Volume 1, Chapter 9, Sections 6-10 -- Travels of William de Rubruquis into Tartary, about the year 1253: *section index*


Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 6 -- How they make the Drink called Cosmos.

Cosmos[1] is made from mares milk, in the following manner: They fasten a long line between two posts fixed in the ground, and to it they tie the young foals of the mares which are to be milked, by which means the mares are induced to stand quietly beside their foals, and allow themselves to be milked. If any mare happens to be unruly, her foal is brought, and allowed to suck a little, after which the milker again succeeds. Having thus procured a quantity of new drawn milk, it is poured into a large skin bag, which is immediately agitated by blows with a wooden club, having its lower end hollow, and as large as a man's head. After some time the milk begins to ferment like new wine, and to acquire a degree of sourness. The agitation is continued in the same manner until the butter comes; after which it is fit for drinking, and has a pungent yet pleasant taste, like raspberry wine, leaving a flavour on the palate like almond milk. This liquor is exceedingly pleasant, and of a diuretic quality; is exhilarating to the spirits, and even intoxicating to weak heads.

Cara-cosmos, which means black cosmos, is made for the great lords, in the following manner: The agitation, as before described, is continued until all the lees or coagulated portion of the milk subsides to the bottom, like the lees of wine, and the thin parts remain above like whey, or clear must of wine. The white lees are given to the servants, and have a strong soporific quality. The clear supernatent liquor is called cara-cosmos, and is an exceedingly pleasant and wholesome beverage[1]. Baatu has thirty farms around his dwelling-place, at about a day's journey distant, each of which supplies him daily with the caracosmos from the milk of an hundred mares, so that he receives the daily produce of three thousand mares, besides white cosmos which the rest of his subjects contribute: For, as the inhabitants of Syria pay the third part of their productions to their lords, so the Tartars pay their mares' milk every third day.

From the milk of their cows they make butter, which they do not salt for preservation, but boil and clarify it, after which it is poured into bags made of sheep-skin, and preserved for winter use. The residue of the milk is kept till it becomes quite sour, after which it is boiled, and the coagula or curds, which form, are dried in the sun till quite hard, and are preserved in bags for winter provision. This sour curd, which they call gryut, when wanted for use in winter when they have no milk, is put into a bag with hot water, and by dilligent beating and agitation, is dissolved into a sour white liquor, which they drink instead of milk; for they have a great aversion to drink water by itself.

[1] Under the name of Kumyss, this liquor is much used by the Russian gentry, as a restorative for constitutions weakened by disease or debauchery: and for procuring it they travel to the Tartar districts of the empire.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 7 -- Of the Beasts they eat, of their Garments, and of their Hunting parties.

The great lords have farms in the southern parts of their dominions, from whence millet and flour are brought them for winter provisions; and the meaner people procure these in exchange for sheep and skins. The slaves content themselves with thick water.[2] They do not eat either long tailed or short tailed mice. There are many marmots in their country, which they call Sogur, which gather during winter, in companies of twenty or thirty together, in burrows, where they sleep for six months; these they catch in great numbers and use as food. There are likewise a kind of rabbits, with long tails like cats, having black and white hairs at the extremity of their tails. They have many other small animals fit for eating, with which they are well acquainted. I have seen no deer, and very few hares, but many antelopes. I saw vast numbers of wild asses, which resemble mules. Likewise an animal resembling a ram, called artak, with crooked horns of such amazing size, that I was hardly able to lift a pair of them with one hand. Of these horns they make large drinking-cups. They have falcons, gyrfalcons, and other hawks in great abundance, all of which they carry on their right hands. Every hawk has a small thong of leather fastened round his neck, the ends of which hang down to the middle of his breast; and before casting off after game, they bow down the hawk's head towards his breast, by means of this thong, with their left hand, lest he be tossed by the wind, or should soar too high.[3] The Tartars are most expert hunters, and procure a great part of their sustenance by the chase.

When the Tartars intend to hunt wild beasts, a vast multitude of people is collected together, by whom the country is surrounded to a large extent in a great circle; and by gradually contracting this circle towards its centre, they at length collect all the included game into a small space, into which the sportsmen enter and dispatch the game with their arrows.

