Thomas Bluett

ca. 1690 - 1749


Some Memoirs of the Life of Job


Section III








Some Obſervations, as related by Job,

concerning the Manners and

Opinions of his Countrymen.


I Don't pretend here, as I hinted before, to trouble the Reader or my ſelf with a full and regular Hiſtory of Job's Country. Thoſe who have the Curioſity to inform themſelves more particularly in the Hiſtory of thoſe Parts of the World, may conſult the Voyages that are already publiſhed on that Subject. I ſhall only take Notice of ſome occaſional Remarks upon the Cuſtoms of the Country, as I had them in Converſation from Job himſelf.

It is pretty commonly known that the Africans in general, eſpecially thoſe in the inland Countries, are inured from their Infancy to a hard and low Life, (35) being great Strangers to the Luxury and Delicacy of moſt of the Countries of Europe. They have the Neceſſaries of Life, 'tis true, and might have many of the Conveniences of it too; but ſuch is the Simplicity of their Manners, occaſioned chiefly by their Ignorance, and want of Correſpondence with the politer Part of the World, that they ſeem contented enough with their plain Neceſſaries, and don't much hanker after greater Matters, tho' their Country in many Places is capable of great Improvements.

In Job's Country the Slaves, and poorer ſort of People, are employed in preparing the Bread, Corn, &c. And here they labour under a great many Difficulties, having no proper Inſtruments either for Tilling the Ground, or reaping the Corn when it is ripe; inſomuch that they uſ'd, in Harveſt-time, to pull it up, Roots and all. To reduce their (36) Corn to Flower, they rub it between two Stones with their Hands, which muſt be very tedious. Nor is their Fatigue in Building and Carriage leſs, for they perform the whole by mere Dint of Strength, and downright Labour. The better Sort of People, who apply themſelves to Study and Reading, are obliged to read whole Nights together by the Light of the Fire, (having no Candles or Lamps, as we have) which muſt be very troubleſome in that hot, ſultry Country. Theſe, and ſeveral other Difficulties which theſe People labour under, we hope will be removed by Job's Return; his Friends here having ſuited their Preſents very judiciouſly to the Neceſſities of his Country-men; and there is ſcarce any Tool or Machine, that can be of real Uſe to them, which Job has not had from ſome Friend or other, and their ſeveral Uſes have been ſhewn to him with a great deal of Care. (37)

Some of thoſe People ſpend a great Part of their Time in Hunting; particularly after the Elephants, with whoſe Teeth they drive a great Trade. One of thoſe Hunters affirmed to Job, that he had ſeen an Elephant ſurprize a Lion (to which Beaſt, it ſeems, the Elephant bears a very great Hatred) and carry him to a Tree, which he ſplit down, and putting the Lion's Head thro', let the Tree cloſe again on the Lion's Neck, and there left him to periſh. Job did not ſay that he knew this Fact to be true; but it ſeems to be the more probable, upon account of what he aſſured me he had been a Witneſs to himſelf, viz. that an Elephant having catch'd a Lion, carried him directly to a great Slough, and thruſting the Lion's Head under the Mud, held him there till he was ſmothered.

One Day Job finding a Cow of his Father's, that had been killed, and partly (38) devoured, reſolved, if poſſible, to ſurprize the Devourer. Accordingly he placed himſelf in a Tree, near the Remains of the Cow; and, in the Cloſe of the Evening, he ſaw two Lions making up to it with great Caution, moving ſlow, and looking carefully about them. At laſt one came up, which Job ſhot with a poiſoned Arrow, and wounded ſo deadly that he fell immediately upon the Spot; the other coming up ſoon after, Job ſhot another Arrow, and wounded him; upon which he roared out and fled, but the next Morning was found dead about 300 Yards from the Place.

The Poiſon they dip their Arrows in, is the juice of a certain Tree; and is of ſuch a Nature, that it infects the Blood in a ſhort Time, and makes the Creature quite ſtupid and ſenſeleſs. Altho' it is ſo deadly a Poiſon, it does not hinder their eating the Fleſh of the Animal that is ſhot; for as ſoon as it is ſtupified enough (39) to drop down, they catch it, cut its Throat, &c. as their Law directs, and then eat it. If a Man is wounded with one of theſe Arrows, they have an Herb, which, if immediately apply'd is a ſure Remedy, and extracts the Poiſon.

And here I would obſerve two Things, as well from my own Obſervations abroad, as from what I have juſt mentioned. Firſt, that in all Countries, where theſe wild Beaſts are, at leaſt where I have been, Providence has ſo ordered it, that they will all fly at the Sight of a Man, and will never attack him, if they have any room to eſcape by Flight. Secondly, that all Poiſons, of what Nature ſoever, have their Antidotes generally near them. One Inſtance of which I ſhall mention, as being ſomewhat extraordinary.

