consists of 365 days, They begin their year upon our Eight and twentieth day of March, and sometimes the Seven and twentieth, and sometimes, but very seldom, on the Nine and twentieth. The reason of which I conceive to be, to keep it equal to the course of the Sun, as our Leap year doth. They call the year Ouredah. This they divide in to Twelve Months, named, Wasachmaha, Pomaha, Ahalamoha, Micheneha, Bochmoha, &c. They divide their Months into Weeks, each consisting of seven days, called Fridah, Sandudah, Onghorudah, Bodadah, Braspotindah, Secouradah, Henouradah. The first of which they account a good and a fortunate day to begin to do or undertake any thing: and it falls out upon our Sunday. On their Wednesdays, and Saturdays they open their Churches, and perform their Ceremonies. Their day, which they call Dausack, they divide into Thirty Pays, hours or parts, and begin their account from the Sun rising, and their Night also into as many, and begin from Sun-setting: So that the Fifteenth Pay is Twelve a Clock at Noon. They have a Flower by which they judge of the time, which constantly blows open seven Pays before Night.

They have no Clocks, Hour-glasses, or Sun-Dials, but keep their time by guess. The King indeed hath a kind of Instrument to measure time. It is a Copper Dish holding about a Pint, with a very small hole in the bottom. This Dish they set a swimming in an Earthen Pot of water, the water leaking in at the bottom till the Dish be full, it sinks. And then they take it out, and set it empty on the water again, and that makes one Pay. Few or none use this but the King, who keeps a man on purpose to watch it continually. The People will use it upon some occasions, as if they are to sow their Corn at any particular hour, as being the good lucky Season, then they make use of the Copper Pan, to know the time exactly.

They do practise Magick. Whereof take these two remarkable instances of many that might be given.

The Countrey of Neurecalava formerly brought forth great plenty of Corn, occasioned by reason of its large waterings. A Neighbour Kingdom, the Kingdom of Cournegal which lyes in Hotcourley, in those times was brought to a great dearth. At which the King sends to the People of Neurecalava, that they would bring a supply of Corn to his Countrey, which they did in great store upon Beasts in Sacks, and arrived at the King’s City: and there for the more expeditious measuring out every Housholder his proportion of Corn, they made a hole in the Sacks, and let it run out, still driving on the Beasts before them: and all that was shed before every man’s House, was to be his share. This exceedingly gratified the King.

Afterward the King to requite them, asked what they most needed in their Countrey? They answered, They had plenty of all things only they wanted Cahah mirris, that is Turmeric and Pepper. The King to gratifie them sent them such a quantity of each as his Country could afford. As soon as this was brought to the People of Neurecalava, they went to measure it out to every man his Portion, but finding it of so small a quantity, they resolved to grind it, as they do when they use it with their Victuals, and put it into the River to give a seasoning to the water, and every Man was to take up his Dish Page 112of water thus seasoned. From whence Neurecalava had its denomination, viz. from Neur, signifying a City, and Cahah that signifies Turmeric, and Lava, as if it were Lalla, put into the River.

The King hearing of this Action of theirs was offended, in that they so contemned his gift; but concealed his displeasure. Sometime after he took a Journey to them, and being there, desired to know how their Countrey became so very fruitful. They told him, it was the water of the River pent up for their use in a very vast Pond. Out of which they made Trenches to convey the water down into their Corn Grounds. This Pond they had made with great Art and Labour with great Stones and Earth thrown up of a vast length and thickness, in the fashion of an half Moon. The King afterwards took his leave of them and went home; and by the help of his Magicians brake down this vast Dam that kept in the water, and so destroyed the Pond. And by this means this fruitful Countrey wanting her water is become as ordinary Land as the rest, having only what falls out of the Sky.

When a Robbery is committed to find the Thief, they Charm a Coker-nut, which is done by certain words, and any one can do it, that can but utter the Charm words. Then they thrust a stick into it, and set it either at the Door or hole the Thief went out at. Then one holds the stick with the Nut at the end of it, and the Nut pursues and follows in the Tract that the Thief went. All the way it is going they still continue Charming, and flinging the Blossoms of the Betel-nut-Tree upon it. And at last it will lead to the house or place where the Thief is, and run upon his Feet. This Nut will sometimes go winding hither and thither, and sometimes will stand still. Then they follow their Charms, strewing on Blossoms, and that sets it forward again. This is not enough to find the Thief guilty; but if they intend to prosecute the Man upon this Discovery, the Charmer must swear against him point blank: which he sometimes will do upon the Confidence of the Truth of his Charm. And the supposed Thief must either Swear or be Condemned.

Oftentimes Men of courage and metal, will get Clubs, and beat away the Charmer, and all his Company, and by this means put all to an end. If the Thief has the wit to lay his tail by the way, the Coker-nut when it comes thither will stop and run round about it, but go no further. I doubting the truth hereof, once took the stick, and held it my self, when they were upon this Business, but it moved not forward while I held it in my hand, tho they strewed their Flowers, and used their mutterings to provoke it. But afterwards when another took it, it went forward. I doubted whether they did not guide it with their hand, but they assured me it guided their hand.

Here are some antient writings engraven upon Rocks which poseth all that see them. There are divers great Rocks in divers parts in Cande Uda, and in the Northern Parts. These Rocks are cut deep with great Letters for the space of some yards, so deep that they may last to the worlds end. Nobody can read them or make any thing of them. I have asked Malabars, Gentuses, as well as Chingulays and Moors, but none of them understood them. You walk over some of them. There is an antient Temple Goddiladenni in Tattanour stands by one place where there are of these Letters. They are probably in memorial of something, but of what we must leave to learned men to spend their conjectures.


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