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 IS MARVEL
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 disposition.
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 ravens.
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.