Book 2, Chapter 22 sic

Of the Islands of the Coanza River called those of Chindonga and of what Happened and what I observed in the year 1666

Chapter XXII

As the Islands of Chindonga are subject to Queen Ginga, and one of them was the Court of her Brother King Ngolambande, and also hers, I cannot forbear to manifest to the readers what they were for the greater glory of God and good to souls:  you should know, dear reader, that among the Caudelosi Ethiopians it is believed that the Coanza river has its source in a place unknown to them, adducing in favour of this theory the diligence of some Kings of Dongho in trying to find its source, and erroneous and totally false opinion because in the Province of Libolo in the year MDCLVII I spoke with some Ethiopians who give the source of this rapid river as being a great lake, and so it is described by historiographers and cosmographers, and even if there were no witnesses in our favour it would be enough for us to be in the 15th degree of the Antarctic Pole and see that the height of this Pole extends as far as the stormy cape commonly known as Cape of Good Hope, the greatest promontory of all those which stretch into the sea, and hugging the two coasts of interior Ethiopia and Oriental India resolves all doubts and undoes any opposition to the idea that at the extremity of the earth and coast is also the source of the said river as it has its mouth

and reaches the sea in a place seven leagues from Corrimba, and five which is twelve from the City of Loanda as is obvious to all.  Therefore the river runs from the Provinces of Malembe, Bondo, Oacco, ten days’ journey from Queen Ginga’s Court and near to the above Provinces at widens, and forms many islands of which fifteen are inhabited by the Queen’s people and the island called Dangij has been the Court of King [167] Ngolambande and hers since they were chased from the former Court of the former Kings of Dongho, called Cabozzo, near the Fortress of Embaca, and to Maopungo court of King Angola.  Therefore in the year MDCLXI

I was sent by my superior to visit these islands and left the Court of Queen Ginga accompanied by an escort which the Queen gave me, and after nine days’ journey through an uninhabited region I reached the Cuigij

river which is not very wide but deep, and having crossed it found the Coanza river which I also crossed to the island called Quitachij

, and thence went to the one called Dangij

where the Governor who commands all the islands lives. The islanders of the islands which are on the way to the Court came to visit me with food and drink, and many gourds of their local drinks, along the river of the Oacco region,

and gave signs of great joy and celebration; this news was very comforting although I wondered if a vigil of sorrow would not follow the feast, and if there were not a thorn behind the rose, as it is appropriate for one to follow the other; and my doubts were not mistaken because when I reached the port to embark for the island I found a great number of people who were very sad and sorrowful, as if presaging the thorn, and when I asked the cause of this sorrow I was told the Governor had died that night.  I felt the torn of grief at once because when I asked if he was a Christian I was told that he was a pagan, I had been quite right to say that the feast had preceded a sorrowful vigil, and it was a great wound to my heart that the hungry man should reach the prepared table and the thirsty man the fountain of water without being able to drink and it is, dear reader, not lacking in mystery.  I finally went to the island and was received by the Vice-Governor and his officers, and led to the house prepared for me.  Then they asked me to give permission for the corpse to be buried, and I answered that they could do as they wished in this because he was not a member of our Holy Mother Church, but that this should be without their usual sacrifices and ceremonies as his soul was already buried in the flames of hell and the same would happen to them if they lost the chance which God [168] was giving them for the benefit of their souls.  Next morning I sent an order to all the Captains of the Islands that they should come to where I was in the place called Dangij, it was sent out, and on the fourth day they all appeared and congregated in the square, and it was explained to them by the Secretary and a page that the Queen had sent them an order and exhortation, which was in brief as follows:  “My Queen and your Lady sends me to notify you that she has sent the Capuchin Priest with the Secretary to baptise your children and also yourselves, and to marry you as the Holy Mother Church orders, and to imitate her example and set up a Church as she has done in her Court, erect Crosses and other things as the Priest shall see fit as everything he does will be for your good, and the peace and quiet of the Kingdom, a great consolation and joy to us, and I your Queen will reward you for what you do in this respect, and give you cause for gratitude, and as among you officers there are some who are native of other Provinces and slaves to other Lords, I notify you that whoever does not wish to obey me by becoming a Christian with your children and marrying according to the legitimate rite of Holy Mother Church, and abandon idolatry and pagan superstitions, may without delay nor fear of punishment leave these Islands and go where you please at you own wish.”  This was the page’s message, the Secretary followed with the same one, and also ordered them to bring me all their diabolical relics, and so that this should not seem harsh to them pointed out that the Queen had given up the silver Treasure-chest dedicated to the King her brother and to the devil whom she adored, revered and worshipped as they knew, and they also knew that the King her brother was buried in that Island.  Then I made them a short speech exhorting them all to obey the order of their Queen and Lady as it was all for their good, and having had their consent and declaration that they were Vassals of the Queen and ready to do what she ordered, I directed as a beginning that a church 25 feet long should be built not as narrow as their greatest sized buildings and in 8 days it was ready; every day I celebrated Holy Mass, preached Christian doctrine [169] and in the evening recited the Rosary of Our Lady the Virgin.  Dear reader, I could not rest at the thought of the Governor having died without having examined the mystery, and I went with my mind in turmoil, and asking for information about what had happened I found it was similar to what happens to children when they are offered a present and make a show of disdain, and walk away, but then having come to their senses and satisfied their caprice turn round and wish to receive the present but no longer see it, or only see it in someone’s closed hand, which indicates that the present cannot be given to them because they refused it when it was lovingly offered; so the same had happened to that unfortunate man who had often been in Loanda and other places where his friends were baptised, but never wished to receive the gift, and lived in concubinage and always resisted the heavenly giver, showed himself disdainful of the gift, went away rather than receive it, but having come to his senses and changed his mind towards the giver found not only the hand but the gate closed because he had stopped up his ears to the divine call.  This is a punishment that awaits many who delay and turn their footsteps from the call of blessed God, to which they then arrive late and find the gate of mercy closed, which had always been open to them, and hear the voice saying “Nescio vos, I know you not, I do not know who you are.”

