Of their Sickness, Death and Burial.
Nothing now remains, but to carry you to their Sick-beds, and to tell you what they do with the Bodies of their friends deceased, and their Behavior on these occasions. They live to a great Age very often to fourscore, and hale at that age the Kings Sister was near an hundred. They are healthy and of a sound constitution. The Diseases this Land is most subject to are Agues and Feveurs, and sometimes to Bloody-fluxes. The Small-Pox also sometimes happeneth among them. From which they cannot free themselves by all their charms and inchantments, which are often times successful to them in other distempers. Therefore they do confess like the Magicians in Egypt, that this is the very finger of Almighty God. They are also subject to Aches and Pains in their Bodies. For the Remedy whereof they have excellent oyntments and oyls, which they make and keep to have ready when they have occasion.
Here are no professed Physitians nor Chyrurgeons, but all in general have some skill that way, and are Physitians and Chyrurgeons to themselves. Their Medicinesthey make of the leaves that are in the Woods, and the barks of Trees. With which they purge and vomit themselves, and will do notable Cures upon green wounds, and also upon sore eyes.
To give a few hints of their method of Physick and what Ingredients they make use of.
For purging they make use of a Tree called Dallugauhah. It bears no leaves, nothing but thorns, and is of a soft substance. Being cut there runs out a white thick milk; in which we soak some whole corns of Pepper a whole night. The next day the Pepper is taken out, and washed clean, and then boyled in fair water with a sower fruit they call Goraca, which we shall speak of by and by. This they drink, and it purgeth very well. This milk is rekoned as rank Poyson as any thing can be, and yet the Goats eat of the Tree greedily without harm.
For a Vomit, there is is a leaf of a Plant called Warracole in colour like a Cabbageleaf, but smaller; it grows upon a long stalk some three foot high. This leaf as soon as it is broken from the stalk is full of milk, which runs out. In this milk they put a lump of Salt, and let it lye a whole night. The next day they take the Salt out, which is not dissolved, and wash it clean: then boyl a little Rice and Water together. After tis taken off the fire, they put this salt into it, and drink it.
There is a strong Purge they make with a berry called Jawpolls, which is a little long greenish berry. Of it self it is rank Poyson. They boyl it with Goraca, and Pepper in water, and drink a little of the water.
For drawing and healing of Sores, they have a leaf called Mockina-cola; it is a very like our Tunhoof or Ground-ivy, only it is a brighter green; it runs along upon the ground and spreads it self as Tunhoof doth. They only take the leaf and clap it upon the sore.
For an Impostume in the Throat, we take the rind of the Tree Amaranga and bruise it and rub it with green Turmeric, and wrap it up in a Plantane leaf, and bury it in hot ashes, and there let it lye an hour or two till the fire hath well qualified it. Then the Patient takes it, and keeps chewing it for a day or two swallowing the spittle. The Virtue of this I my self can testifie being exceedingly ill with a sore Throat, and could not swallow. By the use of this I was well within a day and a night.
For a sore or hurt in the eye, they take Oulcande-cole, Goderacole, two herbs, the juyce of each, and womans milk and having mingled them, drop them into the eye. I had a Thorn of a considerable length run into the gray of my eye, and put me to great pain, the Chingulays advised me to use this means, assuring me how successful it was wont to be; but I was loath to tamper with so tender a place; and thanks be to God, after some days the Thorn fell out of it self.
It is a speedy Cure of the Itch, to take Coudouro giddi, a fruit of a Tree in form somewhat like a Mussel but bigger. This fruit they cut in slices and fry it in Coker-nut oyl. And with this oyl they anoint the body.
The ordinary Caudle for Women in Child-bed, is Goraca boyled in water with Pepper and Ginger. Women in that condition use nothing else. This Goraca is a fruit round like an Apple marked with divers creases along the sides of it. Being ripe it is within and without red like blood, but sower, they use this fruit as we do Lemons and Oranges. The core is sweet and pleasant, but They regarding it not sling it away. If you bite this fruit, it sticks to the Teeth like wax or pitch. But their chief use of it, is to boyl it with other things to make them tast sower. They gather them at the time of year, and break the cloves assunder by their fingers, for they, if they be pulled, will part at the creases. And then they lay them in the Sun and dry them, being dryed they look like mens ears. And so they keep them for their use. Two or three of these will give a pleasant sower relish unto a large vessel of any liquid thing. This Goraca is in great use among them.
As there are in this Countrey very many Poysonous Plants, and Creatures, so the People have excellent skill in the healing thereof. There is one plant among the rest so strong a venom, that no creature will eat or touch it; and this is the leaf, that the People sometimes carry with them when they go to demand their debts, and threaten their debtors, they will poyson themselves before them, unless they will pay them. It is called Neiingala, a sprig that springs out of the ground almost like an Hony-suckle, but not so big: and bears a curious Flower much like an Hony-suckle.
