Royal agricultural and commercial society of Briti.

Timehri: the journal of the Royal agricultural and commercial society of British Guiana online

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made long before hand, and in great quantity. They are
made out of the hollow joint which grows on top of a certain
reed about 4 or 5 feet long, polished, without knots, and
light as a feather. At the large end of this, they adjust,
instead of iron, a piece of green wood, £ foot long, with
several notches on it, so as to prevent it being drawn out
easily.

The ends of these are poisoned with the juice of a tree
called Manceniller, and the fruit Mancanille, a name
given by the Spaniards, because this fruit resembles
apples. Many Europeans were poisoned when the West
Indies were first discovered, by eating indiscreetly of these
fruits. An incision is made in the bark. The juice
which comes out is as white as milk, anjj much
more deadly than snake poison for their arrows. They
sometimes use certain long fish-bones, taken from the
tail of the ray. These bones are poisonous, and



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History of the Caribs. 245

are as dangerous as the others. They nerer under-
take a journey without putting on the best Cacon-
nus, and combing and painting themselves. When
they arrive at a house, the master bangs the ham-
mocks for the headmen, the women bring drink and
food, and as soon as it is put in front of the captain of
the boat, the pullers carry everything away, so that very
often when the host has nothing more to offer, and is
pressed by hunger, he is obliged to abandon his dignity
and eat with the others. When quite satisfied they say the
Mabony, Good bye to everybody. When at sea, they blow
a large conch shell, to let the neighbours know that they
are friends, and that they are journeying. Even a single
Carib arriving at a hut, is well received. If the cassava
that is offered to him is folded on the matouton it is a
sign that be must leave what he does not eat ; if on the
contrary, the cassava is spread, he can take it
away ; and, before leaving, a woman will paint him with
roucouj and also comb his hair. When they have to cross
over sea to go to another island like St. Alousi, or St.
Vincent, they eat no crabs or lizards, because these ani-
mals live in holes ; consequently this would prevent them
getting to another land. No pure water is drunk, and
they are very careful not to spill any in the canoe or in
the sea ; it would cause the sea to swell, and make rain and
bad weather come. They drink a mess composed of ground
mauky. The thick part is eaten separately and looked
upon as a delicacy. When approaching land, this must not
be named pr pointed at, but it can be noticed by shouting
Lyca, It is there, because they might never be able to
land. They cannot pass certain places at sea without
throwing over food. It is for some Caribs who have



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246 TlMBHRI.

perished there, and now have their huts at the bottom of
the sea. They could otherwise not pass without the
boat capsizing. When a storm cloud is seen, they all
blow in the air and drive it away with their hands to
turn the rain in another direction. To make the sea calm
and allay a storm, they chew cassava, then spit it in the
air and sea, to appease the Chemeen (spirit) who is perhaps
angry because he is hungry. If they have an unfavourable
wind, an old man out of the crowd takes an arrow and
hits the hydrant of the canoe, which is supposed to let the
canoe go as straight as an arrow, if a gust of wind makes
them lose # sight of land, they consult the devil. When
they require fire they make it with two pieces of dry
wood, applying one to the other and turning it in their
hand very quickly.

The Caribs are not badly made and proportioned, of
middle height, with broad shoulders and hips, nearly all
in good condition and robust. Very few of them are
deformed. Most of them have round and full faces, and
the mouth slightly split, perfeftly white and closed teeth
and naturally tawny colour. This colour extends to the
eyes which are small and sharp, but their heads and noses
are artificially flattened, the mother compressing them at
birth and during the time they are suckled, thinking it
beautiful. They have large and hard feet, because
they walk bare-footed ; very blaqk and long hair
which is combed and oiled often and cut in front,
the rest of the hair is tied behind with cotton bands. They
wear no beard, but pull it out with the point of a knife ;
and before they had razors they used a very sharp kind
of grass.

