| Chapter 19
OF THE CUSTOMS OF ISLES ABOUT IND. OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWIXT IDOLS
AND SIMULACRES. OF THREE MANNER GROWING OF PEPPER UPON ONE TREE.
OF THE WELL THAT CHANGETH HIS ODOUR EVERY HOUR OF THE DAY; AND THAT
IN Ind be full many diverse countries. And it is clept Ind, for a
flom that runneth throughout the country that is clept Ind. In
that flom men find eels of thirty foot long and more. And the folk
that dwell nigh that water be of evil colour, green and yellow.
In Ind and about Ind be more than 5000 isles good and great that
men dwell in, without those that he inhabitable, and without other
small isles. In every isle is great plenty of cities, and of
towns, and of folk without number. For men of Ind have this
condition of kind, that they never go out of their own country, and
therefore is there great multitude of people. But they be not
stirring ne movable, because that they be in the first climate,
that is of Saturn; and Saturn is slow and little moving, for he
tarryeth to make his turn by the twelve signs thirty year. And the
moon passeth through the twelve signs in one month. And for
because that Saturn is of so late stirring, therefore the folk of
that country that be under his climate have of kind no will for to
move ne stir to seek strange places. And in our country is all the
contrary; for we be in the seventh climate, that is of the moon.
And the moon is of lightly moving, and the moon is planet of way;
and for that skill it giveth us will of kind for to move lightly
and for to go divers ways, and to seek strange things and other
diversities of the world; for the moon environeth the earth more
hastily than any other planet.
Also men go through Ind by many diverse countries to the great sea
Ocean. And after, men find there an isle that is clept Crues. And
thither come merchants of Venice and Genoa, and of other marches,
for to buy merchandises. But there is so great heat in those
marches, and namely in that isle, that, for the great distress of
the heat, men's ballocks hang down to their knees for the great
dissolution of the body. And men of that country, that know the
manner, let bind them up, or else might they not live, and anoint
them with ointments made therefore, to hold them up.
In that country and in Ethiopia, and in many other countries, the
folk lie all naked in rivers and waters, men and women together,
from undern of the day till it be past the noon. And they lie all
in the water, save the visage, for the great heat that there is.
And the women have no shame of the men, but lie all together, side
to side, till the heat be past. There may men see many foul figure
assembled, and namely nigh the good towns.
In that isle be ships without nails of iron or bonds, for the rocks
of the adamants, for they be all full thereabout in that sea, that
it is marvel to speak of. And if a ship passed by those marches
that had either iron bonds or iron nails, anon he should be
perished; for the adamant of his kind draweth the iron to him. And
so would it draw to him the ship because of the iron, that he
should never depart from it, ne never go thence.
From that isle men go by sea to another isle that is clept Chana,
where is great plenty of corn and wine. And it was wont to be a
great isle, and a great haven and a good; but the sea hath greatly
wasted it and overcome it. The king of that country was wont to be
so strong and so mighty that he held war against King Alexander.
The folk of that country have a diverse law. For some of them
worship the sun, some the moon, some the fire, some trees, some
serpents, or the first thing that they meet at morrow. And some
worship simulacres and some idols. But between simulacres and
idols is a great difference. For simulacres be images made after
likeness of men or of women, or of the sun, or of the moon, or of
any beast, or of any kindly thing. And idols is an image made of
lewd will of man, that man may not find among kindly things, as an
image that hath four heads, one of a man, another of an horse or of
an ox, or of some other beast, that no man hath seen after kindly
And they that worship simulacres, they worship them for some worthy
man that was sometime, as Hercules, and many other that did many
marvels in their time. For they say well that they be not gods;
for they know well that there is a God of kind that made all
things, the which is in heaven. But they know well that this may
not do the marvels that he made, but if it had been by the special
gift of God; and therefore they say that he was well with God, and
for because that he was so well with God, therefore they worship
him. And so say they of the sun, because that he changeth the
time, and giveth heat, and nourisheth all things upon earth; and
for it is of so great profit, they know well that that might not
be, but that God loveth it more than any other thing, and, for that
skill, God hath given it more great virtue in the world.
Therefore, it is good reason, as they say, to do it worship and
reverence. And so say they, and make their reasons, of other
planets, and of the fire also, because it is so profitable.
And of idols they say also that the ox is the most holy beast that
is in earth and most patient, and more profitable than any other.
For he doth good enough and he doth no evil; and they know well
that it may not be without special grace of God. And therefore
make they their god of an ox the one part, and the other half of a
man. Because that man is the most noble creature in earth, and
also for he hath lordship above all beasts, therefore make they the
halvendel of idol of a man upwards; and the tother half of an ox
downwards, and of serpents, and of other beasts and diverse things,
that they worship, that they meet first at morrow.
And they worship also specially all those that they have good
meeting of; and when they speed well in their journey, after their
meeting, and namely such as they have proved and assayed by
experience of long time; for they say that thilk good meeting ne
may not come but of the grace of God. And therefore they make
images like to those things that they have belief in, for to behold
them and worship them first at morning, or they meet any
contrarious things. And there be also some Christian men that say,
that some beasts have good meeting, that is to say for to meet with
them first at morrow, and some beasts wicked meeting; and that they
have proved oft-time that the hare hath full evil meeting, and
swine and many other beasts. And the sparrow-hawk or other fowls
of ravine, when they fly after their prey and take it before men of
arms, it is a good sign; and if he fail of taking his prey, it is
an evil sign. And also to such folk, it is an evil meeting of
In these things and in such other, there be many folk that believe;
because it happeneth so often-time to fall after their fantasies.