From Cataya, and other regions of the east, and from Persia, and other countries of the south they procure silk stuffs, cloth of gold, and cotton cloth, of which they make their summer garments. From Russia, Moxel, Greater Bulgaria, Pascatir, which is the greater Hungary, and Kersis, all of which are northern countries and full of woods, and from other countries towards the north which are subject to their authority, they procure valuable furs of many kinds, which I have not seen in our parts. With these they make their winter garments; and they have always at least two fur gowns, one of which has the fur inwards, and the other has the fur outwards to the wind and snow; which outer garments are usually made of the skins of wolves, foxes, or bears. But while they sit within doors, they have gowns of finer and more costly materials. The garments of the meaner sort are made of the skins of dogs and goats.

They likewise have breeches made of skins. The rich often line their garments with silk shag, which is exceedingly soft, light, and warm. The poor line theirs with cotton cloth, wadded with the finest wool which they can sort out from their fleeces; and of the coarser wool they make felts for covering their houses and chests, and for sleeping upon. Their ropes are likewise made of wool, mixed with a third part of horse hair. Of felt they also make cloths to lay under their saddles, and caps to defend their heads from rain. In all these things they use vast quantities of wool. Your majesty has seen the habits of these people.[4]

[2] Whether the author here means the dissolved sour curd, mentioned at the close of the former Section, or gruel made from meal and water, does not appear.--E.
[3] Our falconers use the left hand for carrying their hawks. I leave the inexplicable use of the thongs to be understood by professional falconers.--Hakluyt, ad loc.
[4] Probably this concluding sentence means, that as the king of France had seen some Tartars in Syria, the author did not deem it necessary to describe their form and fashions.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 8 -- Of the Fashion of their Hair, and the Ornaments of their Women.

The men have a square tonsure on their crowns, from the two front corners of which they shave two seams down to their temples. The temples also, and hinder part of the head, to the nape of the neck, are shaved, and the forehead, except one small lock which falls down to the eyes. On each angle of the hind head, they leave a long lock of hair, which they braid and knot together under each ear. The dress of unmarried women differs little from that of the men, except in being somewhat longer. But on the day after marriage, the head is shaved, from the middle down to the forehead, and the woman puts on a wide gown, like that of a monk, but wider and longer. This opens before, and is tied under the right side. In this the Tartars and Turks differ, as the Turks tie their garments always on the left side. They have an ornament for their heads which they call Botta, which is made of the bark of a tree or any other very light substance, made in a round form, so thick as may be grasped with both hands, becoming square at the upper extremity, and in all about two feet long, somewhat resembling the capital of a pillar. This cap is hollow within, and is covered over with rich silk. On the top of this they erect a bunch of quills, or slender rods, about a cubit long, or even more, which they ornament with peacocks feathers on the top, and all around with the feathers of a wild drake, and even with precious stones. The rich ladies wear this ornament on the top of their heads, binding it on strongly with a kind of hat or coif, which has a hole in its crown adapted for this purpose, and under this they collect their hair from the back of the head, lapped up in a kind of knot or bundle within the botta; and the whole is fixed on by means of a ligature under their throat. Hence, when a number of these ladies are seen together on horseback, they appear at a distance like soldiers armed with helmets and lances. The women all sit astride on horseback like men, binding their mantles round their waists with silken scarfs of a sky-blue colour, and they bind another scarf round their breasts. They likewise have a white veil tied on just below their eyes, which reaches down to their breasts. The women are amazingly fat, and the smaller their noses, they are esteemed the more beautiful. They daub over their faces most nastily with grease; and they never keep their beds on account of child-bearing.



Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 9 -- Of the Duties and Labours of the Women, and of their Nuptials.

The employments of the women are, to lead the waggons, to load and unload the horses, to milk the cows, to make butter and gryut, to dress skins, and to sew them together, which they generally do with sinews finely split and twisted into long threads. They likewise make sandals, and socks, and other garments, and felts for covering their houses. They never wash their garments, alleging that it would offend God, and that hanging them up to dry would occasion thunder; and they even beat any person who pretends to wash their garments, and take their clothes from them. They are astonishingly afraid of thunder, during which they turn all strangers from their dwellings, and wrapping themselves in black felt, remain covered up till it is over. They never wash their bowls or dishes; or if they do wash the platters into which the boiled meat is to be put, they do it merely with the scalding broth, which they throw back into the pot.