They alter their natural colour by rubbing their skins



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History of the Caribs. 247

with a red paint diluted with oil, called roucou ; the old
men only apply their fingers, spotting their whole body
from head to foot, the young men besmear their whole
faces and paint Spanish moustaches. One eye is painted
red, and the other black, and with this they regard them-
selves finer and braver ; others, instead of roucou, blacken
themselves with Genipa.* The ears and the part between
the nostrils and the under lip are pierced. The woman
a fortnight after delivery, calls in an expert to perform
this ceremony on the child. As soon as the hole is
pierced, with a palm pin, a cotton thread is passed through
it, and if it is a girl she names it after a tree, an island,
a fish, bird or anything. They don't take the father's
name, each has his personal name. In their ears they
wear small caracolis. Caracolis are small pieces of
metal in the shape of crescents, thin as paper, and glitter-
ing like polished copper or gold, which do not rust or
turn colour. t They get them from the Spaniards, and
sometimes they pay a negro for one of these caracolis,
and prefer it to any ornament. They wear as a shoulder
belt a large collection of all sorts of animal's teeth and
tiger claws. They wear their bracelets above the elbow
and garters at the ankles. Sometimes they have on the
back dried wings of a bird or a dozen claws attached to a
piece of tiger skin. Some of the old men wear round
their neck small bones of Arawaks (their enemies whom
they eat) and make flutes out of these. The head dress
of the women is like that of the men ; when they put no
feathers they rub the hair with oil, and tie it with cotton,

* This is the " lana" of Guiana — Genipa americana.

t On these crescents of gold, see a note in my " Indians of Guiana. ,f



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2*8 TlMEHRl.

to the end of which they attach small shells. They also
wear necklaces made out of large crystals and green
stones,* which come from the Mainland, towards the
Amazon River, and have a healing virtue; it is their
precious ornament and is only worn at feasts. They also
rducou and blacken their body and paint on their fore-
head a kind of veil which makes them look like a widow
with crape on. They delight in painting their littlfe
children, using brushes made of their hair. The women
bring forth children with little pain, and, if they feel any
difficulty they use the root of a plant which relieves them.
They often deliver near the fire, and the child is bathed
at once ; but a funny precaution is, that if it is born at
night, the men who are sleeping in the house go and bathe
so that the child may not catch cold. The next day the
mother attends to her household duties as if nothing had
happened ; she fasts for a couple of days, eating only
dried cassava, drinking warm water, and abstaining from
eating female crabs, which would give the child stomach- ,
ache. If it is a first born and a male, the husband,, as
soon as the woman is delivered, goes to bed, complains
and acts as though he had been delivered, for this he goes
to a different house and undergoes a fast of three months.
The first ten days, he only takes a little dry cassava and
some water ; afterwards, he begins to drink a little
ouicou but abstains from everything else ; he eats only
the middle of the cassava and keeps the rest for the feast
at the end of the fast. He goes out only at night, sees
nobody for fear of meeting a drunken body or one who
has eaten fish ; this might tempt him and cause him to
break his fast, the mother would become ill and the child
* These are the well-known " Amazon stones."



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History of the Caribs. 249

not be brave. When the time has expired the oldest in
the house choose two Caribs to scrape this pretty fast,
and, on the appointed day he is brought to a public place,
looking like a skeleton, and standing upright on two large
flat cakes of cassavas. The sponsors then begin to
scratch and cut his skin with very sharp agouti teeth.
They first begin on the sides, then the shoulders, from
the arm to the elbow, from elbow to wrist, and from the
thighs to the ankles. He suffers this torment without
saying a word, and not without trembling, because, after
such a long fast, natural heat is absent, and this effusion
of blood chills him ; they draw so much blood that from
an imaginary invalid they turn him into a real one. He is
then painted and rubbed with roucou leaves, pepper seeds
and tobacco juice, and placed on a red painted seat, the
women bring him food, which the old men put in his
mouth, as they would do to a child, the cassava and the
fish being in small pieces ; he eats the cassava, but ejefts
the fish after chewing it. He would become sick if he
began to eat too well at once ; he is made to drink by
being held by the neck ; he must eat the two cakes of
cassava on which he has stood ; and with the blood which
fell on it, the child's face is rubbed. This will make it
generous and brave according to the patience shown by
the father. After this ceremony he is put to bed for a
couple of days, but it does not end there. For six months,
not only with the first-born, but whenever their women
get a child, they must abstain from eating certain animals,
from fear that they may participate in their natural faults.
If a father ate turtle, the child would be heavy and have
no brains ; if he ate a parrot, the child would have a
parrot nose ; if a crab, the consequence would be long

