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which, in an earthenware brazier, was burning a small piece of copal, a favorite offering made by the Aztec tribes to their gods.
The still was erected at the edge of a vertical bank of hard clay, a situation which simplified labor very much. The whole apparatus was of the most primitive kind, but the product was exceptionally good and clear.
A Tarasco stili.
At a was the fire, with outlet for smoke at b; c and d were hoops, against which were placed the staves, secured on the outside by other hoops or circles apparently of willow. At e was the mashed mescal in a large earthen bowl; f, on top of the still, was another large bowl full of cold water, which was ladled out by an attendant as it became heated and supplied afresh. The steam arising from the heated mescal condensed against the bottom of the bowl (f) filled with cold water and then dropped into a bowl (8) placed at
at angle. This bowl was called the cuchara or spoon. From the cuchara the mescal ran out through the tube k, made of mescal stalk, into the olla or water jar l. On one of the staves, at h, was a rudely incised crucifixion, marked there, as I was told, to ensure buena suerte (“good luck”).
The entire process of preparing the mescal for distillation was in operation at the time and was explained in detail. Only the center of the plant, resembling a cabbage head and called the heart, was used, the exterior leaves being rejected, although they are rich in saccharine matter and are used as food by the Apache and Navajo Indians.
These hearts were first baked in “mescal pits” lined with heated stones and covered with wet grass and earth. Upon being transferred to shallow basins made in the ground and lined with flat rocks they were mashed into a coarse pulp with heavy wooden mallets, then exposed to the sun to insure fermentation. It was this fermented mass which I saw placed in the kettle of the still (at e)
In this description, bald as it is, I desire to call attention to what seems to me a very curious point. There was nothing used which was not strictly aboriginal; the crucifixion need not be excepted, as the sign of the cross has been a religious emblem of the American tribes and observed as such from Gaspe to Yucatan.
The wooden barrel was very rude in construction, the gaping seams being closed with wet clay and gum. The Tarascoes, from time immemorial, have been celebrated workers in wood and have felled and cut large pine trees of which they have built their chaloupas 25 or 30 feet long. They also make all the wooden spoons, ladles, and other kitchen ware used in that part of the country.
I am far from committing myself to the proposition that the Mexican Indians were acquainted with distillation before the time of the conquest. Indeed, when and where distillation was first practiced will perhaps never be known. The Chinese claim the discovery for one of their kings who lived 2600 B. C. I do not recall any reference to the distillation of liquors in the works of Sahagun, Motolina, or other early clerical writers on the manners and customs of the Aztecs. The omission, however, is not of great significance. Those writers have preserved for science much valuable ethnological material, but they observed and wrote from the standpoint of the missionary and not from that of the anthropologist. The word
vino (wine) occurs with some frequency in their treatises, but it has generally, and I think correctly, been regarded as referring to the fermented beverage pulque.
Mescal is distilled in all parts of Mexico, in the rudest hamlets, in the most secluded mountains, but always in the manner above described. A finer liquor called tequila is made by distilling the fermented sap of the maguey.
It would be natural to assume that among the first things the natives learned from the Spaniards after the conquest of Mexico was the manufacture of intoxicants. The Mexican peon has a natural taste and skill in such preparations, and uses not only the mescal and the maguey, but the Spanish bayonet and the yucca as well. He also makes from the tuna or Indian fig (the fruit of the nopal cactus), a kind of hard cider, called colonche, which is quite intoxicating.
I repeat that the failure of the Spanish writers to mention certain things is no great argument against their existence, and I cannot make this more clear than by saying that they have all ignored the employment by the aborigines of the trident and throwing-stick, which I found in daily use among the Tarascoes of Lake Patzcuaro. Prof. Otis T. Mason informs me that the specimen of the latter which I was fortunate enough to procure is identical with the atlatı which figures in the codices or Aztec picture-writings.
