Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/495

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

shat (the Tigris), shed (to bind), nál (horseshoe), and lál (a ruby). Whoever speaks one of these words is guilty of the most heinous blasphemy and deserves to die, and his soul shall be embodied in a mangy dog or a beast of burden. Therefore God forbids the reading of books, because such words are contained in them. Neither the Bible nor the Koran originally had these blasphemous passages, but they were added by evil-doers. It is also a great sin to eat salad, because its name (in Arabic) sounds like one of the titles of our saints."

The priestly order is hereditary, in the lines ordained by God, and includes, after the Myr, or high-priest, the Apiars, who reside at Sheik Adi, and dispose of their blessings for good money; the Meshaich, who, without having any particular ecclesiastical functions, pray for the healing of diseases and break the bread at marriage ceremonies; the Kovechek, who dance at the festivals and on other occasions; the Kavalin, who constitute the guard of honor to the seven holy images, make music, and attend to the collections; and the Fakirs, who are organized as begging-monks, and live wholly on alms. All these priests wear their beard and hair uncut, and can marry only within their class.

The Sanjak, or Holy Standard of the Yezidees, is asserted to have come down from King Solomon, having passed from him to the kings of their nation, and having been committed by Yezid to the Kavalin to care for. As among them, it is consigned to the one who will bid highest for the privileges and blessings attendant upon having it in possession. On stated occasions the Sanjak is carried around and exhibited to the people. The priest dips the standard into the holy water, and, taking some of the consecrated earth of Sheik Adi, makes of it pills as large as a hazel-nut, which he keeps as blessed gifts for the faithful. Whoever swallows one of these pills will be kept by the grace of Melek-Taus sound in mind and body for a whole year. The standard, preceded by a herald to announce its coming, is taken to the villages as they are designated by the Myr. The privilege of entertaining it having been sold at auction, the successful bidder makes a feast in its honor, which is attended by the priests in their order, and by the people, and, finally, the women and children. Offerings are brought and laid down, and at sunset all the faithful march seven times around the standard in honor of the seven gods, beating their breasts and asking pardon for their sins. When all the villages in the circuit have been visited, the standard and the collected offerings are brought to the temple.

Sheik Adi is the true Jerusalem, or center of the faith. At the beginning of the autumn the Myr and the Meshaich meet there in a cave and inquire of Melek, who appears to them, whether a festival will be agreeable to him. If the answer is