11/16/06 - the perils of the principal wife

In today's encore excerpt - Magellan's shipmate and diarist, Antonio Pigaffeta, writes during their voyage in 1522 of an unusual funeral rite on the island of Bali:

"Pigafetta relished the tales he heard of Java, beginning with its funeral rites. 'When one of the chief men of Java dies, his body is burned,' he wrote. 'His principal wife adorns herself with garlands of flowers and has herself carried on a chair through the entire village by three or four men. Smiling and consoling her relatives who are weeping, she says, 'Do not weep, for I am going to sup with my dear husband this evening and to sleep with him this night.' Then she is carried to the fire, where her husband is being burned, [and burned alive]. If she did not do that, she would not be considered an honorable woman or a true wife to her dead husband.' For all its melodrama, this was a fairly accurate account of a funeral ceremony as practiced on the island of Bali, located little more than a mile east of Java, and in India."


Laurence Bergreen


Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe


Harper Perennial


Copyright 2003 by Laurence Bergreen


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