Status: Complete
Show Translation



[double their precautions, and sirengthen the posts
they occupy with strong entrenchments. Every
soldier during night is obliged, in order to prove
his vigilance, to keep up a fire before his tent :
the great number of tliese fires serves to deceive
the enemy, and have at a distance a very singular
appearance. They are, besides, well acquainted
with the art of constructing military works, and
of protecting themselves with deep ditches, which
they guard with branches of thorn, and strew cal-
trops in the environs to repress the incursions of
the enemy’s horse. In short, there are few mili-
tary stratagems that they do not employ at a pro-
per time and place. The celebrated Spani.di poet
Ercilla, who fought against them under Don Gar-
cia, expresses his admiration at meeting with troops
so well disciplined, and possessing such perfec-
tion in tactics, which, to use his expressions, the
most celebrated nations in the W'orld have not been
able to attain without great trouble, and after a
long course of years. When an action becomes
necessary, they separate the cavalry into two
wings, and place the infantry in the centre, di-
vided into .several battalions, the files being com-
posed alternately of pikemen and soldiers armed
with clubs, in such a manner, that between every
two pikes a club is always to be found. The vice-
toqui has the command of the right wing, and that
of the left is committed to an experienced officer.
The toqui is present every where, as occasion may
require, and exhorts his men with much eloquence
to fight valiantly for their liberties. But of this
there appears little need, as the soldiers manifest
such ardour, that their officers have much more
difficulty in restraining their impetuosity than in
exciting them to action. Fully impressed with
the opinion, that to die in battle is the greatest ho-
nour that a man can acquire in this life, on the
signal for combat being given, they advance des-
perately, shouting in a terrific manner ; and not-
withstanding the slaughter made among them by
the cannon, endeavour to penetrate the centre of
the enemy. Though they know full well that the
first ranks will be exposed to almost certain de-
struction, they eagerly contend with each other
for these posts of honour, or to serve as leaders of
tte files. As soon as the first line is cut down,
the second occupies its place, and then the third,
until they finally succeed in breaking the front
ranks of the enemy. In the midst of their fury
they nevertheless preserve the strictest order, and
perform all the evolutions directed by their officers.
The most terrible of them are the club-bearers,
who, like so many Hercules, destroy with their

iron-pointed maces all whom they meet in their

10. Division of the spoil . — The spoils of w'ar are
divided among those who have had the good for-
tune, to' take them. But when the capture has been
general, they are distributed among the whole in
equal p arts, called ?eg, so that no preference is
shown to ai;y of the officers, nor even to the toqui.
The prisoners, according (o tiie custom of all bar-
barous nations, are made slaves, until they are ex-
changed or ransomed. According to the admapu,
one of tliese unfoilunate men must be sacrificed to
the manes of the soldiers killed in the war. This
cruel law", traces of which are to be found in the
annals of almost all nations, is nevertheless very
rarely put in practice, but one or two instances
having occurred in tlie space of nearly 200 years.
The Araucanians are sensible to the dictates of
compassion, altliough the contrary is alleged by
certain writers, who having assumed as an incon-
trovertible principle, that they never give quarter
to their enemies, afterwards contradict themselves
in mentioning the great number of prisoners who
have either been exchanged or ransomed after the

11. Sacrifice after the war . — The sacrifice above
mentioned, called pruloneon., or the dance of the
head, is performed in the following manner ; The
officers, surrounded by the soldiers, form a circle,
in the centre of which, in the midst of four poniards,
representing the four uthal-mapus, is placed the
official axe of the toqui. The unfortunate pri-
soner, as a mark of ignominy, is then led in upon a
horse deprived of his ears and tail, and placed near
the axe, with his face turned towards his country.
They afterwards give him a handful of small sticks
and a sharp stake, with which they oblige him to
dig a hole in the ground ; and in this they order
him to cast the sticks one by one, repeating the
names of the principal warriors of his country,
while at the same time the surrounding soldiers
load these abhorred names with the bitterest exe-
crations. He is then ordered to cover the hole, as
if to bury therein the reputation and valour of
their enemies, whom he has named. After this
ceremony the toqui, or one of his bravest compa-
nions, to whom he relinquishes the honour of the
execution, dashes out the brains of the prisoner
with a club. The heart is immediately taken out
by two attendants, and presented palpitating to the
general, who sucks a little of the blood, and passes
it to his officers, who repeat in succession the same
ceremony ; in the mean time he fumigates with
tobacco smoke from his pipe the four cardinal]

Notes and Questions

Please sign in to write a note for this page


This section is not in Alcedo's text