The men make bows and arrows, saddles, bridles, and stirrups, construct houses and carts, takes care of the horses, and milk the mares, agitate the cosmos or mares milk, make leather sacks, in which these are kept, take care of, and load the camels, tend the cows, sheep, and goats, and these are sometimes milked by the men, sometimes by the women. They dress hides with sheeps milk, thickened and salted. When they mean to wash their head and hands, they fill their mouths with water, which they squirt out gradually on their hands, and moisten their hair or wash their heads.

No man can have a wife unless by purchase; so that many maids are rather old before marriage, as their parents always keep them till they can get a good market. They keep the first and second degrees of consanguinity inviolate, but pay no regard to affinity, as one man may have either at once, or successively two sisters. Widows never marry, as their belief is, that all who have served a man in this life, shall do so in the next; so that widows believe that they shall return after death to their husbands. Hence arises an abominable custom among them, that the son sometimes marries all his father's wives except his own mother; for the court or household of the father and mother always devolves to the younger son, and he has to provide for all his father's wives, which fall to his share along with the inheritance; and he considers, that if he takes his father's wives, it will be no injury or disgrace to him though they went to his father in the next world. When any one has made a bargain with another for his daughter, the father of the maid gives a feast to the bridegroom, and the bride runs away and hides herself in the house of one of her relations. Then the father says to the bridegroom, "My daughter is now yours, take her wherever you can find her." On which he seeks for her, with the assistance of his friends, till he discovers her concealment, and then leads her as if by violence to his house.



Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 10 -- Of their Laws and Judgments, and of their Death and Burial.

When two men fight, no one must interfere to part them, neither may a father presume to aid his own son; but he who considers himself injured must appeal to the court of his lord, and whoever shall offer him any violence after this appeal is put to death. He who is appealed against, must go without delay, and the appellant leads him as a prisoner. No one is punished capitally, unless taken in the act, or unless he confesses; but when witnessed against by many, he is severely tortured to extort confession. Homicide, adultery, and fornication, are punished with death; but a man may use his own slave as he pleases. Great thefts are punished capitally; but for small ones, as for stealing a sheep, when the party is not caught in the fact, but otherwise detected, the thief is cruelly beaten. And when an hundred strokes are to be given by order of the court, an hundred separate rods are required, one for each blow. Pretended messengers are punished with death, as are likewise sacrilegious persons, whom they esteem witches, of which more will be said hereafter.

When any one dies, he is mourned for with violent howlings, and the mourners are free from tribute during a whole year. Any one who happens to enter a house, in which a grown up person lies dead, must not enter the house of Mangu-khan during a whole year; if the dead person is a child, he is only debarred for one lunation. One house is always left near the grave of the deceased; but the burial place of any of the princes of the race of Jenghis-khan is always kept secret; yet there is always a family left in charge of the sepulchres of their nobles, though I do not find that they deposit any treasure in these tombs. The Comanians raise a large barrow or tomb over their dead, and erect a statue of the person, with his face turned towards the east, holding a drinking cup in his hand; they erect likewise, over the tombs of the rich, certain pyramids or sharp pinnacles. In some places, I observed large towers built of burnt bricks, and others of stone, though no stones were to be found about the place. I saw the grave of a person newly buried, in honour of whom there were hung up sixteen horses hides, four of which towards each quarter of the world, between high poles; and beside the grave they had set cosmos, that the deceased might drink, and flesh for him to eat, although the person was said to have been baptized. Farther east, I saw other kinds of sepulchres, consisting of large areas, paved with stone, some round and others square, having four large stones placed upright around the pavement, and fronting the four cardinal points. When any one lies sick in bed, a mark is affixed to the house, that no one may enter, as no one ever visits the sick, except his own servant; and when any one belonging to the great courts is sick, watchmen are placed at a great distance, all round, that no one may enter the precincts; as they dread lest evil spirits, or bad winds, might enter along with visitors. They consider their soothsayers, or people who practise divination, as priests.


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