Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition)


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Hence, it is in the Bodo nation that, in the present state of our knowledge, we must study the general phenomena of the wilder Seriform tribes. In respect to their social development the Bodo are good examples of a very peculiar form. They are tillers of the soil, and as such agriculturists rather than hunters, fishers, or feeders of flocks and herds.

But their agriculture is imperfect, and quasi-nomadic; since they are not fixed but erratic or migratory cultivators. They have no name for a village, no sheep, no oxen, no fixed property in the soil. Like the ancient Germans, arva in annos mutant, et superest ager.


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They clear a jungle, crop it as long as it will yield an average produce, and then remove themselves elsewhere. After the lapse of four or five years, they frequently return to their old fields, and resume their cultivation, if in the interim the jungle has grown well, and they have not been anticipated by others, for there is no pretence of appropriation other than possessory, and if, therefore, another party have preceded them, or, if the slow growth of the jungle give no sufficient promise of a good stratum of ashes for the land when cleared by fire, they move on to another site new or old.

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If old, they resume the identical fields they tilled before, but never the old houses or site of the old village, that being deemed unlucky. In general, however, they prefer new land to old, and having still abundance of unbroken forest around them, they are in constant movement, more especially as, should they find a new spot prove unfertile, they decamp after the first harvest is got in.

It is a fact of some importance that erratic agriculture, a rare and exceptional form of industrial development, is probably more general among the Seriform tribes than elsewhere. It has already been stated to be the habit of the Karien, and there is little doubt as to its being far more general than it has hitherto been described to be. Contrast with this imperfect form of agricultural industry the cultivation of the soil in China.

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The Bodo villages are small communities of from ten to forty huts. Offenders against the customs of the community may be admonished, fined, or excommunicated. This last term suggests a new series of ideas. The Bodo religious ordinances are apparently very simple; so that they form a remarkable contrast with the numerous details of Hinduism.


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  4. The birth, the weaning, and the naming of children are all unattended with ceremonies requiring the presence of a priest. At funerals and marriages, however, the priest presides. This he does, not so much as a minister to the essential ceremony, as for the sake of the feast that accompanies it. Such being the case, notwithstanding the statement of Mr. Hodgson, who describes in somewhat flattering terms the negative merits of the simple Bodo creed, and who especially affirms that the priesthood is no hereditary office, I cannot but suspect that the influence of the spiritual power is greater than he admits.

    If not, the Bodo must have but few meals of meat.

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    Marriage is a contract rather than a rite. Polygamy or concubinage is rare: the adoption of children common. All the sons inherit equally; daughters not at all. A Bodo can only marry to one of his own people. Divorce, though practicable and easy, is rare; the wife and daughter have their due influence. Children are named as soon as the mother comes abroad, which is generally four or five days after her confinement.

    The idea that the delivery involves a temporal impurity is recognised; so that all births and deaths also necessitate a temporary segregation and certain purificatory forms. The infant "is named immediately after birth, or as soon as the mother comes abroad, which is always four or five days after delivery. There are no family names, or names derived from the gods. Children are not weaned so long as their mother can suckle them, which is always from two to three years—sometimes more—and two children, the last and penultimate, are occasionally seen at the breast together.

    The delayed period of weaning will account in part for the limited fecundity of the women. Marriage takes place at maturity, the male being usually from twenty to twenty-five years of age, and the female, from fifteen to twenty. Courtship is not sanctioned: the parents or friends negotiate the wedlock. In this the commercial element is predominant. A price— Jan —must be paid by the bridegroom elect for the intended bride. If the former have "no means of discharging this sum, he must go to the house of his father-in-law elect and there literally earn his wife by the sweat of his brow, labouring, more Judaico , upon mere diet for a term of years, varying from two as an average to five and even seven as the extreme period.

    When the preliminaries have been arranged, the bride [Pg 41] groom proceeds to the house of the bride, in procession with his friends. Two females attend him. The business of these is "to put red lead or oil on the bride elect's head, when the procession has reached her home. There a refection is prepared, after partaking of which, the procession returns, conducting the bride elect to the house of the groom's parents. The family and friends form a funeral procession, which bears the dead in silence to the grave. The body being interred, a few stones are piled loosely upon the grave to prevent disturbance by jackals and ratels, rather than to mark the spot, and some food and drink are laid upon the grave; when the ceremony is suspended, and the party disperses.

    Friends are purified by mere ablution in the next stream and at once resume their usual cares. The family are unclean for three days, after which, besides bathing and shaving, they need to be sprinkled with holy water by their elders or priest. When the feast has been got ready and the friends are assembled, before sitting down they all repair, once again, to the grave, when the nearest of kin to the deceased, taking an individual's usual portion of food and drink, solemnly presents them to the dead with these words, 'Take and eat: heretofore you have eaten and drunk with us; you can do so no more; you were one of us; you can be so no longer: we come no more to you: come you not to us.

    Next the party proceed to the river and bathe, and having thus lustrated themselves, they repair to the banquet, and eat, drink, and make merry [Pg 43] as though they were never to die!

    Full text of "Brazil : a revisionary history of Brazilian literature and culture"

    The details relating to the priesthood, and to the festivals of the Bodo tribes, will best indicate the nature of their religion. The list of the Bodo gods is very nearly the list of the Bodo rivers. All diseases are referred to preternatural influence. Oaths and ordeals are very general.

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    Rites and ceremonies. The prayers are few and simple, when stript of their mummery; and necessarily so, being committed solely to the memories of a non-hereditary and very trivially instructed and mutable priesthood. They consist of invocations of protection for the people and their crops and domestic animals; of deprecations of wrath when sickness, murrain, drought, blight, or the ravages of wild animals, prevail; and thanksgivings when the crops are safely housed, or recent troubles are passed. The offerings consist of milk, honey, parched rice, eggs, flowers, fruits, and red lead or cochineal: the sacrifices of hogs, goats, fowls, ducks, and pigeons—most commonly hogs and fowls.

