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A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 01 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 647 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels Volume 01.

There are in Cambalu about five thousand astrologers and diviners, Christians, Mahometans, and Kathayans, all of whom are provided yearly by the khan in food and raiment.  These have an Astrolabe, on which all the signs of the planets are marked, together with the hours, and most minute subdivisions of the whole year.  By this instrument, these astrologers, each religion apart, observe the course of the year, according to every moon, noting the prognostications of the weather, yet always referring to God, to do as they predict or otherwise, according to his pleasure.  They write down upon square tablets, called Tacuini, all those things which are to fall out during the year, which they sell to any who will purchase; and those who are most fortunate in their predictions are held in the highest honour.  If any one intends to commence an important labour, or to undertake a distant journey, and is anxious to be certified of the event, he has recourse to the astrologers to read, as they pretend, his destiny in the heavens, for this purpose, being instructed in the precise date of birth of the person consulting them, they calculate the present aspect of the constellation which ruled at his birth, and foretel that good or evil will flow from his intentions.  The Tartars compute time by cycles of twelve lunar years; calling the first of each series the year of the lion; the second of the ox; the third of the dragon; the fourth of the dog; and so on through the whole twelve, and when these are gone through, they begin the series anew.  Thus, if a man is asked when he was born, he answers that it was on such a division of such an hour, day, and moon, in the year of the lion, ox, or so forth.  All this their fathers set down exactly in a book.

It has been already said that the Tartars are idolaters.  Each man of any consequence has a table aloft in the wall of one of his chambers, on which a name is written, to signify the great God of Heaven, whom he adores once each day, with a censer of burning incense; and lifting up his hands, and thrice gnashing his teeth, he prays to God to grant him health and understanding; this being the only petition addressed to the Almighty, of whom they pretend not to make any similitude.  But they have a statue or image on the ground, called Natigai, the god of earthly things, and images of his wife and children.  This is likewise worshipped with incense, gnashing of teeth, and lifting up the hands; and from this, they beg for favourable weather, productive crops, increase of children, and all manner of worldly prosperity.  They believe the soul to be immortal, and that when a man dies, his soul enters into another body, better or worse, according to the merits or demerits of his former life:  As that a poor man becomes a gentleman, then a prince or lord, and so higher, till at length the soul is absorbed in God.  Or if he have deserved ill, it descends to animate the body of a lower and poorer man, after

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