And also there be men enough that have no belief in them. And,
sith that Christian men have such belief, that be informed and
taught all day by holy doctrine, wherein they should believe, it is
no marvel then, that the paynims, that have no good doctrine but
only of their nature, believe more largely for their simplesse.
And truly I have seen of paynims and Saracens that men clepe
Augurs, that, when we ride in arms in divers countries upon our
enemies, by the flying of fowls they would tell us the
prognostications of things that fell after; and so they did full
oftentimes, and proffered their heads to-wedde, but if it would
fall as they said. But natheles, therefore should not a man put
his belief in such things, but always have full trust and belief in
God our sovereign Lord.
This isle of Chana the Saracens have won and hold. In that isle be
many lions and many other wild beasts. And there be rats in that
isle as great as hounds here; and men take them with great
mastiffs, for cats may not take them. In this isle and many other
men bury not no dead men, for the heat is there so great, that in a
little time the flesh will consume from the bones.
From thence men go by sea toward Ind the more to a city, that men
clepe Sarche, that is a fair city and a good. And there dwell many
Christian men of good faith. And there be many religious men, and
namely of mendicants.
After go men by sea to the land of Lomb. In that land groweth the
pepper in the forest that men clepe Combar. And it groweth nowhere
else in all the world, but in that forest, and that endureth well
an eighteen journeys in length. In the forest be two good cities;
that one hight Fladrine and that other Zinglantz, and in every of
them dwell Christian men and Jews, great plenty. For it is a good
country and a plentiful, but there is overmuch passing heat.
And ye shall understand, that the pepper groweth in manner as doth
a wild vine that is planted fast by the trees of that wood for to
sustain it by, as doth the vine. And the fruit thereof hangeth in
manner as raisins. And the tree is so thick charged, that it
seemeth that it would break. And when it is ripe it is all green,
as it were ivy berries. And then men cut them, as men do the
vines, and then they put it upon an oven, and there it waxeth black
and crisp. And there is three manner of pepper all upon one tree;
long pepper, black pepper and white pepper. The long pepper men
clepe SORBOTIN, and the black pepper is clept FULFULLE, and the
white pepper is clept BANO. The long pepper cometh first when the
leaf beginneth to come, and it is like the cats of hazel that
cometh before the leaf, and it hangeth low. And after cometh the
black with the leaf, in manner of clusters of raisins, all green.
And when men have gathered it, then cometh the white that is
somedeal less than the black. And of that men bring but little
into this country; for they beyond withhold it for themselves,
because it is better and more attempre in kind than the black. And
therefore is there not so great plenty as of the black.
In that country be many manner of serpents and of other vermin for
the great heat of the country and of the pepper. And some men say,
that when they will gather the pepper, they make fire, and burn
about to make the serpents and the cockodrills to flee. But save
their grace of all that say so. For if they burnt about the trees
that bear, the pepper should be burnt, and it would dry up all the
virtue, as of any other thing; and then they did themselves much
harm, and they should never quench the fire. But thus they do:
they anoint their hands and their feet [with a juice] made of
snails and of other things made therefore, of the which the
serpents and the venomous beasts hate and dread the savour; and
that maketh them flee before them, because of the smell, and then
they gather it surely enough.
Also toward the head of that forest is the city of Polombe. And
above the city is a great mountain that also is clept Polombe. And
of that mount the city hath his name.
And at the foot of that mount is a fair well and a great, that hath
odour and savour of all spices. And at every hour of the day he
changeth his odour and his savour diversely. And whoso drinketh
three times fasting of that water of that well he is whole of all
manner sickness that he hath. And they that dwell there and drink
often of that well they never have sickness; and they seem always
young. I have drunken thereof three or four sithes, and yet,
methinketh, I fare the better. Some men clepe it the well of
youth. For they that often drink thereof seem always young-like,
and live without sickness. And men say, that that well cometh out
of Paradise, and therefore it is so virtuous.
By all that country groweth good ginger, and therefore thither go
the merchants for spicery.
In that land men worship the ox for his simpleness and for his
meekness, and for the profit that cometh of him. And they say,
that he is the holiest beast in earth. For them seemeth, that
whosoever be meek and patient, he is holy and profitable; for then,
they say, he hath all virtues in him. They make the ox to labour
six year or seven, and then they eat him. And the king of the
country hath alway an ox with him. And he that keepeth him hath
every day great fees, and keepeth every day his dung and his urine
in two vessels of gold, and bring it before their prelate that they
clepe Archi-protopapaton. And he beareth it before the king and
maketh there over a great blessing. And then the king wetteth his
hands there, in that they clepe gall, and anointeth his front and
his breast. And after, he froteth him with the dung and with the
urine with great reverence, for to be fullfilled of virtues of the
ox and made holy by the virtue of that holy thing that nought is
worth. And when the king hath done, then do the lords; and after
them their ministers and other men, if they may have any remenant.
In that country they make idols, half man half ox. And in those
idols evil spirits speak and give answer to men of what is asked
them. Before these idols men slay their children many times, and
spring the blood upon the idols; and so they make their sacrifice.
And when any man dieth in the country they burn his body in name of
penance; to that intent, that he suffer no pain in earth to be
eaten of worms. And if his wife have no child they burn her with
him, and say, that it is reason, that she make him company in that
other world as she did in this. But and she have children with
him, they let her live with them, to bring them up if she will.
And if that she love more to live with her children than for to die
with her husband, men hold her for false and cursed; ne she shall
never be loved ne trusted of the people. And if the woman die,
before the husband, men burn him with her, if that he will; and if
he will not, no man constraineth him thereto, but he may wed
another time without blame or reproof.
In that country grow many strong vines. And the women drink wine,
and men not. And the women shave their beards, and the men not.
Chapter 17 |Index | Chapter 19