Book 1, Chapter 7

[69]                  Concerning sacrifices which the Giagas of the kingdom of Matamba and neighboring countries and provinces located in this inner Ethiopia part of West Africa make at present.  Chapter VII

The sacrifices are various among the heathens and the manners in which they undertake to do them are diverse each according to the customs and laws of his ancestors.  Among the heathens of Peru there was the custom that in their sacrifices which they did they seized the thing which they wanted to sacri­fice be it man or animal with the right hand and turn it towards the sun as their deity of their adoration, speaking various words according to the thing they sacrificed and to whom the sacrifice was addressed and afterwards they killed the victim according to the Moorish custom and this was the manner observed among them others, again did differently because they had a God they adored, laws and faith which they followed adoring the stars or the sun and others stones, lakes, rivers and springs and also the summits of the highest mountains as if it was from their summits that one could rise to heaven and these were the gates of the sun were those of the entrance of Holy Zion, but among these barbarous peoples they have different customs because they adore no partic­ular God, nor do they follow any definite faith nor even have they faith in any deity, and if their iniquitous mother and reformer gave them those laws to observe with all that she did not assign them a sure faith nor particular God and if one hears of sacrifices to the dead it is not only an error of these people, but is general, even in other nations and it shows itself to be an obvious trickery of their priests and for this reason like ignorant people, to put it in few words, without raising their eyes up to Heaven as they are accustomed nor practicing any other ceremony, they only raise up their arm equipped with a cutting knife, sword or axe unleashing frightening blows on miserable people, cutting the head off some, giving to others [70] a blow on the temples with a stake as with a mallet and then to scalp them; they split the bellies of others from side to side and many times when sacrificing many people one lies half-dead on top of another and when they make their sacrifices they ordinari­ly address them to their dead [ancestors] and to the devil in the guise of the dead person.

The Giagas of this Kingdom relate that the Giaga Casa, now living in the province called Gangella[1] wanted once to sacrifice to his dead ancestor a woman to the last degree.  Taking her to the designated place when the sun was already hidden from us, he unleashed a deadly blow on the temples of the poor wretch, who, fell stunned and half dead to the ground; he ran up to her and with a sharp knife he cut her stomach across, and immediately left joyously, having done that office for his ancestors.  Suddenly the woman regained her senses from the wound and rose on her hands and gathered up her precious entrails and with great spirit she healed herself as the opportunity offered and taking breath she returned to the house of her lord, who seeing her though she was some ghost, but when he asked her why she had not remained to serve that person to whom he had wisely sent her she answered she had not wanted to because he

did not need her services, he ordered that she should be looked after and saved her life.  Moved by this new occurrence he swore to practice such barbarities no longer and he abstained for a time, but afterwards he returned to his barbarous customs as before because it meant no more than a sailor’s vow or a Spanish stroke which menaces one at first but immediately passes, it was a wolf-like change and such are those (people) inhabitants of this western Ethiopia.

General Sacrifice

The general public sacrifice which the Giagas make for their dead lord is called quiluia[2] and it is done in the following manner.  They make in the assigned place a circle six paces in diameter and around this they plant stakes into the ground taller than a man as if they wished to make some fortification for defense against enemies and they leave opening as big as a door to enter inside and into the [71] front part which they regard as where they will make the sacrifice.  At the top of this they place a flag and in the middle of the circle they place a seat and they decorate the stakes of the circle with various silken cloths of the country and various vases full of drinks, castrated [bulls], goats, hens, arms, skins of various animals, all pre­pared, and the victims who will serve for this sacrifice; on the day designated for such a horrible spectacle they give these poor people much to eat and drink and they also dress them curiously and the victims are conducted to their dead Lord and this has to be a person who is noble by blood or arms and captured in war; they make him sit in the chair which is in the middle with pages around to serve him, the victims being outside the stakes, the designated musicians play their instruments and make all around ring with great feast and joy; when the time has come the general enters the circle and speaks to the one who is sitting on the chair as he has been entitled to do and elected as leader and guide to take the victims to their dead lord or if he is the same lord, he is beseeched to receive this offering even if small and to aid and defend them against their enemies and to open the road for them to conquer various provinces and kingdoms and to follow and imitate the footsteps of their ancestors.  After this fine dialogue he takes a knife or an axe and gives a fierce blow on that poor wretch cutting the head off the body, having struck this barbarous blow there follows the cruelty of the barbarous ministers beginning the killing of the victims and these butchers bathing in human blood; if the victims appear few to them they also try to take the life of whatever witnesses there may be who come forward to that place without being called, whether out of curiosity or out of compassion for the miserable sufferers.  When this is finished it remains for them to make from their dead bodies a great tumulus and on top of it all they place the lord placing the flag in his body and here like a lord he remains with it and with everything that in the designated place was prepared for the sacrifice and he and they remain at the mercy of the weather, without there being anyone who will take [72] anything publicly or privately from them as they regard it as a great affront to steal from them and if anything is taken they must renew the sacrifice as they did for a famous Giaga who was robbed of the offerings left to him; they renewed the sacrifice with the death of 284 people who were counted by a Portuguese who found himself present and this took place in a province of the kingdom of Matamba called Little Gangella.[3] In Peru when the great Fuija no Capaz dies they killed one thousand people to serve him in the other life.  The presently reigning Cassange killed for his ancestors 184 people in one sacrifice as I will say at greater length in the place devoted to his life.[4] Queen Njinga, in a collection which she performed for the dead king Ngolambande her brother, killed fourteen very beautiful young girls[5] for him.

I must give notice here of the faithful observance practiced among Giagas even when they are enemies and when a Giaga dies, even if he is an enemy it is required by the law of good conser­vation[6] to make exequies to the dead person, they must under­take the pious work as if it were one of Christian mercy. I want you to be attentive to the way the exequies of the friendly dead person must be with the killing of men and animals and much drinking but this they must do with their own people and the exequies of the dead enemy they must do by going forth into the field in war and give the vassals of the dead person to him, and make the exequies with the captives partly at the very field of battle and partly upon returning to their own homes so that those who remained to look after the baggage may also weep for the dead person and enjoy the victims according to their barbarous custom.  This is what Queen Ginga did at the exequies of the dead Giaga Cassange Calunga Cajombe and also for others,[7] this is all I must say about the general sacrifice, now we will go on to the particulars of their priests and the ministers of their idols.


[1].  Jaga Casa = the Imbangala band of Kaza, allied for many years with Njinga.  On his earlier history, see Book 2, pp. 33-5 below.

[2]. Quiluia = kiluya.  See illustration no. 1.

[3].  See Book 3, pp. 32-4 below.  The Portuguese in question was Paulo Carilho.

[4].  Book 3, pp. 12-13.

[5].  Book 2, p. 39.

[6].  In the text the term is abbreviated, “”.  This seems a likely, if not very comprehensible reading.

[7]Istorica Descrizione, Book 2, no. 39 adds that he was her “capital enemy”.  He appears to be the same ancestor of Kasanje mentioned on p. 49 above.