About an account of a new type of kettledrum and tambourine which until now has never been heard nor seen, except by Zisca, the heretical captain of the Bohemian heretics.

 Translated by Meredith (Annie) Trentman ’22

A repository occurs to me about a new kind of kettledrum that has been found and seen in the southern part of our Indies, which will be written about at length in its proper place in the continuation of these stories, as when I describe the governorate of Popayan in book XLV, as well as in the last part of these stories in book XLVI. Since it is a very remarkable thing to turn men into kettledrums, or to be human kettledrums, I will give a short account here of how it works: first I will relate a clause from the will of the heretic Zisca, the very distinguished captain of the Bohemian heretics, because it is somewhat similar to what the Indians do in some provinces (not far but very close) to the Equator. Eneas Silvio Picolomineo, a native of Sena, cardinal of Saint Sabina, writes in his History of Bohemia[1], that sick with pestilence in a castle called Priscovia, the heretic Captain Zisca, that abhorrent, cruel, frightening, angry monster against whom human power could not prevail, died by God’s leave (as should be believed), with only the finger of God ultimately capable of killing him. They say that Zisca, being sick, was asked where he should be buried, and he responded that he should be torn to pieces after he died, and his flesh be fed to the birds and beasts, and they should made a kettledrum from his hide, and he should be carried at the front of the army when they went into battle, as their captain, and upon hearing the sound of the kettledrum, the enemy would flee.

I will tell now of the similarities between what has been said about this kettledrum and our Indies. When Atabaliba, a very powerful and rich prince, was imprisoned, a captain of his fled from Cajamarca or from Atabaliba’s own kingdom, with five or six thousand Indians, and rose up with the province of Quito, bringing with him some of Atabaliba’s sons who were there. While Atabaliba was imprisoned, he sent his brother for his sons, and this captain did not want to give them up, so the brother killed him and ordered that all of his bones be taken out through a certain place, leaving the entire body to make a kettledrum: in such a way that one part of the drum, or better yet, of the tambourine, was the back, and the other part was the stomach. He cured the head, legs, feet, arms, and hands, and the rest of the body was whole and made into a drum or tambourine like I said: he did this to safeguard his tyranny, to frighten others who threatened disobedience, whom he would turn into similar tambourines.

While captain Sebastián de Benalcázar was in this city of Santo Domingo on the island of Dominica, on his way to the governorate of Popayan in the year 1540, I spoke with him several times, as a man who had found himself in the conquests of the provinces of Quito and Popayan, and of those southern parts and possessions of Atabaliba. And since we have known each other for many years and are friends, as such he informed me sociably and willingly of many things that I wanted to confirm; among other questions I asked him about the said drum or tambourine, and he told me that he had seen the same drum, and that it was very true that what happened had taken place as has been told above. And he told me more: that this type of thing is very common in those parts, and that he saw in a prominent town called Lile, which is under the governorate of Popayan (located two and a half degrees from the Equator), in three houses alone 680 kettledrums similar to the ones I have described. And that these musical instruments are made of the enemies they defeat or capture; the braver the captain or leader among those who control territories in those parts, the greater the number of their kettledrums, and it is a great testimony to their might and cruelty, of which many were prideful. There is no other drum of this type made from other animals that pleases them, nor another music made so soft and pleasing to the ears as from this drum. And so when they celebrate their areytos or dances and ceremonies, those drums ring, and they have them as a very excellent ornament for their rank, and for great symbols of their power. Behold, reader, what ceremonies the devil makes them undertake to honor his greatness and reputation, because every day the infernal republic grows and there is no shortage of killings, during which human blood is shed and is offered to the devil in sacrifice: it is something that greatly pleases him, as El Tostado, that excellent doctor, describes at length, recounting the reasons why Busiris sacrificed foreigners, to pleasure or serve his gods, and because they would lift him in rank.[2]

[1] Book III. [GFO]

[2] Abul. About Eusebio De los tiempos, Book II, Chapter 461. [GFO]