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with that of the ancient Greeks and Romans, that it is impossible to suppress all suspicion that the former have not been indebted to the latter for these ideas.
There are other tribes near the Amazon that pay supreme honors to the moon. For all the productions of the earth they consider themselves dependent on the virtues of this luminary. The winds, and rain, and sunshine were at her command; the woes of their allotment and the pleasures of life were increased or diminished at her pleasure. Hence her eclipses were witnessed with the most dreadful agitation that could convulse an affrighted community. The darkness was considered a portentous frown, in which her anger toward them had clothed her. No sooner did the eclipse commence than they flew with the utmost haste and consternation to their appointed ceremonies to appease this wrath. To avert the punishment with which they supposed themselves threatened for their indolence and ingratitude, the men seized their arms, wielded and clenched them with all their vigor, to convince the moon that they could not be taxed with effeminacy, or be punished without injustice: then they felled trees with the greatest possible exertion, to give evidence to that angry deity that their indolence had not merited her frowns. The women ran out of their huts, throwing corn in the air, uttering the most mournful cries, and loudly promising to amend their manners. But no sooner does the eclipse cease than the scene instantly changes. In a spirit of the greatest hilarity they congratulate themselves on having deceived the moon by groundless pretences and false promises, and close the rites of the occasion by a savage dance, and beastly drunkenness.
There are other tribes among the nations of the Chacos who believe the social relations after death to be, in all important respects, similar to those of the present life. Hence when a cacique dies his menials are put to death and buried with him, that they may resume their servile offices to him in his superior allotment in another life. The favorite horse is also killed, and buried near him, that he may afford service and amusement to his master in another state.
Several nations, in the neighborhood of Paraguay, believing the heavenly bodies to be animate with life, and guided by their own intelligence, witness their eclipses with the utmost consternation. They believed that these bright intelligences died every time they were eclipsed, and that the risk was very great of their ever again being restored to life; hence, on such occasions, they most agonizingly sympathized with their expiring deities.
In the Chaco there are numerous divisions of a large tribe which believe in the existence of no supernatural being, excepting that of an evil spirit, to whom they give a name answering to that by which we distinguish the prince of fallen angels. Once every year they numerously assemble for the purpose of rendering some honor to that gloomy spirit. Their preparations for this Satanic feast consist in procuring some provisions, with a large amount of intoxicating liquor, fitting up a large inclosure in the wilderness, filling the whole area with huts, excepting a central space, in the midst of which one of more elegance is erected for the object of their honor; then, that this terrible spirit might visibly act his part among them, they select one of their number, whiten him with chalk, attach to him numerous
feathers, and array him in some other fantastic insignias, and then determine him to be the spirit of darkness, the only supernatural agent in the universe! And, what is passing strange, they seem firmly to believe in the supernatural and Satanic character of this whitewashed Indian ! Now begins to open a scene of reveling and debauchery, which is neither suspended nor terminated till several weeks have elapsed. But the series of acts committed here are too abominable to be portrayed to the public eye. For ever let them remain undescribed !
Many of the tribes in the great valley of the Amazon and its vicinity are superstitious to an extent which almost staggers belief. Several among them pay supreme homage to the meanest reptiles. To the toad they ascribe the power of producing all the rain that descends from the clouds, and render to it an additional act of homage for every fertilizing shower; and when the earth is parched by a long drought they inflict the severest blows on these croaking masters of the watery element! And, among other absurdities which appear too glaring to find any place in the human understanding, they believe that at death the soul enters the invisible world by a subterraneous passage. One of these fearful avenues they find in a spacious cave, located near one of the loftiest and most lovely of the valleys of Cumana. This cavern, whose entrance is nearly eighty feet in width, and not less than seventy in height, continues of the same dimensions, forming a perfect arch, for almost five hundred feet. As it continues in the same direction nearly that whole distance, no artificial light is needed to explore it; but beyond this point the light of day fades into dimness; and farther on, where the altitude of the grotto contracts to forty feet, midnight darkness reigns. It is this section of the cave which the natives imagine forms the gloomy prison of ghosts. The rocky sides are lined with the nests of nocturnal birds, which have made it their residence for ages, and have multiplied into thousands. In this dark recess the piercing screams of these birds become so terrific that no Indian can be prevailed upon to enter it, as they are believed to be the mournful cries of departed spirits bewailing their dismal fate; for they maintain, that only the souls of those whose lives have been irreproachable are permitted to pass immediately through this ghostly retreat to the viewless regions of the departed. To all others this becomes a prison to detain them, where they are compelled to remain for a longer or shorter period, proportioned to the heinousness of their past offences: here they wildly scream, but there is no pitying ear on which their wailings fall. The deep horrors of their midnight abode, and the certain knowledge that they are long to be detained in it, extort from them cries too piercing to be heard by human ears. Immediately after the death of their parent or friend, the Indians, in the vicinity of this cave, repair in the greatest haste to the mouth of it, and listen with breathless anxiety to the various cries of its inmates to ascertain whether the lamentation of their departed friend can be heard. If they fail to distinguish his voice among the mourning spirits of the cave, they return frantic with joy at the event, and hasten to celebrate it by inebriation and dancing. But, if they imagine that among the voices of wo that of their friend is heard, they respond in piteous tones to the wailing ghost, and fly to
the intoxicating bowl to drown their sorrows. The scene is finally closed by a delirious dance around a Satanic altar, attended by doleful songs, and terminated by beastly drunkenness !
