The children that are born here are black enough, but the blacker they be the more they are thought of; wherefore from the day of their birth their parents do rub them every week with oil of sesamé, so that they become as black as devils. Moreover, they make their gods black and their devils white, and the images of their saints they do paint black all over.5
Dark skin is highly esteemed among these people. ‘When a child is born they anoint him once a week with oil of sesame, and this makes him grow much darker’ (replaced since by ‘Fair & Lovely’ creams!). No wonder their gods are all black ‘and their devils white as snow.’ A group of their holy men, the Yogis, eat frugally and live longer than most, some as much as 200 years. In one religious order, men even go stark naked and ‘lead a harsh and austere life’—these men believe that all living beings have a soul and take pains to avoid hurting even the tiniest creatures. They take their food over large dried leaves. When asked why they do not cover their private parts, they say, ‘It is because you employ this member in sin and lechery that you cover it and are ashamed of it. But we are no more ashamed of it than of our fingers.’ Among them, only those who conquer sexual desire become monks. ‘So strict are these idolaters and so stubborn in their misbelief,’ opines Marco.