Home  »  The Marvellous Adventures of Sir John Maundevile Kt  »  Of the Customs of Kings and others that dwell in the Isles coasting to Prester John’s Land. And of the Worship that a Son doth to his Father when he is dead

Sir John Mandeville. Marvellous Adventures. 1895.

Chapter XXXI

Of the Customs of Kings and others that dwell in the Isles coasting to Prester John’s Land. And of the Worship that a Son doth to his Father when he is dead

FROM these Isles that I have spoken of before, in the Land of Prester John, that be under Earth as to us that be of this Side, and from other Isles that be more further beyond, whoso will, may pursue his Journey to come again right to the Parts that he came from, and so environ all the Earth. But what for the Isles, what for the Sea, and what for strong Fruit and all other Riches. And the Folk of that Country have no Houses, but they dwell and lie all under Tents made of black Fern, in all the Country. And the principal City and the most royal is all walled with black Stone and white. And all the Streets also be paved of the same Stones. In that City is no Man so hardy as to shed Blood of any Man, nor of any Beast, for the Reverence of an Idol that is worshipped there. And in that Isle dwelleth the Pope of their Law, that they call Lobassy. This Lobassy giveth all the Benefices, and all other Dignities and all other Things that belong to the Idol. And all those that hold anything of their Churches, religious Men and others, obey him, as Men do here of the Pope of Rome.

In that Isle they have a Custom by all the Country, that when the Father is dead of any Man, and the Son list to do great Worship to his Father, he sendeth to all his Friends and to all his Kin, and for religious Men and Priests, and for Minstrels also, great Plenty. And then Men bear the dead Body unto a great Hill with great Joy and Solemnity. And when they have brought it thither, the Chief Prelate smiteth off the Head, and layeth it upon a great Platter of Gold and of Silver, if so be that he be a rich Man. And then he taketh the Head to the Son. And then the Son and his other Kin sing and say many Orisons. And then the Priests and the religious Men smite all the Body of the dead Man in Pieces. And then they say certain Orisons. And the Fowls of Ravin of all the Country about know the Custom of long time before, and come flying above in the Air; as Eagles, Kites, Ravens and other Fowls of Ravin, that eat Flesh. And then the Priests cast the Gobbets of the Flesh; and then the Fowls, each of them, take that they may, and go a little thence and eat it; and so they do whilst any Piece lasteth of the dead Body.

And after that, as Priests amongst us sing for the Dead, “Subvenite Sancti Dei, etc.” “Come to his Assistance, ye Saints of God, etc.,” right so the Priests sing in high Voice in their Language; “Behold how worthy a Man and how good a Man this was, that the Angels of God come to seek him and bring him into Paradise.” And then seemeth it to the Son, that he is highly worshipped, when that many Birds and Fowls and Ravens come and eat his Father; and he that hath most Number of Fowls is most worshipped.

Then the Son bringeth Home with him all his Kin, and his Friends, and all the others to his House, and maketh them a great Feast. And then all his Friends make their Vaunt and their Dalliance, how the Fowls come thither, here 5, here 6, here 10, and there 20, and so forth; and they rejoice them hugely to speak thereof. And when they be at Meat, the Son makes bring forth the Head of his Father, and thereof he giveth of the Flesh to his most special Friends, instead of a Dainty, or a Sweet-meat. And of the Brain Pan, he has made a Cup, and there from drinketh he and his other Friends also, with great Devotion, in Remembrance of the holy Man, that the Angels of God have eaten. And that Cup the Son shall keep to drink from, all his Life-time, in Remembrance of his Father.

From that Land, in returning by a 10 Days’ Journey throughout the Land of the great Chan, is another good Isle and a great Kingdom, where the King is full rich and mighty.

And amongst the rich Men of his Country is a passing rich Man, that is neither Prince, nor Duke, nor Earl, but he hath more that hold of him Lands and other Lordships, for he is more rich. For he hath, every Year, of annual Rent 300,000 Horses charged with Corn of diverse Grains and of Rice. And so he leadeth a full noble Life and a delicate, after the Custom of the Country. For he hath, every Day, 50 fair Damsels, all Maidens, that serve him evermore at his Meat, and to lie with him at Night, and to do with them what is to his Pleasure. And when he is at Table, they bring him his Meat at every Time, 5 and 5 together; and in bringing their Service they sing a Song. And after that, they cut his Meat, and put it in his Mouth; for he toucheth nothing, nor handles nought, but holdeth evermore his Hands before him upon the Table. For he hath Nails so long, that he may take nothing, nor handle anything. For the Nobleness of that Country is to have long Nails, and to make them grow always to be as long as Men may. And there be many in that Country, that have their Nails so long, that they environ all the Hand. And that is a great Nobleness. And the Nobleness of the Women is to have small Feet and little. And therefore anon when they be born, they make bind their Feet so straitly, that they may not grow half as Nature would. And always these Damsels, that I spake of before, sing all the Time that this rich Man eateth. And when that he eateth no more of his first Course, then other 5 and 5 of fair Damsels bring him his second Course, always singing as they did before. And so they do continually to the End of his Meat. And in this Manner he leadeth his Life. And so did they before him, that were his Ancestors. And so shall they that come after him, without doing of any Deeds of Arms, but live evermore thus in Ease, as a Swine that is fed in a Sty to be made fat. He hath a full fair Palace and full rich, that he dwelleth in, of the which the Walls be, in Circuit, 2 Mile. And he hath within many fair Gardens, and many fair Halls and Chambers; and the Pavement of his Halls and Chambers be of Gold and Silver. And in the mid Place of one of his Gardens is a little Mountain, where there is a little Meadow. And in that Meadow is a little Hill with Towers and Pinnacles, all of Gold. And on that little Hill will he sit often-time, to take the Air and disport him.

