XXIX. Proceedings of the Floridians in Deliberating on Important Affairs

XXIX. Proceedings of the Floridians in Deliberating on Important Affairs


Plate XXIX.

Proceedings of the Floridians in Deliberating on Important Affairs

On certain days of the year the king usually assembles with his nobles in a place specially prepared for this. There, there is a large bench constructed in a semi-circle with a projection made of nine tree trunks in the centre, which serves as the throne of the king. He sits here, all alone, so he can look distinguished and the others come, in turn, to salute him. First the oldest make their obeisances, by twice raising their hands to their head and saying ‘Ha, he, ya, ha, he’ to which the others reply ‘ha,ha.’ After saluting the king, everyone goes and sits down on the bench. If any question of importance is to be discussed, the chief calls first upon the jawas (that is, the priests) and upon the elders to each give their opinion. The Indians, in fact, never make any decisions without first having listened to all the various opinions and discussed them. Then the king orders the women to prepare some casina which is a beverage made from the leaves of a certain plant passed through a strainer. Then, an Indian, stretching out his arms, says some prayers to the king and those who are going to partake of this hot drink, which is then passed round in a big shell, first to the king and afterwards, in strict order of protocol, to the others. This drink is so highly esteemed, that no one is allowed to drink it in council unless he has proved his courage in battle. Moreover it causes sweating almost immediately after it has been swallowed. Also those who cannot keep it down and throw it up are never confided with any difficult task or military responsibility, being considered useless; for on campaigns the Indians often have to go three or four days without food, but having once managed to drink this liquor, it is possible to go twenty-four hours afterwards without food or drink. When setting out on an expedition, the hermaphrodites carry nothing but this drink, contained in gourds or wooden receptacles. This is because casina nourishes and fortifies the body without causing drunkenness, as we have observed on occasions.

All translations are taken from Discovering the New World, Based on the Works of Theodore de Bry, edited by Michael Alexander (New York: Harper & Row, 1976).