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Strabo says, this strange custom existed in Cantabria (1. iii. p. 174. ed. 1571.), so that its Gascon extraction has been direct. Diodorus Siculus is the authority for its existence in Corsica. (Book iii. ch. 1. English translation, 1814. vol. i. p. 305.) Apollonius Rhodius describes it among the Tibareni (1. ii. 1012.): ως ιστορεί Νυμφόδωρος έν τισιν νόμοις, says the scholiast.
Voicy la brutalité de nos sauvuges dans leurs réjouissance pour l'acroissement de leur famille. C'est qu'au même tems que la femme est delivrée le mary se met au lit, pour s'y plaindre et y faire l'accouchée ; coutume, qui bien que sauvage et ridicule se trouve neantmoins à ce que l'on dit, parmy les paysans d'une certaine province de France ; et ils appellent cela faire la couvade. Mais ce qui est de fâcheuse pour le pauvre Caraibe qui s'est mis au lit au lieu de l'accouchée, c'est qu'on luy fait faire diete dix ou douze jours de suite, ne luy donnant rien par jour qu'un morceau de cassave, et un peu d'eau dans laquelle on a aussi fait boullir un peu de ce pain de racine. Après il mange un peu plus : mais il n'entame la cassave qu luy est presentée que par le milieu durant quelques quarante jours, en laissant les bords entiers qu'il pend à sa case, pour servir à un festin qu'il fait ordinairement en suite à tous ses amis. Et même il s'abstient après cela, quelquefois dix mois ou un an entier de plusieurs viandes, comme de lamantin, de tortuë, de pourceau, de poules, de poisson, et de choses délicates, craignant par une pitoyable folie que cela ne nuise à l'enfant. Mais ils ne font ce grand jusne qu'à la naissance de leur premier enfant.
Rochefort. Hist. Morale des Iles Antilles, c. 23.
Marco Polo, (L. ii. c. 41.) the other authority to which Lafitau refers, speaks of the custom as existing in the great Khan's province of Cardandan. Hanno un' usanza che subito ch' una donna ha partorito, si leva del letto, e lavato il fanciullo e ravolto, ne' panni, il marito si mette a giacere in letto in sua vece, e tiene il figliuolo appresso di se, havendo la cura di quello per quaranta giorni, che non si parte mai. Et gli amici e parenti vanno a visitarlo per rullegrarlo e consolarlo; e le donne che sono da parto fanno quel che bisogna per casa, portando da mangiare
e bere al marito, ch' e nel letto, e dando il latte al fanciullo, che gli è appresso Ramusio, t. ii. p. 36. ed. 1583.
Yet this custom, preposterous as it is, is not more strange than an opinion which was once so prevalent in this country that Primerose made it the subject of a chapter in his work de Vulgi Erroribus in Medicinâ, and thought it necessary to prove, by physical reasons, maritum loco uxoris gravida non ægrotare, for such is the title of one of his chapters. He says, Inter errores quamplurimos maximè ridendus hic esse videtur, quod vir credatur ægrotare, iisque affici symptomatis, quibus ipsa mulier prægnans solet, illudque experientiâ confirmatum plurimi esse volunt. Habebam ægrum febre laborentem cum urinâ valde accensâ et turbidâ, qui ægrotationis suæ nullam causam agnoscebat quam uxoris suæ graviditatem. Nullibi terrarum quam in Anglia id observatum memini me audivisse, aut legisse unquam.
Nec si quis maritus cum uxor gravida est, ægrotat ab uxore infectus fuit, sed potest ex peculiari proprii corporis vitio id pati. Sicut dum hæc scribo, pluit ; non est tamen pluvia aut causa scriptionis, aut scriptura pluvia. Res nova non est, viros et mulieres etiam simul degrotare. At mirum est hactenusque ignotum, graviditutem affectum esse contagiosum, et non alias mulieres sed viros, quos natura immunes ab hoc labore fecit, solos infici. Præterea observatum est non omnibus mulieribus ejusmodi symptomata, aut saltem non omnia singulis contingere ; et tamen accidit sæpe ut cum mulier bene valet, ægrotet maritus, etiam absens per aliquot milliaria. Sed quoniam ex solâ relatione absurditas hujus erroris patet, plura non addam. Jupiter Bacchum in femore. Palladem in cerebro gestavit. Sed hoc illi esto proprium. — Lib. ii. c. 13.
This notion, however, is probably not yet extinct, for I know that it existed in full force some thirty years ago, and that not in the lowest rank of life.
Till hardened mothers in the grave could lay
Canto I. st. 38.
This dreadful practice is carried to such an extent in the
heart of South America that whole tribes have become extinct in consequence of it, and of another practice hardly less nefarious.
