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as when in her common senses, a sure proof of her being cured; for during the time of this malady, those afflicted with it never answer to their christian name.’—vol. i. pp. 290–294.
The desire of obtaining ornaments, seems to be at bottom the real cause of this disorder. Pearce's wife was for a while afflicted with it: at first he used the whip, when nobody was near to witness
the effect of it, but she was, or pretended to be, converted thereby
into a corpse, and he ran away, leaving her to be cured by her friends, and by music and dancing, of which she was enamoured. The leprosy is common among the Abyssinians, as is also the tapeworm. Pearce mentions a very singular custom which is resorted to, when a family is attacked by more than the ordinary mortality.
‘I cannot help adverting to a practice which is not unfrequent, but which might appear fabulous to any one who had not witnessed it. When a woman has had one, two, or more children, and they have all died, she will, in hopes of saving the life of another just born, cut off a piece from the tip of the left ear, roll it up in a piece of bread, and swallow it; and others will keep one side only of the head shaved until the child is grown up. For some time I was at a loss to conjecture the reason why a number of grown people of my acquaintance had one ear cut; and when told the truth, I could scarcely believe it, till I went into the house of a neighbour, though contrary to the custom, purposely to see the operation. An old woman cut off the tip of the ear, and put it into a bit of cold cooked victuals, called sherro, when the mother of the infant opened her mouth to receive it, and swallowed it, pronomncing the words, “ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” They have recourse to many other superstitious and whimsical practices to prevent children from dying.’— vol. i. p. 307.
In Tigre, no marriages are performed in churches, or by the interference of a clergyman : a man may have as many wives as he wishes, but it would seem that there is no community of property, unless in the case where a man and woman agree to be content with each other; an account is then taken of their respective wealth before a court of shummergildas, or elders, and it is afterwards considered as belonging to both, so that one cannot dispose of any part of it without the approbation of the other. They swear mutual fidelity, and to receive the sacrament together, which gives either party a right of going before the same tribunal in order to demand a divorce, or a pecuniary fine to be levied on the offender, in case of adultery. If there be a divorce, the mother takes the girls under her care, the father the boys, if any. If there be only one child, the parents cast lots for it. Pearce says, that he had known many instances of females being cheated by impostors, through the instrumentality of marriages of this description.
‘There are a number of people in different parts of Abyssinia, who get their living by moggot and sheffart, which signify “lawyering and cheating,” though tuvverku is the common name given to a lawyer, moggot being more applicable to those who plead causes, who are connected often with men who make such marriages a business. One of these, knowing a woman to have a good property, feigns to fall in love with her, and entices her into the snare. After he has succeeded in persuading the poor woman to be his wife, and they are bound by an oath to receive the sacrament together, and live as the select people of Christ, he, in a very short time brings one of his acquaintances to be a constant visitor, and a plan is arranged between them in what manner to act: for instance, a day will be appointed for the ruin of the poor woman, when the acquaintance will be lying and playing on the same sofa with the woman, such liberties being common in Abyssinia, when the parties are intimate friends and familiar in the family, and then the husband will come in suddenly, bringing several witnesses with him, whom he has told previously that he has frequently caught a man with his wife. On their approach, the friend jumps from the sofa, and makes his escape, in order to confirm the fact, and in this way the poor woman is cheated. If she says anything in her defence, when before the shummergildas, the witnesses against her, who suppose they are attesting the truth, are too numerous, and she is accordingly condemned. I have known several instances of this kind, and indeed, I once knew a woman to have been guilty of this shameful practice in several towns where she had lived. She was a native of Gondar, who set herself up for a tuvverku, or lawyer, by which profession she procured her maintenance, as one of the higher class of people. She is known in all the principal towns: of Abyssinia, by the name of Wolleta Gorgis Sheffart, or cheat. - “In all law-suits, either before the governor of a province, or a court of shummergildas, the plaintiff and the defendant stand up, with their cloth tied round their middle, leaving the upper part of the body naked, which is customary even in the severest weather. The tuvverkus stand on each side of them, pleading in a loud tone of voice their several causes, during which time wagers of mules, cows, sheep, or wakeahs of gold, &c., are continually laid by the tuvverkus, that they will prove such and such charges which may be denied by the plaintiff or defendant, which wagers, when won, become the perquisites of the governor. They will also bind each other over to forfeit a mule, or a wakeah of gold, not to speak till the other has finished his speech; but it often happens that the falsehoods which the one may be relating, incense the other, who in general holds his mouth with his hand, to such a degree, that forgetting he is bound by a forfeit not to speak, he bursts out into a rage, exclaiming, assert 1 [a lie  when he is instantly taken up by the governor's servant, whose office it is to look for such slips, and obliged to give bond on the spot for the forfeit lost; or he has a chain put on his wrist, and is chained to one of the governor's servants till he pays the sum forfeited; though it is seldom that they cannot find some one standing or sitting by to be bond for them. These forfeits are also the governor's perquisites. I have known a great man lose by one wager, fifty white mules, which are the most esteemed, the * having been made merely to show his consequence.”—vol. i. pp. 10—313.
