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May God curse the father of that donkey!
Never mind the donkey, he will go well enough; and you should not curse the poor beast; besides, you mentioned the name of God: who is he? what do you believe about him?
Is it not near noon? We have four hours yet to Húsn from that ridge ahead of us.
This is a specimen of a long trial, in which I was completely baffled by an ignorant fellah from the wild mountains of the Nusairîyeh.
This remarkable people have no known forms of prayer, no times or places of Worship, and no acknowledged priesthood. At weddings and funerals they sometimes use Mohammedan prayers, but only when in the vicinity of Moslem towns. They practice polygamy, and marry very near relatives—the nearest of all, according to the reports of their neighbors. They themselves deny that a Nusairîyeh can marry his own mother. However this may be, the marriage relation is very loose among them. I could not learn whether they believed in the immortality of the soul and a future state of rewards or not, but they hold to transmigration of souls somewhat as do the Druses. They seem to have derived some of their customs and reputed tenets from Persia. The truth probably is, that whatever of Mohammedanism has been incorporated with their original superstition was borrowed from the followers of Ali; and they are, to this extent, a heretical sect of Moslems. But many things led me, when among them, to suspect that they were fragments of Syria's most ancient inhabitants—descendants of those sons of Canaan who were in possession of Arka, Arvad, Zimra, and Sin, on the shore west of their mountains; and of Hamath, on the east, when Abraham "came from Ur of the Chaldees."
Expelled by foreign nations from their primeval seats, they retired to the inaccessible mountains, where they now live. These are so sïtuated that they were never penetrated by any great military roads or mercantile routes, and never will be. Perhaps many of their brethren, when driven from the south by Joshua, took
MAZARS OF NUSAIRIYEH-BANIAS.
refuge with them. I was struck with the prevalence; all over those mountains, of names of men, and mountains, and castles, and villages, which were identical with those once common in Palestine.
As Christian missions are now established among them, we may hope, ere long, to be better acquainted with the origin, history, manners, customs, and religion of this remarkable people. I have seen a few books which pretended to give an account of their faith, but the Nusairîyeh themselves would not acknowledge them. They are not to be trusted, and, besides, they throw very little light on the matter. They have countless sacred tombs called Mazars, to which they resort on various occasions, but their ceremonies there are always performed in secret. Should any of their number divulge their mysteries, he would be assassinated without remorse, mercy, or delay. This is certain; and this horrible fact may have given rise to the stories about the assassins, for it was on these mountains that those somewhat fabulous monsters are said to have resided.
But enough of the Nusairîyeh for the present. 'Ainfit and Zaora, on the mountain south of Banias, are the only other settlements of this people in this region.
What noble oak glades spread over these hills before us! Indeed, this whole scenery is more park-like than any
I have seen in Syria.
Or will see. The peasants of Banias, however, are cutting away these magnificent trees, and in a few years this part of the grand platform of old Panium will be stripped quite naked.
You will observe that we have been riding over the ruins of the ancient city for some time, and there is its modern representative, half buried beneath shapeless ruins, which are quite overgrown with bushes, briers, and creepers. We must wade through this rattling river, and find our way to that fine old terebinth, where our tents are waiting our arrival. I, at least, am quite ready for them, and for what our good cook will spread before us.
Curiosity is an overmatch with me just now for fatigue, and even hunger. I must look upon the birth-place of the
. Jordan, and have a draught of its water before night closes
That is soon done. Follow the path to that cliff, and you may have the whole fountain to yourself.
Well, have you seen and tasted ?
But let us address ourselves to dinner. The new-born river will sing to us. Hark how its merry laugh floats out on the evening air, and swells up the sides of the echoing hills! Our ride to-day has been perfectly delightful through and to scenes and sites of most romantic interest. There can be no doubt, I suppose,
but that this is the source of the greater Jordan, mentioned by Josephus, and this mass of rubbish below the cave, through which the fountain pours its hundred streams, is the debris of the temple of Panium.
Those Greek inscriptions on the face of the cliff confirm the fact. But we are now on ground much more sacred than mere classic association can render any place. Our blessed Lord has been here, has drank of this same fountain, and looked upon this lovely scene. With His usual
With His usual compassion, he taught the people and healed their diseases. Eusebius says that the woman cured of an issue of blood' belonged to this city, and he thus writes on this subject: They say that her house is shown in the city, and the wonderful monuments of our Saviour's benefit to her are still standing. At the gate of her house, on an elevated stone, stands a brazen image of a woman on her bended knees, with her hand stretched out before her, like one entreating. Opposite to this there is another image of a man erect, of the same material, decently clad in a mantle, and stretching out his hand to the woman. This, they say, is a statue of Christ, and it has remained even until our times, so that we ourselves saw it when staying in that city. Who knows but that these statues are still buried under this rubbish, and may some day be brought to light. Theophanes, however, says that Julian the Apostate broke them to pieces. It would be like him, if he ever happened to see them.
? Euseb., book vi., chap. xviii.
1 Luke viii. 43.