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ant, and well suited for ropes of large diameter. Until chain cables were introduced, all the ships which navigated the Indian seas had cables made of this substance. The natives sew the planks together, which compose their boats, with coir yarn. It is also much used in India in place of hair, to stuff mattresses, cushions for couches, saddles, &c.
The kernel of the ripe coco-nut is not unlike the substance of an almond either in taste or consistence.
The natives of the Ladrone islands eat it in lieu of bread with meat and fish. Sometimes it is rasped into very small pieces, and mixed with dressed rice to give it a peculiar flavour, and occasionally it is pounded into meal, of which fritters and small cakes are made. By a little pressure the kernel may be made to yield a white fluid resembling milk. When the milk of buffaloes cannot be procured, Europeans sometimes add this liquid to tea as a substitute. When mature, the nut is much used in Ceylon to furnish an oleaginous fluid required to prepare curry. For this purpose the kernel is finely rasped, and the raspings are washed with a small quantity of water, which is subse
quently filtered. The emulsion thus formed is boiled with the meat, fish, or vegetable substance intended to be curried. But the chief product of the Coco-nut is an excellent oil. In Ceylon this oil is universally used by both Europeans and natives as a lamp oil ; for anointing the body, and by surgeons in medical preparations. Mixed with a species of resin, and the compound melted, a substance is formed which is much used in India to pay the seams of boats and ships, instead of pitch. The same compound is employed to protect the corks of wine and beer bottles from the depredations of the white ant.
In this country, it has been employed as a lamp oil, and in the manufacture of cloth, instead of olive oil. Soap and excellent candles are made from it. The shells of coco-nuts are manufactured into beads for rosaries. They are also used as drinking vessels, and for various other domestic purposes. Occasionally they are polished by the natives, who cut figures in relief upon them. When thus ornamented, and bound with silver, they are used by the English as sugar basins. They are converted into charcoal, and, when mixed with lime, are employed to colour the walls of houses. Goldsmiths use them as fuel. Particular virtues have been attributed to cups made of this nut : they have been supposed to prevent apoplexy resulting from the immoderate use of the intoxicating liquor held in them. The Cingalese are so extremely superstitious, that they invariably throw a little salt into the holes before they place the Coco-nut plants in them; and they observe great regularity in forming their topes, by making holes for the plants in parallel lines, from twenty to twenty-four feet apart. If the salt were omitted they would not expect the plant to flourish.
A double Coco-nut tree, the heads of which branch off about sixty feet from the ground like the letter Y, and whose average produce is equal to two good trees, is considered by the superstitious natives as an omen of great good fortune to the family to whom it may belong. Knox, in his relation of a residence in Ceylon, published in 1681, thus describes another superstition connected with the Coco-nut.
“When a robbery is committed, to find the thief they charm a Coco-nut, which is done by certain words, and any one can do it that can but utter the charm words. They then thrust a stick into it, and set it either at the door or hole the thief went out at. Then one holds the stick with the nut at the end of it, and the nut pursues and follows in the track that the thief went. All the way it is going they still continue charming, and flinging the blossoms of the betel-nut tree upon it. And at last it will lead to the house or place where the thief is, and run upon his feet. This nut will sometimes go winding hither and thither, and sometimes will stand still. Then they follow their charm, strewing on blossoms, and that sets it forward again. This is not enough to find the thief guilty ; but if they intend to persecute the man upon this discovery, the charmer must swear against him, point blank,—which he sometimes will do upon the confidence of the truth of his charm; and the supposed thief must either swear or be condemned. Oftentimes men of courage and mettle will get clubs, and beat away the charmer and all his company, and by this means put all to an end.
“1, doubting the truth of this, once took the stick and held it myself, when they were upon this business, but it would not go forward while I held it in my hand, though they strewed their flowers, and used their mutterings to provoke it. But afterwards, when another took it, it went forward. I doubted whether they did not guide it with their hand, but they assured me it guided their hand.”
The name Coco eems to be a contraction of the Portuguese word macoco, monkey, said to have been given from the resemblance between the end of the shell, where the three black scars are, and the face of a monkey.
Coco-nuts are brought to Europe as wedges to set fast casks and other round packages in the cargo of vessels: their freight costs nothing.