Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/211

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


The Great Feast in Morocco. i8i

feasts. Nor can we say when and where it originated ; it even seems hopeless to speculate on these points, as we know nothing about its history and hardly anything about the prevalence of masquerades among other Muhammedans than those of Morocco and Algeria and the Shfah Moslems of Persia and India. It is worth noticing, however, that there is some resemblance between the Moorish masquerade and the European carnival, whatever be the cause of this resemblance. The bdbbor of the 'Asura play at Fez reminds us of the ship, dedicated to Dionysus, which was driven on wheels through the streets of Athens, and of the ship-waggon which was in use at a spring festival in certain parts of mediaeval Germany. Like the Moorish masquerade the European carnival is combined with purificatory ceremonies, such as fire and water rites ; and during the Carnival gifts are collected by children who go about singing certain songs and afterwards make a common feast of the materials thus received.^^ But this resemblance cannot by itself be regarded as an evidence of a common origin. Similar cathartic and other rites may have grown up in different places independently of one another. Vessels laden with disease-demons or misfortunes are found among many savage peoples,^^ and the Nicobar Islanders once a year, for purificatory purposes, carry the model of a ship through their villages,*'* just as the Sultan's soldiers carry a similar model through the streets of Fez.

The striking prevalence of cathartic ceremonies at the Great Feast tempts me to suggest a possible explanation of the principal feature of it, the sacrifice, which was borrowed by Islam from pre-Muhammedan Arabian paganism. Its primary object may have been to expel evils which were supposed to threaten the people at the time of the year when the sacrifice took place. The ancient

^^ See Rademacher, ' Carnival,' in Hastings' Encyclopcsdia of Religion and Ethics, vol. iii, pp. 226 et seq.

^^Frazer, op. cit., vol. iii, pp. 97 et seq. *^ Ibid., vol. iii, p. 106.