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large that they laid it on each of their shoulders, in order to cover the nakedness of their drunken father without beholding his shame. Several hundred years
later—in Abraham's day-we read of shoes, and of raiment presented to Rebekah; and she covered herself with a veil when Isaac met her. Later in life, she had goodly raiment of her son Esau with her in the house. Then comes the coat of many colors, the occasion of sad calamities to Joseph; Reuben, not finding the lad in the pit, rent his clothes—the first time this action is mentioned. Jacob also rent his; and, in after ages, this expression of grief becomes common, as the fabrics out of which the garments were made became of a finer texture, and more easily torn.
The materials first used were skins of animals, and many people are clothed with them at this day. Afterward linen and woolen fabrics were invented, and coarse cloth woven from the hair of camels and goats. Silk is mentioned in Proverbs xxxi. 22, and in Ezekiel xvi. 10, 13, but I suppose hemp is meant. There is no reason to believe that Solomon's “virtuous wife” was acquainted with silk; nor was cotton known to the Jews until after the captivity. Possibly the mās or masi of Ezekiel was cotton. The Egyptians, and of course the Hebrews, were early skilled in embroidery with tissue of silver and gold; and Orientals are still extravagantly fond of embroidered garments. As to finetwined linen, so celebrated among the Israelites in the wil. derness and elsewhere, we must understand the term relatively. All Egyptian linen is coarse, and always was, to judge from the wrappings of ancient mummies, even of kings. The favorite colors, as every reader of the Bible knows, were blue, and purple, and scarlet, and the same taste prevails in Syria, and in the East generally, to this day.
Let us turn philosophers in a small way while we look farther into these Oriental manners, customs, and costumes. Search deep enough, and I believe you will generally find that the customs of every people are the joint result of many causes acting together—a great network of necessity and
CUSTOMS AND COSTUMES.
compensation. The Oriental costume, for example, is light and loose, because the climate is warm. They do not sit on chairs, because they are hard, perpendicular, and uncomfortable, and the relaxed system in this country requires an easier and more recumbent posture to insure rest and refreshment. Under these circumstances, tight garments are very inconvenient and incongruous.
Then, as you observe, they scrupulously drop their slippers, shoes, or boots at the door when they enter a room, and keep on their head-dress. This seems strange to us, but it is necessary. As they sit on the mat, rug, or divan, with their feet under them, shoes would soil both couch and clothes, and, besides, would make a very uncomfortable seat.
The demands of decency and the calls of comfort introduced and enforced the custom of dropping the shoe at the entrance into the sitting-room, and it was thence extended to every place entitled to respect. From this to the idea of defilement from the shoe was but a step, and certain to be taken. Hence the strict requisition to put it off on entering temples and sacred places of every kind. Mohammedans have preserved this idea in all its force, and you can not enter any of their mosques or holy shrines with your shoes
This custom was probably established in Egypt before Moses was born, and he was trained up to regard it as obligatory. When, therefore, God appeared to him in the burning bush, he needed only to be reminded that the place whereon he stood was holy ground, to make the direction to put off his shoe at once intelligible and reasonable. And, so long as the Oriental custom of sitting on the mat or rug is kept up, so long will it be necessary to drop the shoe at the door; and, being necessary in private domestic life, it would be disrespectful and contemptuous to enter holy places with them on. The custom is reasonable and right, and we should not hesitate to conform to it. Then the people keep their head-dress on, both because the shaven and naked rotundity requires to be concealed, but also for the sake of health. Always covered and closely shaved, the head becomes tender, and liable to colds on the least exposure. The shaving of the head, I suppose, had reference, originally, to cleanliness, and to avoid scab and other cutaneous diseases, which are extremely prevalent, and difficult to subdue.
