i8o The Popular Ritual of
with idryak, disease spirits, had been beaten for curative purposes.
Certain features of the Moorish masquerade suggest that it may be supposed to fulfil a useful function not only by driving or carrying away evil influences, but also in a less material manner. It turns into mockery what otherwise is regarded with religious veneration. At the Great Feast the man who is dressed up in the skins of sacrificed animals and who is frequently considered to embody the baraka of the feast is put to ridicule and treated with indignity, he is surrounded by unclean individuals, and his own behaviour is most indecent. A similar spirit of blasphemy and impurity pervades the masquerade which takes place at 'Asura ; the grossest obscenities are sung by persons representing pious men, and the very rites of religion are scoffed at. At Wargla in Algeria, according to M. Biarnay, " un imam vient inviter les gens deguises a faire la priere avec lui, il leur demande de s'orienter, aussitot tous se tournent vers I'Ouest ou le Nord ; I'imam recite-t-il une formule rituelle, ses accolytes la reprennent en y ajoutant toutes sortes d'obscenites dans le geste et les paroles, le tout a la plus grande joie des assistants hommes, femmes et enfants." ^^ All this mockery may perhaps be explained as a method of ceremonial profanation by which the people try to shake off the holiness of the feast so as to be able to return without danger to their ordinary occupa- tions of life. It is noteworthy that the masquerade com- mences after the chief part of the feast is over.
If the original object of the masquerade is to free the people from evils, and more particularly from the baleful influences of holiness, it may of course take place on any occasion when a cathartic ceremony is held desirable, and there is, so far, no reason to assume that it was at first attached to some date or period of the solar year and after- wards transferred to one or another of the Muhammedan
^^ Biarnay, op. cit., p. 214. Cf. MouHeras, op. cit., p. no.