From that Country Men come to the Land of the great Chan also, that I have spoken of before.

And ye shall understand, that of all these Countries, and of all these Isles, and of all the divers Folk, that I have spoken of before, and of divers Laws, and of Beliefs that they have, is there yet none of these all but have some Reason within them and Understanding, unless it be a few, and that have certain Articles of our Faith and some good Points of our Belief, and that believe in God, that formed all Things and made the World, and that call Him God of Nature; after what the Prophet saith, “Et metuent Eum omnes Fines Terrae,” (“And all the Ends of the Earth fear Him,”) and also in another Place, “Omnes Gentes servient Ei,” that is to say, “All Folk shall serve Him.”

But they cannot speak perfectly, for there is no Man to teach them, but only what they can devise by their natural Wit. For they have no Knowledge of the Son, nor of the Holy Ghost. But they can all speak of the Bible, and especially of Genesis, of the Prophets’ Laws and of the Books of Moses. And they say well, that the Creatures that they worship be no Gods; but they worship them for the Virtue that is in them, that may not be but only by the Grace of God. And of Simulacres and Idols, they say, that there be no Folk, but that they have Simulacres. And that they say, just as we Christian Men have Images, as of our Lady and of other Saints that we worship; not the Images of Wood or of Stone, but the Saints, in whose Names they be made after. For right as their Books of the Scriptures teach the Clerks how and in what Manner they shall believe, right so the Images and the Paintings teach the lay Folk to worship the Saints and to have them in their Mind, in whose Names that the Images be made after. They say also, that the Angels of God speak to them in those Idols, and that they do many great Miracles. And they say Truth, that there is an Angel within them. For there be 2 Manner of Angels, a good and an evil, as the Greeks say, Kakos and Kalos. This Kakos is the Wicked Angel, and Kalos is the good Angel. But the tother, that is within the Idols, is not the good Angel, but the wicked Angel, to deceive them and maintain them in their Error.

There be many other divers Countries and many other Marvels beyond, that I have not seen. Wherefore, of them I cannot speak properly to tell you the Manner of them. And also in the Countries where I have been, be many Diversities of many wonderful Things, more than I make Mention of; for it were too long a Thing to advise you of the Manner. And therefore, as that I have advised you of certain Countries, that I have spoken of before, I beseech your worthy and excellent Nobleness, that it suffice to you at this Time. For if that I advised you of all that is beyond the Sea, another Man, perchance, that would pain him and travail his Body to go into those Borders, to search those Countries, might be blamed by my Words in rehearsing many strange Things; for he might not say anything new, in the which the Hearers might have either Solace, or Sport, or Lust, or Liking in the Hearing. For Men say always, that new Things and new Tidings be pleasant to hear. Wherefore I will hold me still, without any more rehearsing of Diversities or of Marvels that be beyond, to that Intent and End, that whoso will go into these Countries, he shall find enough to speak of, that I have not touched on in any wise.

And ye shall understand, if it like you, that at mine Home-coming, I came to Rome, and shewed my Life to our Holy Father the Pope, and was assoiled of all that lay on my Conscience, on many a diverse grievous Point; as Men must needs that be in Company, dwelling amongst so many diverse Folk of diverse Sects and Beliefs, as I have been.

And amongst all, I shewed him this Treatise, that I had made after Information of Men that knew of Things that I had not seen myself, and also of Marvels and Customs that I had seen myself, as far as God would give me Grace; and besought his Holy Father-hood, that my Book might be examined and corrected by Advice of his wise and discreet Council. And our Holy Father, of his special Grace, remitted my Book to be examined and proved by the Advice of his said Counsel. By the which my Book was proved for true, insomuch, that they shewed me a Book, that my Book was examined by, that comprehended full much more, by an 100th Part, after the which the Mappa Mundi was made. And so my Book, (albeit that many Men list not to give Credence to anything, but to that, that they have seen with their Eye, be the Author or the Person never so true,) is affirmed and proved by our Holy Father, in Manner and Form as I have said.

And I, John Mandevile, Knight, abovesaid, although I be unworthy, that departed from our Countries and passed the Sea, the Year of Grace 1322, that have passed many Lands and many Isles and Countries, and searched many full, strange Places, and have been in many a full good honourable Company, and at many a fair Deed of Arms, albeit that I did none myself, for mine incapable Insufficiency, now am come Home, maugre myself, to rest. For Gouts and Rheumatics, that distress me—those define the End of my Labour; against my Will, God knoweth!

And thus, taking Solace in my wretched Rest, recording the Time passed, I have fulfilled these Things, and put them written in this Book, as it would come into my Mind, the Year of Grace 1356, in the 34th Year that I departed from our Countries.

Wherefore, I pray to all the Readers and Hearers of this Book, if it please them, that they would pray to God for me; and I shall pray for them. And all those that say for me a Pater Noster, with an Ave Maria, that God forgive me my Sins, I make them Partners, and grant them Part of all the good Pilgrimages and of all the good Deeds that I have done, if any be to His Pleasure; and not only of those, but of all that ever I shall do unto my Life’s End. And I beseech Almighty God, from Whom all Goodness and Grace cometh, that He vouchsafe of His excellent Mercy and abundant Grace, to fulfil their Souls with Inspiration of the Holy Ghost, in making Defence against all their ghostly Enemies here on Earth, to their Salvation both of Body and Soul; to the Worship and Thanking of Him, that is Three in One, without Beginning and without Ending; that is without Quality, good, and without Quantity, great; that in all Places is Present, and all Things Containing; the Which that no Goodness may amend, nor any Evil impair; that in perfect Trinity, liveth and reigneth, God, for all Worlds, and for all Times!

Amen! Amen! Amen!