The New International Encyclopædia/Fakir

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FAKIR, fȧ-kēr' (Ar. faqīr, beggar, religious mendicant, from faqura, to be poor). In general, a religious mendicant; more specifically, a Hindu marvel-worker or priestly juggler, usually peripatetic and indigent. The fakir may be regarded as a differentiated shaman or sorcerer, standing midway between the best and the worst products of the original class — i.e. between priest and beggar. There are, however, many classes, defined chiefly by cult, but also by race, school, or particular craft. In Mohammedan countries fakirs are usually divided into two classes — the orthodox, or those ‘within the law,’ and the heterodox, or those ‘without the law.’ In portions of India, also, there is a particularly orthodox or elevated class, known as yogis, with a much larger irregular or outlaw class; and in some sections the fakirs grade into dervishes, some of whom engage in religious rites or invocations involving peculiar postures or movements, such as spinning on the toes with outstretched arms for hours at a time. The Hindu fakirs are probably the most expert jugglers in the world, and many of their feats have puzzled the most acute Western students — some have never been fully explained. They appear to be adepts in sleight-of-hand, in hypnotism, in ventriloquism, in producing illusions, and in controlling organic reactions by voluntary effort, and many of the current devices of jugglery in other parts of the world have been borrowed from them. The parallelism between the Hindu fakir and the Amerind shaman is particularly close, as in the mango trick of the one and the corn trick of the other. In both cases the plant is apparently grown in eight of the spectators, in a few minutes, from the seed, through the tender shoot, the forming bud, the full bloom, the immature truit, and the ripened product, all by an ingenious series of illusions, but the Oriental trick has become little more than a feat of jugglery; the Occidental one remains a part of a solemn religious ceremony. See Man, Science of, section Sophiology.