They are oftentimes stung with venomous Serpents, upon which sudden death follows without speedy help: But if the bite be taken in time, they can certainly cure themselves, and make nothing of it. Which they perform both by Herbs and Charms. Tho upon the sting they presently vomit blood. The knowledg of these antidotal Herbs they have learned from the Mounggoutia a kind of Ferret. This creature when the Noya and he meets always fight. If he chanceth to be bitten by the Serpent, which is very venomous, he runs away to a certain herb and eats it and so is cured, and then comes back and fights again. The Chingulays when they see these two creatures fighting, do diligently observe them, and when they see the Mounggouttia goes away, they take notice of the herbs he eats, and thereby have learned what herbs are proper to cure such venoms.
They are skilful also in the use of Charms, to cure the stings of Serpents or to prevent them, the Noyas they can charm to that pass, that they will take them up in their hands and carry them in baskets and handle them and kiss them without any harm. But the Polonga will not hear a charm. They charm other wild and venomous creatures also; as the Tyger that he shall not hurt their Cattel
But to cure inward diseases they are not excellent. But generally when they are sick they apply themselves to their Gods. But their chief supplication they make to the Devil, as being God’s instrument, sent to punish and afflict whom he pleaseth; as I have discoursed at large already.
These People are very loath to dye, and as much afraid of the Devil in their sickness, whom at such times they chiefly invoke. Being dead none will come near the house for many days, lest they should be defiled. The better sort burn the dead, because worms and maggots should not eat them. But the poorer sort who regard not such matters bury them making a hole in the Woods, and carrying the body wrapped up in a mat upon a Pole on their shoulders with two or three attending it, and so laying it in without any ceremony, and covering it.
Some days after his decease, if his friends wish well to his Soul, they send for a Priest to the house, who spends a whole night in praying and singing for the saving of that Soul. This Priest besides very good entertainment, in the morning must have great gifts and rewards. And to encourage them therein, he tells them that the like bounty and liberality as they shew to him, shall the Soul of their departed friend receive in the other world. And so according to their ability they freely give unto him, such things as they are possessors of. And he out of his Wonderful good nature refuseth not any thing, be it never so mean. And thus with Drums and Pipes sounding before him, they conduct him home to his house.
Their manner of mourning for the dead is, that all the Women that are present do loose their hair, and let it hang down, and with their two hands together behind their heads do make an hideous noise, crying and roaring as loud as they can, much praysing and extolling the Virtues of the deceased, tho there were none in him: and lamenting their own woful condition to live without him. Thus for three or four mornings they do rise early, and lament in this manner, also on evenings. Mean while the men stand still and sigh.
These women are of a very strong couragious spirit, taking nothing very much to heart, mourning more for fashion than affection, never overwhelmed neither with grief or love. And when their Husbands are dead, all their care is where to get others, which they cannot long be without.
It may not be unacceptable to relate how they burn their Dead. As for Persons of inferior Quality, they are interred in some convenient places in the Woods, there being no set places for Burial, carried thither by two or three of their Friends, and Buried without any more ado. They lay them on their Backs, with their heads to the West and their feet to the East, as we do. Then those People go and wash; for they are unclean by handling the Dead.
But Persons of greater quality are burned, and that with Ceremony. When they are dead they lay them out, and put a Cloth over their Privy Parts, and then wash the Body, by taking half a dozen Pitchers of water, and pouring upon it. Then they cover him with a Linnen cloth, and so carry him forth to burning. This is when they burn the Body speedily. But otherwise, they cut down a Tree that may be proper for their purpose, and hollow it, like a Hog-trough, and put the Body being Embowelled and Embalmed into it, filled up all about with Pepper. And so let it lay in the house, until it be the King’s Command to carry it out to the burning. For that they dare not do without the King’s order, if the Person deceased be a Courtier. Sometimes the King gives no order in a great while, it may be not at all. Therefore in such cases, that the Body may not take up house-room, or annoy them, they dig an hole in the floar of their house, and put hollowed tree and all in and cover it. If afterwards the King commands to burn the Body, they take it up again in obedience to the King, otherwise there it lyes.
Their order for burning is thus. If the Body be not thus put into a Trough or hollowed Tree, it is laid upon one of his Bedsteds, which is a great honour among them. This Bedsted with the Body on it, or hollowed Tree with the Body in it, is fastned with Poles, and carried upon Mens Shoulders unto the place of Burning: which is some eminent place in the Fields or High ways, or where else they please. There they lay it upon a Pile of Wood some two or three foot high. Then they pile up more Wood upon the Corps, lying thus on the Bedsted, or in the Trough. Over all they have a kind of Canopy built, if he be a Person of very high Quality covered at top, hung about with painted Cloth, and bunches of Coker-nuts, and green Boughs; and so fire is put to it. After all is burnt to ashes, they sweep together the ashes into the manner of a Sugar-loaf: and hedg the place round from wild Beasts breaking in, and they will sow Herbs there. Thus I saw the King’s Uncle, the chief Tirinanx, who was as it were the Primate of all the Nation, burned, upon an high place, that the blaze might be seen a great way. If they be Noblemen, but not of so high quality, there is only a Bower erected over them, adorned with Plantane Trees, and green boughs, and bunches as before.
But if any dye of the small Pox, be his Degree what it will, he must be Buried upon Thorns, without any further Ceremony.