This tormenting dream of paganism ceases not up to the present moment to haunt the unsubdued tribes of the Oronoco, and appears like a solemn reality to thousands gathered into the Catholic missions. O what a Christianity is this, which fails to disenthrall its subjects from the most degrading terrors of heathenism! What light but that of the BIBLE, that which shines from the eternal Star of celestial brightness, can dissipate this horrible gloom, which generates fears so groundless, and peoples the securest retreats of the feathered tribes with the agonizing ghosts of departed men!
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
BY R. M'MURDY, A. M., TEACHER AT RIO DE JANEIRO.
WHEN it was determined that I should come to this country, I endeavored, but in vain, to obtain information respecting it; and in many places I was interrogated by my friends on the same point, but could afford no satisfaction. To supply what has certainly become a demand, I commence these letters.
Since the commencement of this mission, the whole Christian world, and particularly the Methodist Episcopal Church, have had their eyes hopefully cast on the southern part of this continent, which has for so long a time been shut out from the operations of extended benevolence. As yet, very little is known respecting this ample field. The amount of our information, which has been conferred by mere transient and superficial travelers, is confined principally to Rio Janeiro, Respecting the history of Brazil, the moral character of its inhabitants, and its relative claims upon our exertions and prayers, we are quite ignorant. The letters of our passing travelers have been very much complained of; and if they have not given false impressions to the minds of the American public, they have certainly been unsatisfactory, indefinite, and very meager. This is not of necessity, but may have arisen from a disinclination to diligence in research, or from an improper application. Guided, as we believe, by a sincere desire of spreading the wants, and woes, and prospects of this empire before our Christian friends, we enter upon this work, professing to know nothing in it or among men save the glory of Christ, and the honor of his name.
Brazil, it is true, does not afford in its history the same glittering achievements as are to be found in that of the mother country, nor can she speak of a Camoens, and the age of the inquisition, the ax, and the screw of torture. There are no crooked tangles of policy to unravel, but we have rather the history of a country discovered without design, and made what it is by the operations of nature itself. The inhabitants of the forest, as the white man found them, untutored and uninstructed, save by nature-the wonderful labors, fatigues, and policy of the Jesuits in regard to them, are subjects which will claim a considerable share of our attention. The VOL. X.-April, 1839. 24
Brazilian people, in their present state, and as to what they are speedily destined to become, with the prospect breaking upon us of the successful introduction of Christianity among them, will add to what otherwise might only interest the scholar and lover of history, that which cannot fail to draw in the most lively interest of the Christian.
Two fifths of this vast peninsula bears the name of Brazil; and it is larger in extent, more fertile in soil, and more abundant in natural resources, than even the United States itself. Stretching from six degrees north latitude to thirty-seven and a half degrees south latitude, in length two thousand and three hundred miles, and in breadth two thousand miles, it contains a population of six millions of inhabitants, governed by the same laws, and subject to one power. Its eastern coast, lined with granite rocks, is washed by the Atlantic wave; and to the passing breeze upon the west nods the long grass of the vast pampas of Peru, Bolivia, and the United Provinces. The hundred-mouthed Amazon irrigates and fertilizes the north, and the waters of St. Francisco and Parana the south. The rivers roll over beds of gold, and the mountains sparkle in the playing sunbeam, as the glittering topaz and diamonds are urged down their broken way. In short, this is a world of itself, endowed with almost every variety of soil and climate. Adapted for the grazing herd, the rich cane, and the coffee and cotton, and many other plants. The mandiocea, in its several stages, gives abundance of vegetables, and fully answers to our wheat, being the staff of life to the working classes of the Brazilian population. But concerning these things more again, and in detail.
