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utmost veneration in their temple at Oodwara. In all their other temples is a sacred flame, lighted from this, and carefully watched by priests, who pray with mouths covered, lest their breath should pollute the holy element. The Parsees never blow out a light, but always extinguish it by a fan, or motions of the hand. Priests spend their whole time reading prayers, chanting hymns, burning in. cense, and performing prescribed ceremonies. Devotional exercises mingle more or less with almost every action of life, among this simple people.“ May my prayer be pleasing to Ormuzd,” is the preface to every petition. They have prayers for the new moon, for the fifteenth day of the moon, and for the decline of the moon; but they are especially enjoined to pray often during the growth of the moon. They employ priests to recite many formulas to guard their crops from malign influences; and they themselves utter continual invocations to Spirits of the sun, moon, earth, and waters, to render their harvests abundant. Every day, they pray to the particular Spirit supposed to preside over that day. They wash and recite a prayer before and after eating. They pray when they retire to rest; when they rise in the morning; when they turn in bed, toward a fire, or burning lamp, or moon, or star; when they light a lamp, or see one lighted; when they cut their nails, or their hair; and on many other occasions, which it would hardly be consistent with decorum to mention. They are forbidden to speak while they eat, or while they perform any of the natural functions; because Evil Spirits seek to distract mortals, and insinuate themselves into the body while the senses are busily occupied. When a person sneezes, they consider it a sign that the Evil Spirits, always striving to gain possession of man, are driven out by the interior fire that animates him. Therefore, whenever they hear a sneeze, they say: "Blessed be Ormuzd !” In the chamber where a babe is born, they keep a fire burning continually, because Evil Spirits are afraid to approach that sacred element. Those, who can afford it, keep four priests employed three days and three nights, praying and performing ceremonies for the temporal and eternal welfare of the child. It is washed three times, with water previously consecrated by various forms of blessing and prayer. Whoever touches the new-born before this ablution, must go through a process of purification. Some parents still consult the priests concerning the aspect of the stars at the birth of their offspring. When a child is frightened, or has a fit, or is troubled with any disease, they obtain from the priests, a spell thus worded, and tie it on bis left arm : “In the name of Ormuzd, I bind this fever, and all other evils produced by Arimanes and his wicked Spirits, by magicians, or by Peris. I bind these evils by the power and beauty of fire; by the power and beauty of the planets and fixed stars." Peris are supposed to be descendants of fallen Spirits, doomed to wander about the earth, and excluded from Paradise, till their penance is accomplished. When a man has a fever, or any other malady, they recite prayers similar to the above, clapping the hands seven times. It is supposed that Evil Spirits enter a lifeless body as soon as the animating fire from Ormuzd has gone out of it. Therefore, whoever touches a corpse, even accidentally, must purify himself by ablutions, prayers, and ceremonies. On stated occasions, they offer oblations of flowers, fruit, rice, wine, and sometimes meat, to the souls of departed ancestors, and employ priests to accompany them with prayers. During the last ten days of the year, they believe the spirits of the dead come to earth and visit their relatives; therefore they never leave their homes at that season. They have their houses purified by religious ceremonies, and ornamented with garlands for their reception.
Intelligent Ghebers and Parsees acknowledge that the original Zend-Avesta was lost in the course of their various wars and migrations. Scattered fragments were collected and published, and to this day it is regarded with great veneration, as a book from heaven. A copy is kept in every temple, and portions of it are read to the people at stated times. Anquetil du Perron, a zealous Oriental scholar, spent several years among the Parsees, and trans
lated into French a part of the Zend-Avesta, which was published in 1771. The learned men of Europe generally acknowledge it as the ancient Zend-Avesta and an authentic record of the doctrines of Zoroaster.