I visited that Island not more than a mile in length, found over

graves in one place, a thing at which I marvelled, knowing it was not their custom to bury the dead near their homes, and when I asked the reason I was told that these were small children’s tombs, placed there to make it easy for their mothers to mourn them and according to their custom give them food and drink; having heard this absurdity I was curious to know where they buried those who were already adult, and they said it was in the woods, a long way off, so that their spirits could not get out and do harm to others, a mad idea [170] so firmly held by these black people that they believed the soul stays with the body and call it

, and they also believe it can do good and evil at will, and keep Priests on purpose to heal them when they say they have been ill-treated by a

, all of which you have heard at greater length in the first book of my treatise on the Giaghi where I deal with this subject.

Dear reader, I wish you to attend to my confirmation of this folly of theirs; in this island they bury children and the Maniimbilla,

which means Lords, in the tomb of the King, and the people in the second rank of the government; once I passed a very deep ditch near the road and seeing it when I was in danger of falling in, I asked why it was there, and told that it was the grave of a Lord Maniimbilla who had been removed because his

had risen to do harm to others, and he had been thrown in the Coanza river by order of their Priests, and I found confirmation of this madness in various places where I went: in the first few days I baptised forty-four people, that is children all aged about 8 or 10 months, and next day one of them named Pietro was taken up dead, and I cannot tell the grief and joy I felt, the grief was caused by his sudden death, and as this was the first time there had been a Priest in this island the pagans might have said baptism had killed the child, but it is also impossible to imagine my joy at seeing that blessed soul being able to enter Heavenly Zion and enjoy the beatific vision; I gave due thanks to the divine Mercy for the grace conceded to that soul, and went to where the dead child lay, and beside him was his afflicted mother, a young woman aged about

, and I asked her whether she felt great grief for her dead son.  She answered me that God made woman to give birth, and that as a mother she felt her child’s death; but that blessed God had arranged for him not to die before being washed in Holy Baptism so that he could go to enjoy Heavenly glory, and this good answer made the blood return to my veins and redoubled the joy in my heart [171] and I further affirmed that he had been ill for many days and now he was full of joy and his heart free from fear, and to show that lady the signs of joy which are made at the death and burial of a child I garlanded his temples and arms with flowers and wrapped his little body in white lined to bury him.  I had made a large Crucifix and was uncertain in what place to put it, but suddenly decided that blessed God wished it to be in no other place than the one where I was to bury that little child whose soul was already in peaceful possession of its seat in Heavenly glory.  I gathered everyone together to perform this function, and in the above-mentioned place of his burial I raised that sacred standard at the head of the funeral procession as is the custom of Holy Mother Church, and set it down in their midst, and at its feet the dead body of the child, first blessing the Crucifix, and the place in the Cemetery; and the mother of the dead child was much comforted by the honour done to her son and gave thanks according to the black people’s custom, and I was more delighted than she and gave due thanks, and if possible more to our loving God giver of all good things.

