Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/110

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91
PERSIA.

Abraham, who, out of obedience to the Almighty, would have sacrificed his son Ishmael, whom the Arabs regard as their progenitor, and whom they substitute in this instance for Isaac. Some days before the corban, every family buys a sheep without spot or defect, an emblem of the corporeal and spiritual purity of Ishmael. On the day of the festival, this victim is decorated with ribbons, pearls and ornaments of every kind; its forehead, feet, and other parts of the body, are stained with henna, a powder made of the leaves of the cyperus; after being thus adorned and paraded about, it is slaughtered, and pieces of the flesh are sent by the family to its friends and the poor.

In large cities, instead of a sheep, the governor slaughters a camel; and the ceremony is performed out of the town, on a spot appropriated to the purpose. The governor inflicts the first blow; on which the bystanders instantly fall upon the victim, and cut it in pieces; and happy are they who can secure one of them for their share, because it is a pledge of good luck. On the return of the people from the sacrifice, scaffolds are erected before the governor's palace, in the public places, and in the streets; and rope-dancers, wrestlers, musicians, singers, and dancers, amuse the multitude there during the rest of the day.

On the 21st of Ramazan, a solemn festival is held in honour of Ali. For this purpose, a covered gallery is constructed somewhere out of the town, where the chief men of the place take their station. In front of this gallery is a kind of pulpit, eight feet high, covered with cloth. Here the preacher appointed to pronounce the panegyric of the sacred personage, reads for an hour or two in a book intituled Moctel-nameh, book of the murder, containing a history of the death of Ali, chanting without intermission, in a loud, clear, and doleful voice. There are certain passages of which he pronounces only the first word, leaving some of the congregation to finish. At the end of each passage, they repeat this imprecation: "May the curse of God be upon the murderer of Ali!" and all the people respond: "Rather more than less." It is rarely that the assembly is not melted into tears, when the preacher draws the affecting picture of Ali, apprizing his children that he shall soon fall by the hand of one of his servants, and receiving the fatal blow in the mosque while engaged in prayer. After the sermon, the people return in procession to the town; three camels bear representations of the tombs of All, and his two sons, Hassan and Hossien. These are followed by three chests covered with blue cloth, containing the spiritual treatises which they wrote; horses, carrying bows, turbans, and flags; and men, bearing on their heads little boxes covered with feathers and flowers, and con-

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