The priesthood is not hereditary among the Parsees. The son of the poorest labourer may be educated for the sacred office. But these simple devotional people regard their religious teachers with the utmost veneration. They are considered polluted by the touch of foreigners, or even by men of their own faith. If a physician cures a priest of any dangerous illness, he is considered amply repaid by his prayers, so very efficacious are they deemed. Before reciting a prayer, the priests always wash their hands, saying: “I repent of all my sins. I renounce them.” To render their supplications more powerful, they use a formula to unite them with all souls who have ever been pleasing to Ormuzd, or ever will be so, till the day of resurrection. The priest also declares that he takes part in all the good actions of all the just, who have ever lived in the world, and that he joins his actions to theirs. This communion of prayers is everywhere conspicuous in all their ceremonies. The ancient doctrine concerning Arimanes has become modified. They now teach that he was an inferior Spirit, who rebelled against Ormuzd, his Creator. A spirit of benevolence pervades their maxims. Their writings declare "there is no greater crime than to buy grain and keep it till it becomes dear. He who pursues this course, renders himself responsible for all the famine and misery in the world.”
Of all known religions, that of the Parsees is the only one in which fasting and celibacy are never enjoined as meritorious, but are, on the contrary, expressly forbidden. They say the power of Arimanes is increased by punishing the body and rendering it feeble and sluggish; that Ormuzd is best pleased when the body is kept fresh and vigorous, as a means of rendering the soul more strong to resist the attacks of evil. They believe that a man in good health and spirits can listen more attentively to the Sacred Word, and has more courage of heart to perform good works. They consider large families a blessing, and keep all birthdays as holy festivals. They say beneficent genii gave fragrance to flowers, and flavour to fruit, on purpose that man might enjoy them. They take cheerful and benevolent views of death. To the good it is only a passage into Paradise; to the wicked it is the beginning of penances that will finally atone for their sins, and from which the living can help to deliver them by their prayers. When a man commits crimes, it is ordained that relatives and friends should perform pious rites and make donations to the poor, in expiation of his faults, because they believe such observances will diminish his period of punishment.
They have a tradition that a holy personage, named Pashoutan, is waiting in a region called Kanguedez, for a summons from the Ized Serosch, who in the last days will bring him to Persia, to restore the ancient dominion of that country and spread the religion of Zoroaster over the whole earth.
In the northern districts of Kurdistan there is, at this present time, a sect called Yezidis, or Devil-Worshippers, greatly despised by the Mahometans and Christians around them. They are kind and simple people, extremely devout, according to the faith which they believe was delivered to their saints. They have a tradition that they came from the banks of the Euphrates, and their worship indicates a Chaldean or Persian origin. They believe in One Supreme Being, but have a reverential awe of talking about his existence or attributes. They believe Satan was once chief of the angelic host. He is now suffering punishment for his rebellion against the Supreme, but will eventually be restored to his high estate in the celestial hierarchy. He has under his control seven Spirits, who exercise great influence over the affairs of this world. They say it is necessary to conciliate him, because he now has means of doing much evil to mankind, and he will hereafter have power to reward them. When they allude to him, they do it with great reverence; calling him Melek el Kout, the Mighty Angel. They will not mention his name, or even utter any word which resembles it in sound. It irritates them to hear it spoken by others, and it is said they have put to death some who wantonly persisted in doing it to annoy them. The bronze image of a bird, consecrated to him, is treated with great veneration. The Sheik carries it in all his journeys, and his deputies have small copies of it made in wax. They practise circumcision, and baptize a child in water, if possible, seven days after birth. They consider Abraham and Mahomet great prophets, and believe that Christ was a heavenly Spirit, who took on himself the form of a man, for benevolent purposes. They say he did not die on the cross, but ascended living to heaven, whence he will come a second time on this earth. They have very great reverence for the Hebrew Scriptures, and a lesser degree for the New Testament and the Koran. They practise frequent ablutions, and have great abhorrence of pork. They have a volume in Arabic, containing chants, prayers, and directions for the performance of religious ceremonies. They consider this very sacred, and will not show it to strangers. Their holy day is Wednesday; they do not abstain from work, but some always fast. They have four orders of hereditary priesthood, and, what is very remarkable in Asia, these offices descend to women as well as men, and both are treated with equal reverence. The higher orders of priests generally wear white linen garments, the inferior wear black, or dark brown. Every district has a religious head, called a Sheik. The office is hereditary in his family, but the descendant best qualified by character is chosen to succeed him. An order of priests called Pirs, or Saints, are much reverenced. Their intercessions for the people are supposed to have great influence, and it is believed that they are invested with power to cure insanity and disease. They are expected to lead a very pure and holy life.