The Milk, or Liquor that is ſqueezed from the Caffavi, or Caffader Roots (of which Roots is made the Bread of that (40) Name, uſed in Barbadoes, Jamaica, all the Leward, Caribbe Iſlandſ) is ſo deadly a Poiſon, that one Pint of it will ſoon kill any Creature that drinks it. Yet I knew a Cow, which drank a hearty Draught of it, and immediately (as if ſenſible of the Danger ſhe was in) went and fed on a Shrub, which grows common there, called the ſenſible Plant, from the ſhrivelling up of its Leaves upon the leaſt Touch; and altho' we expected every Minute to ſee her fall down dead, it ſo expelled the Poiſon, that the received not ſhe leaſt Hurt by it.

The Manner of their Marriages and Baptiſms is ſomething remarkable. When a Man has a mind to marry his Son (which they generally do much ſooner than in England) and has found out a ſuitable Match for him, he goes to the Girl's Father, propoſes the Matter to him, and agrees for the Price that he is to pay for her; which the Father of the (41) Woman always gives to her as a Dowry. All Things being concluded on, the two Fathers and the young Man go to the Prieſt, and declare their Agreement; which finiſhes the Marriage. But now comes the great Difficulty, viz. how the Young Man ſhall get his Wife home; for the Women, Couſins, and Relations, take on mightily, and guard the Door of the Houſe, to prevent her being carried away; but at laſt the young Man's Preſents and Generoſity to them, makes them abate their Grief. He then provides a Friend, well mounted, to carry her off; but as ſoon as ſhe is up on Horſeback, the Women renew their Lamentations, and ruſh in to diſmount her. However, the Man is generally ſucceſſful, and rides off with his Prize to the Houſe provided for her. After this they make a Treat for their Friends, but the Woman never appears at it; and tho' the Ladies here in England are generally more free after Marriage than before, with the Women in (42) Job's Country it is quite contrary; for they are ſo very baſhful, that they will never permit their Huſbands to ſee them without a Vail on for three Years after they are married; inſomuch, that altho' Job has a Daughter by his laſt Wife, yet he never ſaw her unveiled ſince Marriage, having been married to her but about two Years before he came from home. To prevent Quarrels, and keep Peace among their Wives, the Huſbands divide their Time equally betwixt them; and are ſo exact in this Affair, that if one Wife lies in, the Huſband lies alone in her Apartment thoſe Nights, that are her Turn, and not with the other Wife. If a Wife proves very bad, they put her away, and ſhe keeps her Dowry, and any one may marry her after her Divorce; but they don't uſe to put them away upon ſlight Occaſions. If a Woman puts away her Huſband, ſhe muſt return him her Dowry; and ſhe is look'd upon always after as a ſcandalous Perſon, no Man (43) caring to have any thing to do with her.

All their Male Children are circumciſed; but, beſides, they have a kind of Baptiſm for all Children, of both Sexes. When the Child is ſeven Days old, the People that are invited meet together at the Father's Houſe; the Father names the Child, and the Prieſt writes the Name of the Child on a piece of ſmooth Board. Then the Father kills a Cow or Sheep, according to his Ability; part of which is dreſſ'd for the Company, and the reſt diſtributed amongſt the Poor: After which the Child is waſh'd all over with fair Water, and then the Prieſt writes the Child's Name on Paper, which is rolled up, and tied about the Child's Neck; where it remains, till it is wore or rubb'd off.

The Ceremony at their Burials has nothing remarkable in it. They put the (44) dead Body in the Earth, and cover it up as we do in England, ſaying ſome Prayers over it, which Job told me were intended only for the Benefit of the Byſtanders, and not of the dead Perſon; for they are not of opinion that the Dead can reap any Advantage by their Devotion at that Time.

Their Opinions and Traditions, in Matters of Religion, are much the ſame with thoſe of the Generality of the Mahometans; tho' the learned Sort of them give a more plauſible and refined Turn to the groſs and ſenſual Doctrines of the Koran, than thoſe in Turkey, and ſome other Places. They have a ſtrong Averſion to the leaſt Appearance of Idolatry, inſomuch that they will not keep a Picture of any kind whatſoever in their Houſes; and the Popiſh Worſhip, at the French Factory in their Neighbourhood, has much confirmed them in an Opinion that all Chriſtians are Idolaters. But I (45) ſhall not ſay any more here upon this Head, ſince their Religion, and the Ceremonies relating to it, are pretty well known.

I might add ſeveral other Particulars, concerning their Dreſs, their Houſes, Oeconomy, and the like; but theſe too being deſcribed at large in ſeveral Books already publiſhed, I ſhall make an End of this Section, and ſo paſs on.