I cannot, dear reader, restrain my pen from describing another folly of theirs not less worthy of mention than those above, and deserving of laughter.  One day, I was walking along the river in the Oacco region to destroy some things which I had heard were dedicated to the devil, near the place where the river forms a great waterfall, over a hundred arms’ lengths from some very high rocks,

and makes its surroundings wet for over a third of a mile around and throws up spray which is seen from afar, and rises to sprinkle a large populated area the shape of a half moon, and forms a scene where the people often go to fish inside the rocks with little nets on top of stakes; near this place I found a house built on top of a fence of woven wattle, part of a fishing-net serving as its door, and moved by curiosity I entered and found inside a fish and a portion of polenta made from millet; I at once noticed the trap set by the devil and his ministers and went to throw it in the river, when the fishermen at once noticed what was missing from their house, but not too quickly to prevent it being carried away by the very rapid current of the water, and I corrected them fraternally for their folly; I heard the devil answer through them, dear reader, and say that if they wanted fish from him, they must build him houses and in these offer him the first fish they caught and some of their polenta, and for this reason they had built this house; and having observed how their ancestors’ custom had been made a law I saw how mad it was; do you not wonder at its stupidity?  And it went further, and they erected altars, stood in an attitude of reverence clapping their hands according to black people’s custom, throwing flour or other things as if the devil needed food and drink, with many other obsequious ceremonies more appropriate to irrational than [173] rational beings of which the list would be long.  (Marginal note) I only say how one of the fishermen was very repentant at having observed their old ceremony, and said: “Father, I thought I was doing good by doing what my ancestors did, but if I have done evil I shall make amends, and not continue to do so”; and as my intention was always to serve my God, he thanked me for telling him I had seen his ignorance and good disposition towards the amendment which alone could allow him to catch fish, and thus it came about that  he presented me with his whole catch, which was not a little, giving me many thanks and feeling very happy at what had occurred, and the others also promised amendment, but I cannot give and account of this because I left shortly afterwards.]  I baptised many children and also adults, joined many in matrimony, undid many houses dedicated to the devil and burned many diabolical relics, all of which things are a comfort to the missionary, and are like roses, but none is ever without a thorn and these did not fail to be foreseen and to follow, because as well as contradictions and opposition to doing the things I have mentioned, I also found that the Governor of an Island called Quitachij not only treated me badly in words, but also caused a hen and a kid to be stolen from me, and procured these as an idolater, and although he had been baptised did everything possible to make people behave in ways which would enable him to tell the Queen they had not obeyed her with true but with false zeal in order to cover up their evil deeds.  But knowing their false plan I exhorted everyone to conquer with tolerance this devil’s work, which was accompanied by taking from the Islands everything necessary to sustain human life, so that no-one had anything to eat, and everyone went armed.  While these things were happening a page came from the Queen bearing letters, from her and from the superior who was stricken with illness, and on receipt of these I set out to return to the Court, and the above-mentioned Governor had to give me people to escort me not only to carry the baggage which was being taken but also because of the danger of war with the Giaga Cassange is usually waging in order to hurt the Queen; this cunning and sagacious man wished to appear to fulfil his obligation and I took up the luggage as soon as the Cuiginj river was passed and left him there, and returned to the Island;

I at once sent off the Queen’s page, who faithfully told the Queen ……. and he was at once ordered to come to the Court without delay and on arrival there was put in iron chains as a first step, then he was given little to eat and poor sleeping quarters, and made to carry water to the kitchen every day and often rebuked for the crime he had committed, and he remained in this miserable state for four months continuously, and what he endured everyone can imagine, and after great [174] suffering he was able to obtain his freedom from the Queen.  But it was on condition that he would not return to his office but would remain in hiding, but as this was not an offence which permitted revenge I procured for him permission to remain in office, and the Queen agreed on condition that it would only be until his first transgression, after which he would be punished by death or banishment beyond the sea; until the present day he had given no occasion for it and may it please God that the punishment he has had will prevent him from falling again as he knows that he will be sentenced to death with no appeal.  This is all I can say about the Islands of Chindonga situated in the Coanza river and subject to Queen Ginga.