    Sacrifices are deemed more worthy than offerings, so that all the higher deities, without reference to their supposed benevolence or malevolence of nature, receive sacrifices—all the lesser deities, offerings only. Libations of fermented liquor always accompany sacrifice— because , to confess the whole truth, sacrifice and feast [Pg 44] are commutable words, and feasts need to be crowned by copious potations!

    Malevolence appears to be attributed to very few of the gods, though of course all will resent neglect; but, in general, their natures are deemed benevolent; and hence the absence of all savage or cruel rites. All diseases, however, are ascribed to supernatural agency. The sick man is supposed to be possessed by one of the deities, who racks him with pains, as a punishment for impiety or neglect of the god in question.

    Hence, not the mediciner, but the exorcist is summoned to the sick man's aid. Thirteen leaves, each with a few grains of rice upon it, are placed by the exorcist in a segment of a circle before him to represent the deities. The god who has possessed the sick man, is indicated by the exclusive vibration of the pendulum towards his representative leaf, which is then taken apart, and the god in question is asked, what sacrifice he requires? On recovery the animal is sacrificed, and its blood offered to the offended deity.

    Full text of "Brazil : a revisionary history of Brazilian literature and culture"

    The first is held in December-January, when the cotton crop is ready. The second is held in February-March. The first three of these festivals are consecrated to the elemental gods and to the interests of agriculture. Campbell, we came upon a party of Bodo in the bed of the river, within the Saul forest, or rather, were drawn off the road by the noise they made.

    It was a sort of chorus of a few syllables, solemnly and musically incanted, which, on reaching the spot was found to be uttered by thirteen Bodo men, who were drawn up in a circle facing inwards, and each carrying a lofty bamboo pole decked with several tiers of wearing apparel and crowned with a Chour or yak's tail. Within the circle were three men, one of whom with an instrument like this in his hands danced to the music, waving his [Pg 46] weapon downwards on one side and so over the head, and then downwards on the other side and again over the head. The priest, clothed in red cotton but not tonsured or otherwise distinguished from the rest of the party, muttered an invocation, whereof the burden or chorus was taken up by the thirteen forming the ring above noticed.

    The servitor had a water-pot in one hand and a brush in the other, and from time to time, as the rite proceeded, this person moved out of the circle to sprinkle with the holy water another actor in this strange ceremony and a principal one too. When we first discerned him, he was sitting on the ground panting, and rolling his eyes so significantly that I at once conjectured his function. He held a short staff in his hand, with which, from time to time, he struck the bedizened poles, one by one, and lowering it as he struck.

    He then proceeds into the house, adores Mainou, and sacrifices to her a hog. The blood of the sacrifice belongs to the gods—the flesh to his worshippers, and these now hold a high feast, at which beer and tobacco are freely used to animate the joyous conclave, but not spirits, nor opium, nor hemp.

    The goddess Mainou is represented in the interior of each house, by a bamboo post, about three feet high, fixed in the ground, and surmounted by a small earthen cup filled with rice. Before this symbol is the great annual sacrifice of the hog above noted, performed; and before this, the females of the family once a month , make offerings of eggs. For the males, due attention to the four annual festivals is deemed sufficient in prosperous and healthful seasons.

    But sickness or scarcity always begets special rites and ceremonies, suited to the circumstances of the calamity, and addressed more particularly to the elemental gods, [Pg 49] if the calamity be drought, or blight, or devastations of wild animals—to the household gods, if it be sickness. Hunters, likewise, and fishers, when they go forth to the chase, sacrifice a fowl to the Sylvan gods, to promote their success; and lastly, those who have a petition to prefer to their superiors, conceive that a similar propitiation of Jishim and Mishim, or of the Chiris, will tend to the fulfilment of their requests.

    The names of the craft and of its professors, male and female, will be found in the vocabulary. By dint of questioning and of beating, the witch is generally brought to confession, when he or she is asked to remove the spell, and to heal the sufferer, means of propitiating preternatural allies if their agency be alleged being at the same time tendered to the witch, who is, however, forthwith expelled the district, and put across the next river, with the concurrence of the local authorities.

    The influence of the evil eye is sought to be neutralised by offerings of parched millet and eggs to Khoja Kajah and Mansha Rajah—Dii minores who find no place in my catalogue, ample as it is. The general constitutions and functions of the clerical body have already been fully explained. Priests are subject to no peculiar restraints, nor marked by any external sign of diverse dress or other. The connexion between pastor and flock is full of liberty for the latter, who collectively can eject their priest if they disapprove him, or individually can desert him for another if they please.

    He marries and cultivates like his flock, and all that he can claim from them for his services is, first, a share of every animal sacrificed by him, and second, three days' help from each of his flock the grown males per annum, towards the clearing and cultivation of the land, he holds on the same terms with them, and which have already been explained. Whoever thinks fit to learn the forms of offering, sacrifice, and accompanying invocation, can be a priest; and if he get tired of the profession, he can throw it up when he will.

    These remarks will conclude with the notice of an ethnological question of primary importance, but not yet laid before the reader, viz. Some rough facts of the kind in question are generally known; such, for instance, as the tolerance on the part of the Negro of the heat and malaria of the tropical climates.

    Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition) Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition)
    Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition) Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition)
    Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition) Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition)
    Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition) Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition)
    Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition) Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition)
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    Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition) Rua dos Timbiras, 216 (Portuguese Edition)

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