Journal of Antonio Pigafetta

13th of December, 1519

After that we had passed the equinoctial line, towards the south, we lost the star of the tramontana, and we navigated between the south and Garbin, which is the collateral wind [or point] between south and west; and we crossed as far as a country named Verzin, which is in twenty-four degrees and a half of the antarctic sky. This country is from the cape St. Augustine, which is in eight degrees in the antarctic sky. At this place we had refreshments of victuals, like fowls and meat of calves,[20] also a variety of fruits, called battate, pigne (pine-apples), sweet, of singular goodness, and many other things, which I have omitted mentioning, not to be too long. The people of the said place gave, in order to have a knife, or a hook[21] for catching fish, five or six fowls, and for a comb they gave two geese, and for a small mirror, or a pair of scissors, they gave so much fish that ten men could have eaten of it. And for a bell (or hawk’s-bell)[22] they gave a full basket[23] of the fruit named battate; this has the taste of a chestnut, and is of the length of a shuttle.[24] For a king of cards, of that kind which they used to play with in Italy, they gave me five fowls, and thought they had cheated me. We entered into this port the day of Saint Lucy[25] [13th December], before Christmas, on which day we had the sun on the zenith,[26] which is a term of astrology. This zenith is a point in the sky, according to astrologers, and only in imagination, and it answers to over our head in a straight line, as may be seen by the treatise of the sphere,[27] and by Aristotle, in the first book, De Cœlo et Mondo. On the day that we had the sun in the zenith we felt greater heat, as much as when we were on the equinoctial line.

The said country of Verzin is very abundant in all good things, and is larger than France, Spain, and Italy together. It is one of the countries which the King of Portugal has conquered [acquired]. Its inhabitants are not Christians, and adore nothing, but live according to the usage of nature, rather bestially than otherwise. Some of these people live a hundred, or a hundred and twenty, or a hundred and forty years, and more; they go naked, both men and women. Their dwellings are houses that are rather long, and which they call “boy”; they sleep upon cotton nets, which they call, in their language, “amache.” These nets are fastened to large timbers from one end of their house to the other. They make the fire to warm themselves right under their bed. It is to be known that in each of these houses, which they call “boy,” there dwells a family of a hundred persons, who make a great noise. In this place they have boats, which are made of a tree, all in one piece, which they call “canoo.” These are not made with iron instruments, for they have not got any, but with stones, like pebbles, and with these they plane[28] and dig out these boats. Into these thirty or forty men enter, and their oars are made like iron shovels: and those who row these oars are black people, quite naked and shaven, and look like enemies of hell. The men and women of this said place are well made in their bodies. They eat the flesh of their enemies, not as good meat, but because they have adopted this custom. Now this custom arose as follows: an old woman of this place of Verzin had an only son, who was killed by his enemies, and, some days afterwards, the friends of this woman captured one of the said enemies who had put her son to death, and brought him to where she was. Immediately the said old woman, seeing the man who was captured, and recollecting the death of her child, rushed upon him like a mad dog, and bit him on the shoulder. However, this man who had been taken prisoner found means to run away, and told how they had wished to eat him, showing the bite which the said old woman had made in his shoulder. After that those who were caught on one side or other were eaten. Through that arose this custom in this place of eating the enemies of each other. But they do not eat up the whole body of the man whom they take prisoner; they eat him bit by bit, and for fear that he should be spoiled, they cut him up into pieces, which they set to dry in the chimney, and every day they cut a small piece, and eat it with their ordinary victuals in memory of their enemies. I was assured that this custom was true by a pilot, named John Carvagio, who was in our company, and had remained four years in this place; it is also to be observed that the inhabitants of this place, both men and women, are accustomed to paint themselves with fire, all over the body, and also the face. The men are shaven, and wear no beard, because they pluck it out themselves, and for all clothing they wear a circle surrounded with the largest feathers of parrots,[29] and they only cover their posterior parts, which is a cause of laughter and mockery. The people of this place, almost all, excepting[30] women and children, have three holes in the lower lip, and carry, hanging in them, small round stones, about a finger in length. These kind of people, both men and women, are not very black, but rather brown,[31] and they openly show their shame, and have no hair on the whole of their bodies. The king of this country is called Cacich, and there are here an infinite number of parrots, of which they give eight or ten for a looking-glass; there are also some little cat-monkeys[32] having almost the appearance of a lion; they are yellow, and handsome, and agreeable to look at. The people of this place make bread, which is of a round shape, and they take the marrow of certain trees which are there, between the bark and the tree, but it is not at all good, and resembles fresh cheese. There are also some pigs which have their navel on the back,[33] and large birds which have their beak like a spoon, and they have no tongue. For a hatchet or for a knife they used to give us one or two of their daughters as slaves, but their wives they would not give up for anything in the world. According to what they say the women of this place never render duty to their husbands by day, but only at night; they attend to business out of doors, and carry all that they require for their husband’s victuals inside small baskets on their heads; or fastened to their heads. Their husbands go with them, and carry a bow of vergin,[34] or of black palm, with a handful of arrows of cane. They do this because they are very jealous of their wives. These carry their children fastened to their neck, and they are inside a thing made of cotton in the manner of a net. I omit relating many other strange things, not to be too prolix; however, I will not forget to say that mass was said twice on shore, where there were many people of the said country, who remained on their knees, and their hands joined in great reverence, during the mass, so that it was a pleasure and a subject of compassion to see them. In a short time they built a house for us, as they imagined that we should remain a long time with them, and, at our departure thence, they gave us a large quantity of verzin. It is a colour which proceeds from the trees which are in this country, and they are in such quantity that the country is called from it Verzin.

It is to be known that it happened that it had not rained for two months before we came there, and the day that we arrived it began to rain, on which account the people of the said place said that we came from heaven, and had brought the rain with us, which was great simplicity, and these people were easily converted to the Christian faith. Besides the above-mentioned things which were rather simple, the people of this country showed us another, very simple; for they imagined that the small ships’ boats were the children of the ships, and that the said ships brought them forth when the boats were hoisted out to send the men hither and thither; and when the boats were alongside the ship they thought that the ships were giving them suck.

A beautiful young girl came one day inside the ship of our captain, where I was, and did not come except to seek for her luck: however, she directed her looks to the cabin of the master, and saw a nail of a finger’s length, *and went and took it as something valuable and new, and hid it in her hair, for otherwise she would not have been able to conceal[35]it, because she was naked,* and, bending forwards, she went away; and the captain and I saw this mystery.[36]

Some Words of this People of Verzin.

Milan Edition.
Millet – Au mil – Maize.
Flour – Farine – Huy.
A hook – Ung haim – Pinda.
A knife – Ung coutteau – Taesse – Tarse.
A comb – Ung peigne – Chignap – Chipag.
A fork – Une forcette – Pirarne.
A bell – Une sonnette – Itemnaraca – Hanmaraca.
Good, more than good – Bon, plus que bon turn maraghatorn.