II



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*3<> TitoEHfti.



tegs. The long fast is gone through only for the first*
btfffi ; for the others there is only a dieting of four or five
days. The women take great care of their children, and
convey them everywhere in their arms, or in little ham-
mocks slung round the neck. As soon as the children
are sufficiently strengthened by the mother's milk, they
are fed on potatoes, plantains, or other fruits. They are
apt to eat earth, which is due I believe to their melan-
cholic temperament. I have seen grown up people eat
chalk with as much satisfaction as sugar. When the
children are 4 to 5 years old, the boys follow the father,
and the girls the mother. They are brought up like
brutes. No politeness whatever is taught to them ; not
even to say good-day, good-night, or to thank. When
grown up, their accomplishments consist in knowing how
to shoot with bow and arrow, to swim, to fish, to make
baskets and the girls cotton hammocks. If a man gets
wounded or ill, he will ask his brother, sister, or some
relation, to abstain from eating such or such a thing.
This would make their pain worse even if they wore 50
miles off. When the girl becomes marriageable, she is
made to fast in her hammock for ten days, on dry eassava
and a little onicou. If the poor girl, pressed by hunger,
should, during the night, take a piece of cassava, she is
sure to be a sluggard and not likely to work. When one
is to be made a captain, a bird called onachi is caught ;
the father assembles the oldest of the tribe ; makes his
son stand on a little seat, and, after exhorting him
to vengeance on his enemies, he takes the bird by its legs,
and breaks and smashes the head. He must show no
sign of grief, otherwise he will pass for a coward. The
heart of the bird is torn out, and he is made to eat it so



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History op the Caribs. 2$%

that be may have the courage to eat those of his enemies j
he is then scraped and rubbed with the bird soaked in
pepper water. He is then made to fast for a couple of
days in his hammock, and his food is taken to him, not by
a woman, but by a man, or he would be less gene-
rous. Some cannot stand the whole initiating, No great
ceremony is observed for marriage. Sometimes the men
make their own choice and demand, but, generally, the
girls are offered to them by the father or mother. Some,
without saying a word, go and lie down near the girl that
pleases them best, and the mother acquaints the daughter
that it is time to get married, though, often, she is only
12 years of age. The next morning, she combs her
master's hair before the others, and brings him cassava.
Through this public aft their wedding is declared. If a
Carib asks a widow, he only gives her three days to reply;
An old man sometimes takes a young girl ; and an old
woman without teeth a young man. They have a great
liking for these old witches. There are mothers who turn
their children into prostitutes when they begin to mature
and are not taken to wife. Some marry their own
daughters, some, a mother and a daughter, others two
sisters. Some have six or seven wives in different
places, and, were it not that they had to feed them, they
would take more. When a woman is enciente, a Carib
may ask the father or mother for the child. In jcase it is
a girl, and the mother promised it to him, he wiU mark it
with a red cross on the stomach, (like a beast at the
market). When the girl is seven or eight years jold,
he begins to make her sleep with him, though he
has other wives. This child may be a very
near relation of his. The woman continues to jive

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252 TlMEHRI.



in her father's house after the wedding, and she
enjoys more privileges than the husband, because she can
speak to everybody, but he cannot speak to the wife's
relations without great caution, or when he finds them in
liquor. They always shun such meeting. They have few
remedies in cases of illness. They simply use plain herbs
for wounds, and even if the sick person were on the eve
of dying, he would only be fed on food to which he was
accustomed when in good health.

