Of the Customs of Isles about Ind. Of the Difference betwixt Idols and Simulacres. Of 3 Manners of Pepper growing upon one Tree. Of the Well that changeth his Odour every Hour of the Day; and that is a Marvel
IN Ind be full many diverse Countries. And it is clept Ind, from a River that runneth throughout the Country that is clept Indus. In that River Men find Eels of 30 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 be uninhabitable, and without other small Isles. In every Isle is great Plenty of Cities, of Towns, and of Folk without Number. For Men of Ind have this Condition of Nature, that they never go out of their own Country, and therefore is there great Multitude of People. But they be not stirring or 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 12 Signs 30 Year. And the Moon passeth through the 12 Signs in one Month. And because that Saturn is of so late (or tardy) Stirring, therefore the Folk of that Country that be under his Climate have of Nature no Will to move nor stir to seek strange Places. And in our Country is all the contrary; for we be in the 7th Climate, that is of the Moon. And the Moon is lightly moving, and the Moon is a Planet of Way (or Progression), and for that Reason it giveth us Will of Nature to move lightly and to go divers Ways, and to seek strange Things and Diversities of the World; for the Moon environeth the Earth more hastily than any other Planet.
Also Men go through Ind by many divers Countries to the great Sea Ocean. And after, Men find there an Isle that is clept Ormuz. And thither come Merchants of Venice and Genoa, and of other Coasts, to buy Merchandises. But there is so great Heat in those Coasts, and especially in that Isle, that, for the great Distress of the Heat, Men suffer from the great Dissolution of the Body. And Men of that Country, that know the Manner, let bind themselves up, or else might they not live, and anoint themselves with Ointments made therefore.
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 Undurn (9 oclock) 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 Figures assembled, and especially nigh the good Towns.
In that Isle be Ships without Nails of Iron or Bonds, because of the Rocks of the Adamants, of which that Sea is all full thereabout, that it is a Marvel to speak of. And if a Ship passed by those Coasts that had either Iron Bonds or Iron Nails anon he should be perished; for the Adamant of his Nature draweth the Iron to him. And so would it draw to him the Ship because of the Iron, that it should never depart from him, nor ever 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 diverse Laws. For some of them worship the Sun, some the Moon, some the Fire, some Trees, some Serpents, or the first Thing that they meet of a Morning. 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 natural Thing. And an Idol is an Image made of lewd Will of Man, that Man may not find among natural Things, as an Image that hath 4 Heads, one of a Man, another of an Horse or of an Ox, or of some other Beast that no Man hath seen after natural 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 Nature that made all Things, the which is in Heaven. But they know well that such an one might 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 because he was so well with God, therefore they worship him. And so say they of the Sun, because that it changeth the Time, and giveth Heat, and nourisheth all Things upon Earth; and because 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 Reason, 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, that 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 the Earth and most patient, and more profitable than any other. For he doth Good enough and 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 End of a Man. Because that Man is the most noble Creature in Earth, and also because he hath Lordship above all Beasts, therefore make they the Half End of the Idol a Man upwards; and the tother Half they make of an Ox downwards, and of Serpents, and of other Beasts and divers Things, that they worship, that they meet first of a Morning.
And they worship also specially all those that they have good Meeting of when, after their Meeting, they speed well on their Journey, and specially such as they have proved and assayed by Experience of long Time; for they say that this same good Meeting may not come but of the Grace of God. And therefore they make Images like to those Things that they have Belief in, to behold them and worship them first of a Morning, ere they meet any contrarious Things. And there be also some Christian Men that say, that some Beasts have good Meeting, that is to say to meet with them first of a Morning, 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 and other Fowls of Rapine, when they fly after their Prey and take it before Men of Arms, it is a good Sign; and if they fail of taking their 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 oftentime to fall after their Fantasies. And also there be Men enough that have no Belief in them. And, since 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 Simpleness. And truly I have seen Paynims and Saracens that Men call Augurs, that, when we rode in Arms in divers Countries upon our Enemies, they would tell us by the Flying of Fowls the Prognostications of Things that fell after; and so they did full oftentimes, and proffered their Heads to Pledge, that it would fall as they said. But nevertheless, 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 others Men bury not any 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 call 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 especially Mendicants.
After go Men by Sea to the Land of Lomb. In that Land groweth the Pepper in the Forest that Men call Combar. And it groweth nowhere else in all the World, but in that Forest, and that endureth well an 18 Days Journey in Length. In the Forest be 2 good Cities; the one is hight Fladrine and the other Zinglantz, and in each 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 and is planted near by the Trees of that Wood to sustain it, and hangeth as doth the Vine. And the Fruit thereof hangeth in the manner of 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 them upon an Oven, and there they wax black and crisp. And there are 3 Manners of Pepper all upon one Tree; Long Pepper, Black Pepper and White Pepper. The Long Pepper Men call 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 Catkins of Hazel that come 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 somewhat 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 temperate in its Nature 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 Fires, and burn thereabout to make the Serpents and the Cockodrills to flee. But save their Grace of all that say so.1 For if they burnt about the Trees that bear, the Pepper would be burnt, and it would dry up all the Virtue, as of any other Thing; and then would they do themselves much Harm, and they would never quench the Fire. But thus they do: they anoint their Hands and their Feet with a Juice made of Limes 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 they gather the Pepper surely enough.
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 3 Times fasting of that Water of that Well he is whole of all Manner of 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 3 or 4 Times, and, methinketh, I fare the better yet. Some Men call 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.
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 on Earth. For it seemeth them, 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 6 Year or 7, 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 2 Vessels of Gold, and brings it before their Prelate that they call 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 call Gall, and anointeth his Fore-head and his Breast. And after, he fretteth him with the Dung and with the Urine with great Reverence, to be filled full of Virtues of the Ox and made holy by the Virtue of that holy Thing that is worth Nought. And when the King hath done, then do so the Lords; and after them their Ministers and other Men, if they have any remaining.
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 many times slay their Children, and sprinkle 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 on Earth to be eaten of Worms. And if his Wife have no Child they burn her with him, and say, that the Reason is, that she shall make him Company in that other World as she did in this. But and she have Children by 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 to die with her Husband, Men hold her for false and cursed; nor shall she ever be loved or 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 and Reproof.