DISCOVERY OF BRAZIL.
Vincente Yanez Pinzon sailed from Palos, in December, 1499, and first discovered Brazil, January 26, 1500, in eight and a half degrees south latitude, at what he called Cape Consolation, but which is now called Cape St. Augustine's; but before he reached Europe it had been taken possession of by the Portuguese, being within their line of demarcation. As soon as Vasco de Gama had returned from the discovery of India, King Emanuel, without any knowledge of Pinzon's discovery, fitted out a far more powerful expedition, appointing as commander of it Pedro Alvarez Calral. Sunday, the 8th of March, 1500, was fixed upon for the day of their departure. On that morning, mass having been performed, with the commander and king within the curtain, the bishop of Ceuta preached a sermon, which consisted principally in the praise of Calral for having accepted so weighty a charge. Having concluded, he took the banner from the altar, delivered it to the king, and the king to Calral, immediately afterward placing upon his head a barrete de feitio, which had received the benediction of the pope. The banner was then raised, and they went in solemn procession, with crosses and relics, to the shore. The Tagus was covered with boats; and the officers having kissed the hand of the king, who had accompanied them to the water's edge, and the blessing of the king being imparted, and Heaven's favor being invoked, the whole fleet saluted them with a general discharge, and sailed gallantly forth on the errand of discovery.
Having made the Cape de Verd Isles to take in water, they stood to the westward, in order to avoid the calms which Diaz and Gama had met with, thinking thus to double the Cape of Good Hope the more easily. Storm arose after storm, the wind increased in strength, and bad weather succeeding bad weather, they were driven still farther west, and on the 24th of April, 1500, fell in with land. The universal belief prevailed that no land existed to the west of Africa; and the pilot affirming that it must be a large island, they accordingly coasted along a whole day, expecting to find it so. They discovered a good roadstead in lat. sixteen deg. thirty min. south, where they anchored, and named it Porto Leguro,* (secure harbor.) It may be safely concluded, that the first land seen was that below the mouth of the river Ilheos, in about fifteen degrees south latitude.
The discovery of Brazil was an accident—and if Columbus had not eight years before secured the glory of the discovery of the new world for human intellect, the elements would have forced it upon anxious Europe. The riches of this hemisphere were now no longer to be concealed from the enterprise of the other, and genius and the elements met in fittest harmony, and made that day when Calral first saw these golden climes for ever fresh in memory's song.
At Porto Leguro, now called Calralia, boats were sent ashore, and returned with two natives, whom they had caught fishing. Calral endeavored to obtain information from them; but, not succeeding, at last hit upon the expedient of dressing them very finely, providing them with looking-glasses, and sending them on shore. This answered very well, and he thus obtained maize and pulse for baubles, which they had brought in abundance.
An account of the general appearance of the savages might be expected in this place; but we here express our intention of reserving every thing connected with them, so far as possible, to several chapters devoted to the Indians exclusively.
On Easter Sunday Calral landed, erected on the beach the first altar in South America, and Henrique Coimbra performed mass. The natives not only came to the ceremony, but knelt with the Portuguese, and imitated the congregation in every act of devotion. Such was the joy of the Indians in that such visitors had come to this country, that they shot their arrows into the air, leaped, shouted, and sounded their horns; and, when the Portuguese returned to their boats, followed them into the water, and manifested by every possible way their high delight.
Calral erected a stone cross† at Porto Leguro, and took possession for the crown of Portugal, naming it Santa Cruz, or Land of the Holy Cross. Brazil was known to Camoens only under the name of the Holy Cross :
"Co o pão vermelho nota,
Da Sancta Cruz o nome che poreis." Calral, having left two criminals on shore, proceeded on his way to India, according to his instructions.
* Now called Calralia. The name of Porto Leguro was erroneously transferred to a place about four leagues farther south.
This cross, or its representative, is still shown, Lindley says, at Porto Leguro, (Calralia.)