When a Carib dies the women wash him, comb and
rub roucou on him ; place him in a hammock and paint
his lips and cheeks with vermillion : afterwards he is
wrapped up in the hammock and buried. The hole is
dug in the hut, he is placed in a sitting attitude, resting
on his heels or with the arms across the chest, with two
weights on the eyes, that he may not see his parents and
not make them ill. They make fire round the tomb to
purify the air and that the deceased may not catch cold.
All his goods are buried, a man covers him with a board,
and the women throw earth on it. If the deceased owned
a negro, the latter is killed in order to serve his master
in the other world. His dog is also buried to guard him
and watch those that caused him to die. They then
begin their screams. The whole hut resounds with tears
and groans ; they are seen dancing, crying, and singing
together, but in a doleful voice. They say only two or
three words at a time, such as : Why are you dead ?
Were you tired^pf life ? Did you not have cassava
enough ? repeating the same thing.

But, if he has been killed, they will say something
against the murderer, and praise the defunft. If he has
relations in other huts they all meet Jto cry, and the




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History of the Caribs. 253

widow is present and gives Caconnis to those who cried
the best, and as a last sign of their mourning, they cut
their hair.

I have been told that, formerly, they burnt the bodies
of their captains, and mixed the ashes in their drink ;
but, this custom is abandoned now, because there were
no braves more. Some Frenchmen wanted to make me
believe that they (the Caribs) killed their fathers when
they were too old, as being useless in this world ; and,
that it was rendering them a great service to deliver
them from their troubles in this world ; but, the Caribs
have assured me that this is not true : in fact they love
this life too much. The dances, which are a sign of joy
with these people, are also a sign of mourning. They
dance differently at funerals, or at meetings as of moon,
sun, eclipse, or when there is an earthquake. They
dance four days and four nights in the moonlight. They
say that the earth, in trembling, advises them to dance in
order to feel well. They wear their finest dresses, orna-
ments, rings, necklaces, garters, etc. They have different
sorts of dances and imitate animals. They dance stand-
ing in rows: men on each side, and going through a
thousand monkey antics. Sometimes they lie down
with the finger in the mouth, and at each refrain they get
up and scream. The women are a little more modest
they look at the movements of their feet and hold their
breasts. To uind up, they all intermix.

Though there is some difference between the language
of the men and the women they of course understand one
another. The old men when they are planning a war,
use a speech which the young ones do not understand.
Their language is very poor, they cannot even express



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254 TlMEHftl.

the operations of the spirit, and if beasts could speak, I
would give them in preference the Carib language.
They have no word to express religious things or justice ;
and of virtues and sciences they have no knowledge.
They can only name three or four countries. The Rever-
end Father SlMON of the Society of JESUS, who has
worked with great zeal to convert them, compiled a
dictionary with a grammar, or simple catechism ; and
some familiar discourses on the divine mysteries of oar
belief. I could extend this pamphlet, but enough has
already been said to make known the Caribs. There i$
only a little nation left of them. Moreover, they destroy
themselves daily ; and the English' endeavour to destroy
them utterly. God, I believe, permits the whole of Europe
to seize upon the county of these people, because they
are so great a disgrace to their Creator, whom they will
not recognise. Notwithstanding all that has been told
them during the last twenty years, they laugh at it ; and
the only hope of making them Christians, would be first
to civilise them and make them men. Providence which
does nothing without a motive will at her own time pro-
vide for this.




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Agricultural Societies in British Guiana.

AN HISTORICAL SKETCH.
By Thomas Watt, Editor of the Royal Gazette, Georgetown, Dtmerara.

AM not aware of the existence of any col-
leftion, or indeed that any attempt at colle&ion
has ever been made, of the records of the Agri-
cultural Societies of British Guiana. Some years ago,
in England, I was called upon to undertake the com-
pilation of a history of a Literary and Philosophical
Society, and the task proved a comparatively easy one,
inasmuch as printed copies of the minutes and pro-
ceedings were fortunately extant from the outset of its
career. Had similar facilities been at hand here, I doubt
not that we should ere now have been able to boast of a
fairly complete and authentic account of the doings of
the Agricultural Societies which preceded the Institution
under whose auspices Timehrixs published. But such ready
material is not accessible here to the would-be compiler.
Few, indeed, even of our institutions of the present day
that can lay claim to an existence for any length of time,
are in a position to produce original archives of the past.
Hence it is that in seeking to bring together in some-
thing like connected and consecutive shape the records
of many of them recourse must perforce be had to
those " brief and abstract chronicles" — the newspapers,
and to the faft that the data thus available, in the case
•f our Agricultural Societies, is scattered over newspaper



