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Sun, and distribute the flesh among the poor. They venerate fire, and suffer nothing unclean to be thrown into it. Sheik Adi is their great saint. They have many traditions of his interviews with angels. The valley where he is buried is a place of pilgrimage. Worshippers wash themselves and their garments, and take the shoes from their feet, before they step on the hallowed ground. A yearly sum is paid to priests, who guard the sacred valley from all pollution, keep lamps lighted, and perform the appointed ceremonies. The badge of their office is a girdle of red and yellow, the colours of fire. On the door of the tomb are rudely carved a lion, a serpent, a man, a hatchet, and a comb. The serpent is particularly conspicuous. Balls of clay taken from this tomb are sold as relics, and believed to be very efficacious against diseases and Evil Spirits. A chapter from the Koran is written on the interior walls. Only Sheiks and high priests are permitted to be buried in the vicinity. Near by is a reservoir of water, which they believe the saint brought miraculously from the holy well of Zem Zem, at Mecca. It is carefully guarded from all impurities, and eagerly drank by crowds of pilgrims. A low edifice, with a small white spire, is called the Sanctuary of the Sun. On a slab, near the door, is carved an invocation to the Spirit of the Sun, and it is so built that the first rays of that luminary fall upon it.
The interior is continually lighted by lamps, and is considered a very holy place. There are no buildings in all the valley, except those for worship and the dwellings of resident priests. They are kept very pure with repeated coats of whitewash. On the evening of festivals, lamps are placed in all the niches of the walls, and in apertures of the rocky mountains that enclose this sacred valley. They are generally votive offerings from pilgrims, who have prayed to the saint in time of danger or distress, and found relief from his supposed intercessions. As priests walk by carrying these lamps, pilgrims crowd round them, striving to pass their right hands through the flame. They devoutly kiss the hand thus purified, and rub the right eyebrow
with it. They hold out little children to have their right hands purified in the same way. Those who cannot reach the flame, strive to touch the hands of others who are more fortunate. They reverently kiss the very stones blackened by the smoke of these lamps.
On the festival of Sheik Adi, his tomb is visited by long processions of priests in white linen robes, musicians with pipes and tambourines, and pilgrims from all their districts. Peddlers congregate there to sell their wares. Sheiks and priests walk familiarly among the people, or sit talking with them in the shadows of the trees. Seven or eight thousand usually meet together on this occasion, and it is a picturesque sight to see them wandering about among the trees and rocks with their lighted torches. Layard thus describes some of the religious ceremonies he witnessed at this festival: “Thousands of lights danced in the distance, glimmered among the trees, and were reflected in the fountains and streams. Suddenly all voices were hushed. A solemn strain of sweet pathetic music came from the tomb of the saint; the voices of men and women in harmony with flutes. At measured intervals, the song was broken by the loud clash of cymbals and tambourines; and then those without the precincts of the tomb joined in the melody. The same slow and solemn strain, occasionally varied, lasted nearly an hour. Gradually, the chant gave way to a lively melody, ever increasing in quickness. Voices were raised to the highest pitch; women made the rocks resound with their shrill tones; men among the multitude without joined in the cry; tambourines were beaten with extraordinary energy; musicians strained their limbs in violent contortions, till they fell exhausted on the ground. I never heard a more frightful yell than rose in that valley. It was midnight. There were no immodest gestures or un. seemly ceremonies. When musicians and singers were exhausted, the sounds died away, groups scattered about the valley, and resumed their previous cheerfulness.”
The Yezidis are remarkable for tenacious attachment to their religion. A person of mature age among them never renounces his faith. They have often been subjected to terrible tortures, but have invariably preferred death to the adoption of any other form of worship. Even when young children are carried off and sold to Turkish harems, they often cherish through life the religion of their childhood, and contrive to keep up a secret communication with their priests.
GREECE AND ROME.
Man gifted Nature with divinity,
To lift and link her to the breast of love;
The tracks of gods above.
Stern self-denial, or sharp penance wan.
SCHILLER's Gods of Greece.
GREECE was the oldest European nation. Its history extends a little more than one thousand eight hundred years before Christ; two hundred years earlier than Moses; but they were a rude people at that time, dwelling in huts and caves. Being settled by colonies from Egypt, Phoenicia, Thrace, and other countries, their religious customs and opinions varied considerably in different states; but the general features were similar. They worshipped many deities, all intended to represent the divine energy acting in various departments of the universe. A few enlightened minds among them taught that these all proceeded from One Central Source of Being; and this belief, confused and dim at first, became more distinct as knowledge increased.
Athens was founded by a colony from Egypt, and the intercourse between that country and Greece was always frequent. The effect of this on their religion and philosophy is very obvious. But in the Grecian atmosphere of thought and feeling all things were tinged with more cheerful and poetic colours. Egyptian reverence for stability and power was here changed to worship of freedom and beauty. Strong, active, and vivacious themselves, the Grecians invested their deities with the same characteristics. They did not conceive of them as dwelling apart in passionless majesty, like Egyptian gods, with a solemn veil of obscurity around them. They were in the midst of things, working, fighting, loving, rivalling, and outwitting each other, just like human beings, from whom they differed mainly in more enlarged powers.
No anchorites here preached torture of the body for the good of the soul. How to enjoy the pleasures of life with prudence, and invest it with the greatest degree of beauty, was their morality. In the procession of the nations, Greece always comes bounding before the imagination, like a graceful young man in the early freshness of his vigour; and nothing can wean a poetic mind from the powerful attraction of his immortal beauty.
Gay, imaginative, pliable, and free, the Grecians received religious ideas from every source, and wove them all together in a mythological web of fancy, confused and wavering in its patterns, but full of golden threads. They seem to have copied external rites from Egypt, without troubling themselves to comprehend the symbolical meaning, which priests concealed so carefully. They added ceremonies and legends from other countries, broken into fragments, and mixed together in strange disorder.
They had no Sacred Books, in the usual meaning of the term. Minos, their first lawgiver, was believed to have received his laws directly from Jupiter ; and popular veneration invested with a certain degree of sacred author. ity the poems of Hesiod and Homer, supposed to have been written about nine hundred years before Christ. These works were believed to be divinely inspired by Apollo and the Muses. This was not a mere poetical figure of speech with the Grecians, as it would be with us; for they had a lively and undoubting faith that Apollo and the Muses were genuine deities, who took cognizance of the affairs of men, and filled the souls of prophets and poets with divine inspiration. It is said by some that