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Funeral-Fcasts uscd in the East.
The making a kind of funeral-feast was also a method of honouring the dead, used anciently in these countries, and is continued down to these times,
The references of commentators here have been, in common, to the Greek and Roman usages; but as it must be more pleasing to learn Eastern customs of this kind, I will set down what Sir J. Chardin has given us an account of in one of his manuscripts; and the rather, as soine particulars are new to me.
“ The Oriental Christians still make banquets of this kind, (speaking of the ancient Jewish feasts of mourning, mentioned Jer. xvi. 6, 7, and elsewhere,) by a custom derived from the Jews; and I have been many times present at them, among the Armenians in Persia. The 7th verse speaks of those provisions which are wont to be sent to the house of the deceased, and of those healths that are drank to the survivors of the family, wishing that the dead may have been the victim for the sins of the family. The same with respect to eating, is practised among the Moors.-- Where we find the word comforting made use of, we are to understand it as signifying the performing these offices." In like manner he explains the bread of men, mentioned Ezek. xxiv. 17, as signifying - the bread of others; the bread sent to mourners; the bread that the neighbours, relations, and friends sent."
Frequent Visits paid to the Graves of departed Rela
tives, with an Account of various other Modes of mourning for the Dead.
The Eastern people not only lamented their dead with solemnity, upon their departure out of this world, when carried to the grave; but they did so in visits paid from time to time to their sepulchres afterwards; all which usages continue among them, in one form or other, to this day.
They lament also with public solemnity those that were absent from them when they died, and were buried at a distance from the abode of their relations.
Irwin has given us a very amusing account of a mourning of this sort, in a town of Upper Egypt, which happened to be celebrated there while he was detained in it.
One of the inhabitants of this town of Ghinnah, who was a merchant by profession, being murdered in the desert between Ghinnah and Cosire, in a journey he was making to this lastmentioned place, he tells us, “ The tragedy which was lately acted near Cosire, gave birth to a mournful procession of females, which passed through the different streets of Ghinnah this morning, and uttered dismal cries for the death of Mohammed. In the center was a female of his family, who carried a naked sword in her hand, to imitate the weapon by which the deceased fell. At sundry places the procession stopped, and danced around the sword, to the music of timbrels and tabors. They paused a long time before our house, and some of the women made threatening signs to one of our servants; which agrees with the caution we received to keep within doors. It would be dangerous enough to face this frantic company; whose constant clamour and extravagant gestures give them all the appearance of the female Bacchanals of Thrace, recorded of old.” P. 254.
This, it seems, was on the 25th of August. On the 27th his journal has these words : “ I was awakened before day-break by the same troop of women, which passed our house the other day in honour to the memory of Mohammed. Their dismal cries suited very well with the lonely hour of the night : and I understand that this relic of the Grecian customs lasts for the space of seven days ; during which interval the female relations of the deceased make a tour through the town, morning and night, beating their breasts, throwing ashes on their heads, and displaying every artificial token of sorrow." P. 257, 258.
The name of the merchant that was murdered. • The writer and his companions had been upon very ill terms with him.
How Mr. Irwin came to describe this as a relic of Grecian customs, it is not for me to say; but I presume it was not only an unnecessary addition, but an inaccurate appropriating to Greece, what was common to many Eastern countries. Several Greek usages may be supposed to have been introduced into Egypt, after its conquest by Alexander, and the assumption of its government by the Ptolemies ; but the Arabs are known to be as little altered by the adoption of foreign usages as any nation whatever, and this Mohammed was an Arab, as were most of the inhabitants of Ghinnah. It is more natural then to believe it an ancient Arab or Esyptian custon, to mourn after this manner for the dead, whose relations had not the opportunity of testifying their regard to them in their other forms of mourning, that is, their lamenting with cries, or with music, their departure, presently after their death; their bewailing them, with the assistance of mourning women, trained up in this profession, as they attended them to the grave; and solemnly visiting their tombs, from time to time afterwards.
It seerns, from a passage of Josephus, which the learned have not let pass totally unobserved, that this kind of mourning the absent dead was a Jewish custom, for he mentions it as practised by them, at a time when they were engaged, with great bitterness, in a war with the heathen nations about them, having refused to suffer the wonted sacrifices to be offered in the temple for the safety of the Roman emperors, as being of a different religion from themselves.
The passage of Josephus is in the 3d book of the Jewish war : in which he tells us, that, upon the sacking Jotapata, it was reported that he, (who was at that time a great captain among them, as he was afterwards celebrated as an author in the world,) was slain, and that these accounts occasioned very great mourning at Jerusalem, which was many miles off, and in another division of the Jewish country, Jotapata being a city of Galilce. In describing this mourning at Jerusalem, for Josephus and the people of Jotapata, he says, “there was mourning in single houses, and in families of kindred, as each of the slain had connexions. Some mourned their guests,” (he meant,
I presume, those that had been wont to take up their lodgings at the houses of these mourners, when they came up to Jerusalem, at their sacred feast ;) some their relations; others their brethren. All Josephus.
So that for thirty days there was no cessation of their lamentations in the city. And many hired pipers (auantas) who led the way in these wailings."
I should imagine, that the passage I have transcribed from Irwin, relating to the mourning of those Egyptian Arabs, for that merchant that was slain in the desert, furnishes an excellent note on this passage of Josephus, according to whom single families mourned the death