In all parts of Abyssinia, girls are married at a very early age, some as young as eight years: Mr. Coffin told the editor, that he has known many girls to become mothers at eleven, or even ten years. When parents think their daughter old enough to take a
husband, they plait her hair very neatly, blacken her eyes, or rather, we should suppose, the arches above and beneath them, with a mineral which they obtain from the Egyptian caravans, and die their hands a dark red colour. The damsel is then placed constantly at the door in dry weather, occupying herself in spinning or clearing corn, so that every one who passes may see her. If any man take a liking to her, every facility is allowed him for improving his acquaintance, and all parties consenting, she is taken to his house upon trial, the husband having it in his power to turn her away when he chooses. This custom, however, prevails chiefly in the lo. ranks. . In the higher, marriages are agreed upon much after the same fashion as in Europe. Pearce gives the following description of the musical instruments which are most in use in Abyssinia:—
“The trumpets are in general made of the skin of the elephant, except the lower broad mouth, which is the neck of a calebash. They give out a tremendous sound. The fifes are made of a hard wood hollowed out, having three holes for the fingers of the left hand. They are blown into at the end, are about a foot and three quarters long, and their tone is very wild, especially when they are accompanied by a small instrument called tora, about eight inches long, which is likewise blown at the end, yielding a hollow, bass, and savage sound. Three trumpeters, three fifers, and one tora, with a long drum, narrower at one end than at the other, and beat at both ends with the hands, complete the band of the chief of a district.
“The band of a Ras consists of the number above-mentioned, and fortyfour large drums, accompanied each by a small one. These drums are in the shape of the kettle-drums of Europe, cut out of trunks of large trees; they are headed with cow-hide, and, being very heavy, are carried on mules, the larger on the right side, and the smaller on the left, the drummers riding behind, with a small straight stick in the left hand, and one that turns up at the end and larger in the right. His provisions, in leather bags, beneath the drums, prevent these heavy and clumsy instruments from galling the animal's back; these drums produce a warlike sound, and in marches are beat regularly together, though they have but few changes.
“Of stringed instruments, they have a sort of fiddle, consisting of a piece of wood square and hollowed out, with a neck about a foot-and a-half long. The hollow part is covered with hide, on which the bridge stands. It has only one string, and the bow is a stick bent, with several horse-hairs attached to it. They have also a kind of lyre, the lower part of which is made of a hollow piece of wood, and covered with cow-hide, and above which is a slight wooden arch, about two feet high, to which six strings are fastened. Each string has a piece of wood to answer to it as at screw, which twists the string round the top of the arch. This instrument is called charchamer. There is another, of nearly the same form, and of the same materials, only larger and with ten strings, called berganner. Some of them are four feet high, and their notes are very pleasant. The nobility and great men all practice playing upon them; the strings are beat with a piece of wood, or ivory, with the right hand, while the fingers of the left command the time. There are besides many childish instruments chiefly made out of the horns of animals.
‘Their manner of dancing consists rather in the motion of the shoulders . . .