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256 TlMEHRI.



files covering a period of more than half a century, may
be attributed the absence of any history of these organ-
izations. It occurred to me that in my present
capacity, I might be able to undertake a compilation
which if it effefted nothing more would at least rescue
from the obscurity in which they have hitherto been
permitted to remain, some data appertaining to the
most important events in the career of the societies
in question ; and that were I able to snatch suffi-
cient leisure time from the all-engrossing occupa-
tion of a journalist for a task of this description, the
material so collefted might appropriately find a place
in the Journal of the Royal Agricultural and Commercial
Society. Unfortunately, I have not found it possible to
devote to the work so much time and attention as I could
have wished, but as an instalment towards the redemp-
tion of a pledge I have managed to rummage the colonial
newspapers within the period from the establishment of
the pioneer Agricultural Society to that from which the
Society of the present day dates its existence, and such
materials relative to this period as I have gathered I now
proceed to lay before the readers of Timehri.



The first society whose existence I have traced was
named

" The Agricultural Society of Demerary and
Essequebo."

It was formed in the year 1833, an eventful year,
I need hardly observe, in the history of the West
Indian possessions of the British Empire. I find
that on the 21st May, 1833, a meeting of the proprietors
of estates and planters, " being representatives of



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Agricultural Societies. 257,

estates," who had expressed their wish to become mem-
bers of an " Agricultural Society of Demerary and
Essequebo," was held in a room over what was then
known as the " Demerary Spa " in Cumingsburg. The
conveners of this meeting were :— John Croal, George
Warren, John McLean, N. M. Manget, Charles
Bean, J. H. Albouy, J. F. Boode, Edward Bishop,
and U. F. Bach. Thirty-four gentlemen subscribed
their names on this occasion, and the first regular meet-
ing of the Society took place on the 12th June following,
at which office-bearers were appointed, viz. : — N» M.
Manget, Chairman ; G. Warren, Deputy Chairman ;
Alex. Macrae, Treasurer ; A. Galloway, Secretary.
It is recorded that a letter was laid over in which the
then afting Governor, Sir CHARLES FELIX SMITH, ex-
pressed his approbation of the establishment of an Agri-
cultural Society in the colony, a copy of which letter
was ordered to be inscribed upon the minutes, the original
to be preserved amongst the documents of the Society*
The rules which had been presented by a committee
appointed for the purpose were adopted, and as a docu-
ment of some historical interest I may be pardoned for
desiring to rescue at least portions of them from the ob-
scurity in which they have remained for over half a cen-
tury. The rules enafted as follows : —

1. The Agricultural Society of Demerary and Essequebo shall
consist of Proprietors of Estates and Planters who are Representatives
of Estates, and may be augmented by the admission, by ballot, of other
persons who may be Representatives of Estates, but whose chief em-
ployment is not that of superintending the affairs of Plantations, provid-
ed two-thirds of the members present at a General Meeting vote in
favour of the candidate.

2. The Society may be further augmented by the admission of other

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258 TlMEHRI.

persons, under the following resolution passed at the general meeting
held on the 21st May last, and confirmed this day (12th June): —

" That all Proprietors of Twenty-five Slaves and upwards whether
employed as wood-cutting gangs or in agricultural pursuits, shall also
be eligible to become members of the society by ballot in like manner,
provided the owners of such slaves earn their livelihood exclusively
from the employment of them on the soil, or from the productions
thereof."

3. That all such persons as by Rule 1st, are entitled to become mem-
bers of the Society without ballot, shall be bound to enrol themselves as
members, and comply with the Rules, within the space of two months
from this 12th June, if they are residents in the colony, or, if not
residents, within two months from the period of their arrival in the
colony, otherwise such persons shall not be admissible except by ballot,
as in No. 2. A list for the signatures of such parties shall be lodged in
the Society's Hall, which is for the present established in the room
over the Demerary Spa, in Cumingsburg.

4. That the Society shall meet the first Wednesday of each month
for the transaction of business — keeping regular Minutes of the Pro-


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