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by bringing upon us some accident.’ The zar is commanded to answer and if he does not he is beaten with the bloody stick until he does.” . . . In Cairo, the sacrificial ceremony was witnessed and described by Madame H. Rushdi Pasha.” She tells how after the preliminary music, dancing, and feasting, incense is burnt and the one possessed is properly fumigated. During the process of fumigating no prayers are offered. When this is over the dancing begins. The one possessed then takes hold of the ram which has now been brought in. She makes the tour of the room three times, acting the while like a drunken woman, amid the shrieks of the other women in the room. The ram is then dragged by the possessed to the door where it is butchered. The possessed reënters preceded by the goudia who carries a tray filled with jewels covered with the blood of the ram. In fact everybody gets covered with the blood of the ram, still warm. Blood is everywhere. They roll about on the animal until they are quite covered with it. The air becomes hot with incense and smoke. And when at last the women fall down on the ground, the goudias go around touching them on the ears and breathe on them whispering words in their ears, presumably from the Koran. After a while they regain their places as if nothing has happened. Dr. Kahle also states that the sheikha or leader of the performance is called “Kudija ” (goudia) but gives no explanation of the word; its derivation is obscure. Zars which are performed near sanctuaries and not in private houses, have neither a kursi, with candles, nor sheep offerings. But in most cases the sheikha comes to the house of the sick person the following morning to kill the animal there. The name sheikha (the feminine of sheikh, elder) is given her, because she knows the method of casting out spirits. Her first task is to find out the right tune for a particular sufferer. If she knows the “Zar bride” from previous meetings, she at once begins the right one. The first time, one tune after another is tried (for Cairo spirits, Upper Egypt spirits, etc.), until the sick person becomes ecstatic, which proves that the right tune has been found and it is then continued. Each special tune requires special dressing, which, according to the sex of the spirit, may be that of men, women, boys or girls. The sick person herself acts as the incarnation of the spirit; sometimes, however, the sheikha speaks instead of the spirit. The meetings for exorcising the Zar may be of short duration, or may continue for several nights. If the patient is rich, the feast is prolonged, and during the fourth night, called the “great night,” the greatest feast is prepared. The sheikha and other visitors remain for the whole night with the sick person, and the following morning they have the solemn sacrifice, the supreme performance of the feast.” Captain Tremearne in “the Ban of the Bori’’ and G. A. Herklot in his book on the customs of the Moslems of India, “Qanoon-e-Islam ” (1832), relate similar practices prevailing in North Africa and India. In every land therefore, with variations due to local circumstances, the Zar must always be propitiated by three — incense, the Zar-dance with music and last, but not least, the sacrifice — all three of these are Pagan and repulsive to orthodox Islam and yet continue under its shadow. Between 1870–80 the practices spread to such an extent in Upper Egypt that the Government had to put a stop to them.” During the past four years the Cairo press has published many articles demanding that “these 11 See The Moslem World, July, 1913. Article by Elizabet Franke,
10 “Harems et Musulmanes d'Egypte” (Paris), out of print, pp. 270–274.
infidel ceremonies” be abolished by law, but the custom dies hard.” Not only is the superstition of the Zar degrading to morals and spiritual life judged even by Moslem standards but it is such an expensive bit of heathenism that families have been financially ruined through its demands. “Sometimes a man will divorce his wife,” says Mrs. Dijkstra, “ because she has zeeran, or if he learns that the girl or woman he was going to marry has them he will break his marriage agreement. And the reason in all these instances is a financial one. People possessed by zeeran must give feasts at various times, and the women are prompted by their zeeran to demand from their husbands new clothing, new jewelry, and new house furnishings, and if these are not forthcoming the zeeran threaten that severe calamities will overtake them. So unless the husband is prepared to assume such burdens he very promptly rids himself of the cause, and families refuse to entertain the very idea of zeeran because of the constant drain upon their time and strength and money.” The Zar spirits (zeeran) are divided into numerous tribes and classes. In Cairo they have Abyssinian, Sudanese, Arab, and even Indian evil-spirits, for each of which a special ceremony is necessary at the time of exorcism. They are male, female, or hermaphrodites. They may belong to every class of society and different religions. In Bahrein, East Arabia, “the outward sign of being possessed by a Zar is the wearing of a signet ring, with the name of the Zar and of the person himself engraven on a red stone, and also the Shehadeh or witness, ‘La illaha illa allah, wa Mohammed rasoul allah,’ there is no god but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God. This signet ring must receive a bath 13 Cf. for example the newspaper Al Jareeda, April 18, 1911, and
the pamphlet “Mudarr ez Zar,” “The Baneful Effect of the Zar,” Cairo, 1903.