and head than in that of legs or feet. When several dance at a time, they move round in a ring. The men jump a great height at times, while the women squat down by degrees, making motions with the head, shoulders, and breast, until they nearly squat on the ground. They afterwards spring up in a lively manner, and go round as before. The Amhara do not practice this latter exercise, but their motions are the same. Their songs . are far from humorous, and seldom consist of more than one or two short verses, sung over and over again, in a rude manner. The chanting of their priests, in their churches and public places, would be more agreeable if they did not exhibit the most unbecoming actions while they are so employed.’—vol. i. pp. 320–322. - Pearce presents us with an appalling account of the depravity of the clergy, who are, in general, he says, the greatest drinkers in. the whole country, and the most ravenous gluttons, and addicted to fighting, quarrelling, lying, swearing, cheating, and all manner of . bad practices. Here and there, by chance, is found a priest free from these vices, but the clergy are in general so loosely governed, all considering themselves as equals, that the good example of a few individuals produces no effect. The number of priests in the country is considerable. They are allowed to marry, but only once. Great numbers of the younger clergy, who are attached to no particular mission, go about teaching children, but though their terms are very low, they obtain comparatively few scholars. Their school is generally held in the open air, except in wet weather. It would seem that they are in some measure acquainted with the Lancasterian system, as the advanced boys are made to teach the younger ones. The urchins are sometimes so violent and ungovernable, that the master is obliged to put them in irons for months together. Very few of the Abyssinians learn to write. They have all a strong belief, however, in the efficacy of written charms, and those who can manufacture these spells are much respected, as it is supposed that, by their supernatural power, they can keep off the hail and locust from the harvest, and cure all sorts of diseases. The reader will be amused with an anecdote or two, which Pearce relates of these rascals. ‘I cannot help mentioning a circumstance which once befel one of these impostors. The Ras had often conversed with me, telling me the power these people had, and what dangerous enemies they were to those who offended them; to which I always replied, that it was only a foolish superstition of the ignorant, and that they had no power more than other people, and ought rather to be punished as impostors. Through frequent conversations he began, I saw, to be of my opinion, but dared not shew it, for fear of giving umbrage to the priests. A Gojam Dofter came one day, to ask the Ras to put him at the head of the clergy of some country district, assuring him that he could prevent the ravages of the small-pox, of the destructive locust, or of hail. The Ras, smiling, recommended him to me and Mr. Coffin, who were then sitting at dinner with him. In consequence, he made his bow, and addressed himself to us. On our return.
home he followed us, and we ordered our gate-keeper to permit him to enter the yard, while I and Mr. Coffin went into the house, and soon returned with two English cart-whips, that came with the artillery harness and carriages brought by Mr. Salt. The Dofter smiled at seeing those long weapons, and asked the use of them. “We are going to show you,” said Mr. Coffin, and I immediately added, in a serious tone, “If you can save others from the wrath of God, save yourself from the whipping you are going to receive;” on which we both began to lay on, till he fell at our feet imploring mercy, declaring he had no more power than his fellow-creatures. After this acknowledgment, we gave him his belly full of victuals, raw meat and maize, and turned him out of the yard, when he asked us for money, which we refused, and he became very troublesome and abusive, Atlast he so provoked Mr. Coffin, that he took his blunderbuss, charged it, put the blood of a fowl which he had just killed on the top of the powder, and went to the gate and discharged it at him; when the man, seeing himself covered with blood, took to his heels and ran up to the top of a small mountain, where he remained till the evening, when he descended, and went to the Ras's gate, calling out Abbate 1 Abbate 1 [justice]; and stating that the white man had shot him. Upon this, the Ras sent for me and Mr. Coffin, to inquire into the matter, when, hearing the truth of the affair, he laughed heartily, and dismissed the fellow, who departed, and was never heard of more in that part of the country. For several weeks after, the old Ras would laugh heartily at dinner time over the story.
“Another time we produced the same effect upon one of these impostors, with a number of squibs and crackers, that came from England also, which we threw upon him through the roof, into a close room, where he was writing his charms, and drawing the picture of hell, the devil, &c., which frightened him so much, that he broke open the door, and, leaving his cap and turban, with all the utensils of his art, behind him, he ran off, and never returned. This also furnished great amusement to the old gentleman, though he never durst say any thing against these wretches in public, even when he was himself convinced.
* There was also a great Dofter who used to travel about the country of Enderta for several years, and had become very rich, by cheating the poor and ignorant. This Dofter used to attend the sick, and was employed to purify places supposed to be haunted by the devil, &c. He used always to commence his operations in the heat of the sun, when he would order all fires to be removed from near the spot, and would then sit down on a dry place near the door, and tell the people to withdraw to a little distance while he prayed, during which time he would, by the assistance of the bottom of a broken bottle, set fire to some dry horse-dung, with the rays of the sun; he would then throw on some frankincense, to make a great smoke, and, rising up with his face towards heaven, would call his ignorant employers, telling them in an awful tone, that “God had heard him, and sent down fire from heaven to destroy all their enemies, visible or invisible.” This I found out by my own investigation, having produced the same effect with the bottom of a broken bruly, or bottle, which experiment I showed to the Ras. Still, none durst disbelieve the Dofter.'—vol. i. pp. 332—335.
Though smoking is forbidden by the priests, yet it is very generally practised. The churches are constructed of wood, and are vo L. III. (1831.) No. 1. D