Feb 9, 2006

Marco on Magic and Weird Hospitality!

Marco Polo's book, while filled with descriptions of old nations and amusing stories, strikes the reader with his vivid and many narrations of works of Magic! and here's one from Chapter LXI (last chapter of the first volume):
Now when the Lord desires to drink, these magicians by the power of their magic cause the cups to move from their place without being touched by anybody, and to present themselves to the Emperor! This every one present may witness, and there are ofttimes more than 10,000 persons thus present. 'Tis a truth and no lie! and so will tell you the sages of our own country who understand necromancy, for they also can perform it.[NOTE 11]
The Yule Translation (a nicer translation here) adds a commentary of others who support Marco Polo's narration:
[Note 11] In a letter dated 1st December, 1875, written by Mr. R. B. Shaw, after his last return from Kashgar and Lahore, this distinguished traveller says; "I have heard stories related regarding a Buddhist high priest whose temple is said to be not far to the east of Lanchau, which reminds me of Marco Polo and Kúblái Khan. This high priest is said to have the magic power of attracting cups and plates to him from a distance, so that things fly through the air into his hands."
I find this very different from Ibn Battota's travels, where he never says he witnessed acts of Magic or the supernatural. He only narrates them as stories told to him. The weirdest thing Ibn Battota talked about was seeing the bones of a giant man. The man must have been 2.5-3 meters tall.
Marco Polo on Weird Hospitality!

Marco mentions some of the weirdest habits of some tribes in the middle of Asia (not sure where). The men of some of these tribes (chapter #tbd) supposedly invite any travelers to stay in their houses while they wait outside the city. The travelers are expected to live in the houses as if they were the men of the house ' including performing marital "obligations”!! (I love how old writers had "gentle” words for these matters). The travelers, at the end, were also expected to leave a "present" (well, more like a fee) for the stay. Not even just that, but when the Great Khan ordered these tribes to stop this "obscene habit”, they begged him to return to it since they feared the anger of the gods. He ended up giving up and letting them do whatever they found fit. Pure weirdness!

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