THE ANCIENT GRAVES OF THE VAZIMBA, the aboriginal inhabitants of the interior of Madagascar, are found scattered over the central province. These are shapeless heaps of stone, generally overshadowed by a Fàno tree, a species of acacia, which has a semi-sacred character, its seeds being used in divination. Could these graves, like the ancient English barrows, be opened, doubtless much light would be thrown on the rather difficult question of the affinities of these Vazimba ; but to meddle with any tomb, much more one of these ancient ones, is one of the most heinous offences among the Malagasy. A considerable number of upright stones, termed Vàtolàhy (lit. “male stones ”'), huge undressed blocks of granite, are also found on the hills and downs. These are memorials of former chieftains or of battles of the old times.Sibree in Proc. Royal Geog. Soc., p. 746, Nov., 1892.
MAKANGA CUSTOMS.-Mr. D. J. Rankin, in the November num. ber of the Scottish Geographic Magazine, speaks of his arrival on the Revugwe at Kamsiki, in the Loangwa-Zambesi basin, Africa, as an occasion of great public rejoicing and festivity by the natives. “ Several miles from the town I was met and escorted in by the chief's state band, consisting of flutes, drums, and native musical instruments, my near approach to the kraal being heralded by an incessant firing of muskets, tootling of flutes, banging of drums, and deafening shouts and cries from a crowd of two or three thousand people. Being led into the stockade by the chief, we were regaled in the courtyard by a number of amusements, lasting for several hours, which included conjuring, dancing, singing, and feats by strong men—the latter being similar to the feats performed in our own country fairs. In one of them a heavy wooden mortar used for pounding corn and rice, weighing about one hundred pounds, is placed on the stomach of a man, who is supported on two stools, and any one in the audience is invited to pound the rice or flour put in the mortar. A small wooden figure of a man is carefully placed on a mat by the performers, this figure being a kind of fetich to protect them from injury during their dangerous performance. These people come from the hill tribes, and their fetich created a great deal of amusement and ridicule amongst the higher-class Makanga sitting round."
WOMEN OF THE TROBRIAND ISLANDS.—The quarters of the principal chief of the Trobriand islands, British New Guinea, include seventeen houses, each occupied by a separate wife. At a little distance is the humbler establishment of the second chief, with the more modest allowance of five wives. Many of these ladies were old and far from prepossessing, but it seems that either from innate courtesy or some more prudential reason the Papuan always treats his older wives with more consideration than the younger. The people are all clothed, the women in fact possessing two petticoats, the one undyed, the second, used for dancing and other formal occasions, dyed and worn over the other; and they made a point of never coming into the governor's presence without this.- Trotter in Proc. Roy. Geog. Soc., p. 791, Nov., 1892.
THE RURAL SCHOOL PROBLEM.
BY JAMES H. BLODGETT.
The changing relations between city and country, or urban and rural, population in the last fifty years have attracted general attention in Europe and America. Something like a law may be recognized in the experience of the United States, where the farming land is not yet all in the hands of individual owners. Omitting special influences like mining and timber-cutting, liable to be temporary, and some others liable to be more. permanent, in limited districts, like fruit-raising and market gardening or the location of railroad stations, there is likely to be an increase in population of a newly settled agricultural town or county till owners occupy the land, by which time the population is likely to be at a maximum; then begins a decline. Immigration ceases, the children of the earlier settlers growing up leave home to try their fortunes on newer lands or in denser communities, and a little later those prosperously growing old in farm-work betake themselves to villages and towns for a more leisurely life. This might be illustrated all the way from Maine and from the Carolinas to the foot of the Rocky Mountains.
The city overwhelms us by aggregation of force and massiveness of concentration ; but there is most hope for the physical life of a new-born babe in rural surroundings, not in the stifling pressure of lofty buildings that allows none but the wealthy to own homes. The best promise for a wholesome future to youth is in communities sufficiently compact to afford ready use of the modern post-office, railroad, and telegraph, and to furnish inspiring numbers for mutual effort without losing the beneficent influences of the farm, or at least of the garden and the orchard.
The family plans for preserving food from a superabundant harvest for a time of need, the selection and reservation of seed, the planting and cultivation, the care of animals, are part of the influences teaching the child and molding his character with a deeper power than any formal lessons. No school-room exercises with children accustomed only to brick walls and paved streets can do for them in certain important elements of character and knowledge