Those bloody African savages, the Giagas, reared no children whatsoever ; “ for as soon,” says Battell,“ as the woman is delivered of her child it is presently buried quick ; so that there is not one child brought up in all this generation. But when they take any town they keep the boys and girls of thirteen or fourteen years of age as their own children, but the men and women they kill and eat. These little boys they train up in the wars, and hang a collar about their necks for a disgrace, which is never taken off till he proveth himself a man, and brings his enemy's head to the general ; and then it is taken off, and he is a free man, and is called ' gonso' or 6 soldier.' This maketh them all desperate and forward to be free, and counted men, and so they do increase.” A generation without generation, says Purchas, p. 977.
Among the causes for which the Knisteneaux women procure abortion, Mackenzie (p. 98.) assigns that of hatred for the father. No other traveller has ever suspected the existence of this motive. They sometimes kill their female children to save them from the miseries which they themselves have suffered.
The practice among the Panches of Bogota was, that if the first-born proved a girl it was destroyed, and every girl in succession till the mother bore a boy, after which girls were allowed to live; but if the first-born were a boy all the children then were reared. — Piedrahita, p. 11.
Perhaps the most flagitious motive for which this crime has ever become a practice, is that which the Guana women assign for it; they destroy the greater number of their female infants in order to keep up the value of the sex. (Azara, t. ii. 85100. See Hist. of Brazil, vol. ii. 379.) A knowledge of the evils which polygamy brings upon some of their neighbours may have led to this mode of preventing it.
Father Gumilla one day bitterly reproved a Betoya woman (whom he describes as having more capacity than any other of
the Indians in those parts) for killing her new-born daughter. She listened to him without lifting her eyes from the ground, and when he had done, and thought that she was convinced of her guilt and heartily repented of it, she said, “ Father, if you will not be angry, I will tell you what is in my heart." He promised that he would not, and bade her speak freely. This she said to me, he says, as follows, literally translated from the Betoya tongue. “ Would to God, Father, would to God, my mother when she brought me forth had loved me so well and pitied me so much as to have saved me from all those troubles which I have endured till this day, and am to endure till death! If my mother had buried me as soon as I was born, I should have died, but should not have felt death, and should have been spared from that death which must come, and should have escaped so many things bitterer than death: who knows how many more such I must endure before I die! Consider well, Father, the hardships that a poor Indian woman endures among these Indians ! They go with us to the plantation, but they have a bow and arrow in their hands, nothing more; we go with a basket full of things on the back, one child at the breast, another upon the basket. Their business is to shoot a bird or a fish, ours is to dig and work in the field ; at evening they go home without any burthen; we, besides our children, have to carry roots for their food, and maize to make their drink. They, when they reach the house, go to converse with their friends, we have to seek wood, fetch water, and prepare their supper. Having supped they go to sleep; but we almost all the night are pounding maize to make their chica. And what is the end of this our watching and labour? They drink the chica, they get drunk, and being out of their senses, beat us with sticks, take us by the hair, drag us about and trample
Would to God, Father, that my mother had buried me when she brought me forth ! You know that I complain with cause, for all that I have said you witness every day. But our greatest pain you do not know, because you never can suffer it. You do not know, Father, the death it is for the poor Indian woman, when having served her husband as a
slave, sweating in the field, and in the house without sleep, at the end of twenty years she sees him take a girl for another wife. Her he loves, and though she ill uses our children, we cannot interfere, for he neither loves us nor cares for us now. A girl is to command over us, and treat us as her servants, and if we speak, they silence us with sticks. Can any Indian woman do better for the daughter which she brings forth than to save it from all these troubles, and deliver it from this slavery, worse than death? I say again, Father, would to God my mother had made me feel her kindness by burying me as soon as I was born ! Then would not this heart have had now so much to feel, nor these eyes so much to weep for."
Here, says Gumilla, tears put an end to her speech : and the worst is, that all which she said, and all she would have said, if grief had allowed her to proceed, is true. - Orinoco Ilustrado, t. ii. p. 65. ed. 1791.
From the dove They named the child Yeryti. — Canto I. st. 42. This is the Guarani name for the species described by Azara, t. iv. p. 130. No. cccxx.
power had placed them here. Canto II. st. 27. Some of the Orinoco tribes believe that their first forefathers grew upon trees. - Gumilla, t. i. c. 6.
The Othomacas, one of the rudest of the Orinoco tribes, suppose
themselves descended from a pile of stones upon the top of a rock called Barraguan, and that they all return to stone as they came from it; so that this mass of rock is composed of their forefathers. Therefore, though they bury their dead, within the year they take off their heads and carry them to the holes in the rock. - Gumilla, t. i. c. 6.
These are the odd people who always for a first marriage give a girl to an old man, and a youth to an old woman. Polygamy is not in use among them; and they say, that if the young people came together there could be no good household management.
Gumilla, t. i. c. 12.