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Canary Islanders

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

It was a custom among them that, if a man entered his enemy's house by the door, and killed him or did him harm, he was not punished ; but if he came upon him by leaping over the wall, and killed him, then he was put to death, by placing his head upon a flat stone, and with another, of a round form, dashing out his brains.

The natives of Ferro Island gave their new-born children fern-roots, roasted, bruised, and mixed with butter, before they offered them the breast.... When anyone fell sick, they rubbed the body all over with sheep's marrow and butter, covering the patient well up to promote perspiration ; but if a man was cut or wounded, they burnt the part and anointed it with butter. They interred the dead in caves; and if the deceased was wealthy, they buried him in his cloaths, and put a board at his feet, with the pole he used to travel with at his side, and then closed the cave with stones.. .

They dwelt in large circular enclosures, the walls of which were of dry stone without cement, each enclosure having one narrow entry ; on the inside they placed poles or spars against the wall, in such a manner that one end rested on the top of the wall and the other on the ground at a considerable distance from it : these they covered with branches of trees or fern, and each enclosure contained about twenty families

They adored two Deities: one male, called Eraoranzan; the other female, called Monayha. The male was worshipped by the men; the female by the women. Of these Deities they had no images or representations, nor did they offer them any sacrifice ; only prayed to them when they were in necessity

No Canarian had more than one wife. When a girl's parents were inclined to marry her, they set her apart thirty days to fatten, giving her large quantities of milk and pulse. . . . Among the Canarians were many religious women, called Magadas, a number of whom lived together in one house. These houses were held sacred, and criminals who fled thither were protected from officers of justice. . . . In the island there were two rocks, to which they went in procession in times of publick calamity, accompanied by the Magadas, carrying in their hands branches of palms and vessels filled with milk and butter, which they poured on the rocks, dancing round them, and singing mournful songs. From these rocks they went to the seaside, and all at once struck the sea forcibly with the branches of palm, shouting together with a loud voice.

When any of their nobles died, they brought out the corpse and placed it in the sun, took out the bowels and entrails, which they washed, and then buried in the earth ; the body they dried and swathed round with bandages of goat-skins, and then fixed it upright in a cave, clothed with the same garments that had covered it alive: if no cave was at hand, they enclosed it within loose stones, so laid as not to touch it, and covered it with a large stone at the top. The lower class were buried in pits, and covered with dry stones ; those bodies that were not placed upright were laid with their heads towards the North.

In each district of Palma Island there was a great pillar or pyramid of loose stones; at this pillar the natives assembled at stated times, singing and dancing round it, wrestling, and performing other feats of activity. In one of the districts there was a natural pyramid up-wards of 100 fathoms high, where the natives worshipped their god Idafe, whose name the rock still retains. They were in perpetual apprehension of its tumbling down, and therefore whenever they killed a sheep or a goat, they roasted a piece of it, which they sent by two persons as a present to the rock. As they went along, he who carried the offering sang, " It will fall, Idafe ;" to which the other replied, " Give to it, and it will not fall." They then threw down the meat, and both went away, leaving it to be devoured by the ravens which hover'd about the rock.

The natives held the sun and moon in great veneration, and kept an exact account of time to know when the moon was new or at the full. They also acknowledged one supreme deity, whom they called Abora, and believed to reside in the Heavens. They had a superstitious notion that the Devil, whom they called Irvene, frequently appeared in the form of a shock dog. When any one of them was taken ill, he sent for his relations and friends, and said to them, " I want to die ;" upon which they carried him into a cave, where they laid him down upon a bed of goat-skins, put a pitcher of milk by him, and then closing up the mouth of the cave, left him to expire by himself.



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