Misfortune overtakes him who has the foolhardiness to perpetrate such an outrage, and as may be imagined, the Arabs have many delectable stories calculated to win over the skeptic. The holy tree is hung with a variety of buntings and like ornaments. The diseased and maimed of the desert resort to it, offer it a sheep or goat, and besprinkle it with the blood of the sacrificed animal. The flesh is cooked and distributed among the friends present, a portion being left suspended from a branch of the magic tree; and the patient returns tranquil in the faith that the angel will appear in a dream and instruct him with a view to his cure. But again it is the patient only who may sleep in the shades of the sacred tree; to a healthy man the attempt would involve ruin. Professor Sachu’s attention was arrested in the rocky land Jabal-ulAmiri, southeast of Aleppo, by a stunted desiccated thorny tree of a man’s height which he beheld hung on all sides with variegated rags. “Stones were heaped around its stem, and all manner of stones, large and small, were placed in the branches. Such a tree, called zarur, is the altar of the desert. When a woman yearns for a child, when a peasant longs for rain, or when he yearns for the restoration to health of his horse or camel he takes a stone and deposits it at the foot of the zarur, or fixes it somewhere between its two branches.” Again, on either side of the Jordan religious veneration for sacred trees which has dominated there from times immemorial and which evoked stern Biblical enactments has still perpetuated in unaltered shape. “In no country,” says the Rev. Mr. Mills, “have men greater reverence for trees than in Palestine. There we encounter a considerable number of holy trees, which are hung with pieces of cloth and garments of pilgrims who have journeyed thither to do homage to the trees. We notice on other trees rags for purposes of superstitious enchantments. Many a tree is the resort of evil spirits, but what is more weird, a place abounding in tender oaks is usually dedicated to a species of beings denominated “Daughters of Jacob.’” Abbé Barges tells of a lotus-tree in the garden of an Arab in Jaffa to which special veneration was offered. From the branches of the tree depended lamps and strips of cloth of a variety of colors. The proprietor, explaining the strange worship, said that the seed of the tree had descended from heaven. That was why it was dedicated to the Prophet who visited the tree from time to time in the shades of the night. All good Mohammedans show the same awe-struck respect for a holy tree. The practice is noticeable in other countries too, where popular worship finds expression in veneration accorded to singular representatives of the vegetable kingdom. Schumacher recording his experiences in Jolan describes how the butmi tree is sometimes seen standing solitary in the midst of a field shading the final resting-place of a Moslem saint. It receives the distinctive appellation of “fakiri,” the indigent, and is so secured from all outside interference, being allowed unchecked to attain to a great height. No Moslem dare break a single one of its branches or even remove a dry twig, for, as the legend has it, no man can ever bend its bough but must call down upon himself the justice of divine vengeance. Goldziher further states: “We may glance at a few more of the diverse aspects which the cult of trees assumes in Islam. Alongside of immutable heathen forms we come upon such as have been subjected to the moderating influencing of Mohammedanism. An umbrageous tree in Wadi ul-sirar, not far from Mecca, which used to be worshiped in pre-Islamic ages, is adored as the one under which seventy prophets had their umbilical cord severed. (Al-Muwatta II, p. 284; Yakut III, p. 75.). The Abbaside Abd-ul-Samad-ibn-Ali, Governor of Mecca, built a mosque at this place. A sacred tree is either associated with the memory of Mohammed or its shadow covers a Wali's tomb. In the desert the holy tree is

These are very similar in shape to those worn -


adored in all its pagan aspects; in the city the veneration is transferred to a convenient saint. And without such props the heathen cult would certainly have been uprooted. In the mosque of Rabia in Kazwin there was a tree regarded sacred by the vulgar. The Caliph ul-Mutawakkil ordered its destruction “so that the people may no more fall into temptation.” (Beladhuri, p. 322.) It is imperative among austere Mohammedan environment to find out a dead pious man upon whom to transpose the homage really done to the tree, and when no tomb is forthcoming nigh at hand, the tree itself becomes the recipient of the worship in the shape of the habitation of a Wali. At the corner of a street in Damascus there is an olive-tree, to which pilgrimages are made, chiefly by women, among whom it is celebrated as the Holy Lady Olive (Sitti Zaytun). A dervish collects the sacrificial gifts of the pious devotees in whose behalf he offers prayers. The olive was considered an individual with a personal name. Zeytun grew into Zaytun. Morocco actually boasts of a like ‘Notre Dame d’Olive” in a gigantic tree which is the center of crowded pilgrimages. A masculine counterpart of Lady Zaytun we meet in the Sheikh Abu Zeytun whose mausoleum is situated in Palestine. By an analogous process the Mohammedans have personified a venerable stone column into Sheikh-ul-Amud, or the Reverend Pillar. Objects previously looked up to as sacred continue to be so in Moslem times, only they are connected with some pious man whose existence the worshipers ever are at a loss to establish.” So far the investigations of Professor Goldziher. In Yemen the Moslems give the following tradition to explain how the custom arose. I have not been able to trace it to its source. They say that the polytheists of the Koreish used to pay high honor to sacred trees and accept good and ill from their influences. They used to drive nails into the trees and hang bits of their clothing upon them, but when Islam came this practice was

« ElőzőTovább »