Ours, no doubt, is the highest style and the better way. It is better to keep the head clean and cool, and accustomed to bear change of temperature, with only the beautiful covering which God has spread over it. It is also best and most becoming to keep the feet covered and warm. But in this climate people do not often suffer from cold feet, and the demands of decency are secured by strictly covering them under their loose garments. The ablutions which Mohammed required before public worship have as much reference to propriety as to spiritual or ceremonial purity. With soiled shoes or filthy feet, the performance of Mohammedan prayer, with its genuflections and prostrations, would be an exhibition of positive indecency; and, without washing, the odor from hundreds of naked feet would be intolerable. Becomingly dressed in loose, flowing robes, and thoroughly cleansed hands, feet, and face, their prayers are not only decent, but striking and solemn. The dress of Oriental ladies is not so easily defended. It is not so full as ours, shows more the shape of the person, and, while the face is veiled, the bosom is exposed in a way not at all in accordance with our ideas of propriety. But a general remark will help to explain the origin or basis of this seeming inconsistency. Those who set the female fashions of the East are not expected or allowed to mix in society with men, nor even to be seen by them. When they go abroad they are
THE HAREM-FEMALE SECLUSION.
closely veiled from head to foot. Their in-door dress is not contrived to meet the demands of a public exhibition. The reasons (and such there are) for thus confining the women very much to their homes, and of closely veiling them when abroad, are found in the character of Oriental people from remote ages; and the veils can never be safely abolished, nor these domestic regulations relaxed, until a pure and enlightened Christianity has prepared the way. If I had the power to remove them at once, I would not. They are a necessary compensation for true modesty in both sexes. When, therefore, you find no ladies to welcome and entertain you
in your calls, and never see them in our evening gatherings, you may moderate your regret by the reflection that this is the result of a great moral necessity. The same necessity forbids a gentleman to walk arm in arm with a lady. She has no arm at liberty, and if she had, the proprieties of life would be shocked by such an action. Neither can a man in many families eat with his wife and daughters, because the meal is in the public room, and often before strange men. So, also, the ladies are accommodated in church with a part railed off, and latticed to shield them from public gaze. Moslem women never join in the prayers at the mosques.
These customs are often carried out into exaggerations and extremes by pride and jealousy, and then they are not only absurd, but barbarous. For example, a Druse sheikh or wealthy Moslem, when he calls a physician for any of his harem, makes a great mystery of the matter. The poor creature is closely veiled, and if the doctor insists upon seeing her tongue, there is much cautious manoeuvring to avoid exposure. I have even known cases where the tongue was thrust through a rent in the veil made for the purpose. This is sufficiently absurd, and yet I am acquainted with a sheikh who carries these jealous precautions to a still more ridiculous extreme. He never allows his women to go out of the harem (women's apartments) except at night, and not then until servants are sent ahead to clear the roads.
The reluctance of even enlightened Christian men to speak
of the females of their families is amusing to us, and certainly not very complimentary to the ladies.' For example, according to the genuine old regime, a man, when absent from home, never writes to his wife, but to his son, if he have one, though not a month old; and often he addresses his letter to a fictitious son, whom for the time he imagines he has or ought to have; and if he meets any one direct from home, he will inquire after every body but his wife. She must not be mentioned, even though she is known to be sick. At such customs we can afford to smile, but there are others which admit of no excuse or apology. They are infamous, and degrading to the sex. The Arabs have a word _"
-“ ajellack”—by which they preface the mention of any thing indelicate or unclean. Thus, ajellack a donkey, or a dog, or my shoes; so, when compelled to speak of their women, they say, "ajellack my woman," or simply “the woman is so and so.” This is abominable, and springs from thoughts still more so. These and similar customs enable us to understand why it is that acquaintance before marriage is ordinarily out of the question. It could not be secured without revolutionizing an extended system of domestic regulations and compensations, and, if attempted rashly, would open the door to immorality and corruption. Therefore the present plan of arranging matters matrimonial through the intervention of friends and relatives, as it was in times most remote, must be continued, with all its evils, until a wide and general change is brought about in the condition of the women. This must be gradual, and can only be safely effected by a truly Christian education, and by a great purification and elevation of the marriage institution,
It is considered quite immodest for an unmarried lady to manifest any special regard for her future husband. The first thought seems to be that of pollution. This is a great and fatal error, fruitful in evils of many kinds. But we need not pursue this subject any farther. Our object is to notice manners and customs which reveal the interior economy of Oriental society, and which, in one way or another,