316

OverviewTranscribeVersionsHelp

Facsimile

Transcription

Show Translation

316

C A R I B E.

[ing beds was amack or hamack, but Dr. John
son derives the English word hammoc froni the
Saxon. They possessed likewise the art of mak
ing vessels of clay for domestic uses, which they
baked in kilns like the potters of Europe. The
ruins of many of these kilns were visible not long
since in Barbadoes, where specimens of the manu
facture are still frequently dug up; and Mr.
Hughes, the historian of that island, observes,
that they far surpassed the earthen ware made by
the Negroes, in thinness, smoothness, and beauty.
(Nat. Hist, of Barbadoes, p, 8.) Ligon, who vi
sited this island in 1647, declares, that some of
these vessels which he saw even surpassed any
earthen ware made in England, “ both,” to use his
own words, “ in finesse of mettle and curiosity of
turninge.” Besides those, they invented various
other utensils for economical purposes, Avhich are
enumerated by Labat. The baskets which they
composed of the fibres of the palmeto-leaves were
singularly elegant ; and we are told that their bows
and arrows, and other weapons, displayed a neat
ness and polish which the most skilful European
artist would have found it difficult to have excel
led, even with European tools. We are told, on
good authority, that among the Caribes of the
continent there was no division of land ; the har
vests were deposited in public granaries, whence
each family received its proportion of the public
stock. Rochford indeed observes, that all their
interests were in common. Their food, both ve
getable and animal, excepting in the circumstance
of their eating human flesh, seems to have been the
same, in most respects, as that of the natives of
the larger islands. But although their appetites
were voracious, they rejected many of the best
bounties of nature. Of some animals they held the
flesh in abhorrence : these were the pecary or Me
xican hog, the manati or sea cow, and the turtle.
Labat observes, that they scrupled likewise to eat
the eel, which the rivers in several of the islands
supply in great plenty. The striking conformity
of these, and some other of their prejudices and
customs, to the practices of the Jewx, has not
escaped the notice of historians. On the birth of
his first son, the father retired to his bed, and fast
^ ed with a strictness that often endangered life.
Lafitau, observingjhat the same custom was prac
tised by the Tybarenians of Asia, and the Iberians
or ancient inhabitants of Spain, and is still in use
among the people of Japan, not only urges this
circumstance as a proof, among others, that the
new world was peopled from the old, but pretends
to discover in it also some traces of the doctrine of
original sin : he supposes that the severe penance

thus voluntarily submitted to by the father was at
first instituted in the pious view of protecting his
issue from the contagion of hereditary guilt, avert
ing the wrath of offended Omnipotence at the
crime of our first parents, and expiating their guilt
by his sufferings. The ancient Thracians, as we
are informed by Herodotus, when a male child
was brought into the world, lamented over him in
sad vaticination of his destiny, and they rejoiced
when he was released by death from those miseries
which they considered as his inevitable portion in
life ; but whatever might have been the motives
that first itiduced the Caribes to do penance on
such occasions, it would seem that grief and dejec
tion had no great share in them ; for the ceremony
of fasting was immediately succeeded by rejoic
ing and triumph, by drunkenness and debauchery.
Their lamentations for the dead seem to have ari
sen from the more laudable dictates of genuine na
ture ; for, unlike the Thracians on these solem
nities, they not only despoiled their hair, as we
have before related, but when the master of the fa
mily died, the surviving relations, after burying
the corpse in the centre of his own dwelling, with
many demonstrations of unaffected grief, quitted the
house altogether, and erected another in a distant
situation. The dead body they placed in the grave
in a sitting posture, with the knees to the chin. It
is asserted, and we believe with truth, that the ex
pectation of a future state has prevailed amongst
all mankind in all ages and countries of the world.
It is certain that the idea of a future state prevail
ed among the Caribes ; they not only believed that
death was not the final extinction of their being,
but pleased themselves also with the fond conceit,
that their departed relations were secret spectators
of their conduct; that they still sympathized in
their sufferings, and participated in their welfare.
To these notions they added others of a dreadful
tendency ; for, considering the soul as susceptible
of the same impressions, and possessing the same
passions as when allied to the body, it was thought
a religious duty to their deceased heroes, to sacri
fice at their funerals some of the captives which had
been taken in battle. It was their custom to erect
in every cottage a rustic altar, composed of ba
nana leaves and rushes, whereon they occasionally
placed the earliest of their fruits and the choicest
of their viands, as humble peace-o.ff’erings, through
the mediation of their inferior deities, to incensed
Omnipotence : for it is admitted, that their devo
tions consisted less in the effusions of thankfulness,
than in deprecations of wrath. They not only
believed in the existence of demons and evil spirits,
but offered to them also, by the hands of their]

2

Page Notes

Nobody has written a note for this page yet

Please sign in to write a note for this page