Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/205

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193
MODERN MIRACLES.

plete subjection of the moral and mental faculties of the adept to the will of his superior, but also, as it would seem, in a change of the vital processes and a suspension of the ordinary conditions of bodily existence, which give him immunity from pain and enable him to inflict upon himself wounds that would be fatal to common mortals.

At Paris the performance took place every evening at nine o'clock in the upper story of the Moorish café, in the Rue du Caire, of the Oriental quarter. Four'Aïssavidya, with their sheik, squatted in Eastern fashion on a carpeted platform, in the center of which stood a brazier of burning coals. The exhibition began with a monotonous sing-song, the burden of which was the invocation of 'Aïssa and Allah, accompanied by a sort of tambourine or tom-tom edged with bells. The music was at first slow and rather low, but soon went faster and grew louder, until it rose to a fearful howl and furious din. At this juncture one of the fakirs sprang up and, throwing off his upper garment, began to dance with his hands on his hips, his head bent forward, and his eyes intently fixed on the sheik. This dance, called Ishdeb, became at every moment wilder and the swaying motion of the dancer's body more violent, until he fell down in a fit of exhaustion, foaming at the mouth and his eyes in a "fine frenzy rolling," In this state of ecstasy he is supposed to be possessed by the spirit of 'Aïssa and thereby rendered invulnerable to the sharpest weapons and proof against the deadliest poisons. We may add that Soliman at Berlin prepared himself for the ordeal of fire and sword, not by music and dancing, but by burning a powder and inhaling the smoke, which, however, did not produce any perceptibly stupefying or exhilarating effect upon him. He is a member of the order of Saadi, founded in 1335 by Saadeddin Jebari. Each order seems to have its own method of procedure in this respect, which forms a part of its secret science.

In a short time the fakir had sufiiciently recovered from his trance to stand up, and, when the sheik pointed to the brazier, he thrust his hand into it, seized some of the live coals, blew them till they emitted sparks, bit off pieces of them, as one would bite an apple, and eagerly ate them up. He then went to a large prickly cactus, which was standing on the platform, plucked a leaf armed with strong spines, bit off a piece, and swallowed it. With equal avidity he crunched and consumed thin sheets of glass. Fragments of the cactus and the glass were handed to the spectators, who examined them and convinced themselves that they were really the substances they were represented to be. An attendant brought in a shovel, the iron part of which was red-hot, so that a bit of paper thrown upon it flashed at once into flame. The fakir took the wooden handle of the shovel with his right hand, placed