« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
it, and proceed to give you some account of their marriages, if the temporary connections these people form can be called so. A man and woman agree to live together without any other ceremony than mutual consent, and they part as easily, whenever they are tired of each other; and sometimes the same couple, after having each chosen other partners, come together again, without any scruples of delicacy on that account. I saw once a lady of great quality, well received at court by the queen-mother, who had had seven husbands in succession, all present at that time, without any reflection on her cha
Upon separation, the children are divided, the eldest son falls to the mother's lot, the eldest daughter to that of the father.
When the king sees a lady, whom he chuses to raise to the dignity of queen, he sends an officer to announce to her, that it is his pleasure that she should remove instantly to the palace, upon which she dresses herself in the best manner, and obeys without hesitation. Thenceforward, he assigns her an apartment in the palace, and gives her a house wherever she likes. When he makes her his queen, one of the judges declares, in his presence, that the king has chosen his handmaid, calling her by name, for his queen; the crown is then put upon her head, but she is not anointed. Besides this lady, the king has as many wives as he pleases, and consequently a great many children by different mothers, all equally eligi
ble to succeed their father. It is most likely that such numerous heirs, with equal claims, would cause great disturbances in the kingdom, were it not for the wise precaution of sending them to the mountain of Wechné, where they are confined as prisoners, and supported by an allowance from government, too often misapplied by those intrusted with it.
Man is the saine being, as to natural qualities, in all countries and under all governments, and yet the influence of climate, education, religion, and laws is so great, that the inhabitants of different parts of the globe scarcely appear to partake of the same common nature. Who, en comparing the cruel, bloody gluttonous feasts and licentious attachments of the Abyssinians with the pure, humane, abstemious meals of the Bramins, who reject all animal food, and the enthusiastic fidelity of the Hindoo women, who burn themselves on the funeral pile with their deceased husbands, could perceive any similarity between them; though it is morally certain, that, change their situation, and their characters would be reversed.
It seems, from this comparison, as if a perverted Christianity were worse than the simple light of nature; for the Abyssinians profess themselves Christians of the Alexandrian church, though they differ so widely in their practice from the precepts of our Divine Master. They, like many others, content themselves with forms instead of the substance, and are very ostentatious in their ceremonies, at one of which, celebrated at the feast of Epiphany, I was
present. Three large tents, for the priests and monks, were pitched on the banks of the small river that runs between Adowa and the church, the water of which had been dammed up for several days. About twelve o'clock at night, the monks and priests met together, and began their prayers and psalms, at the water side, relieving each other alternately. At dawn of day, the governor arrived, attended by some soldiers, with design to raise men for the army, and sat down on a hill, near the river: the troops, both horse and foot, skirmishing around them.
As soon as the sun began to appear, three large wooden crosses were carried, by three priests, dressed in their sacerdotal vestments, and who, coming to the side of the river, dipt the crosses into the water, and all this time the firing, skirmishing, and praying went on together. The priests with the crosses returned, one of the three going before the others with a silver cup of water: when they were about fifty yards from the governor, that nobleman stood up, and the priest took as much water as he could hold in his hands, and sprinkled it upon his head, holding the cup at the same time to his mouth; when he had tasted it, he pronounced a benediction, each of the three crosses were presented to him, and, after he had kissed them, the ceremony of sprinkling was repeated to all the great men in the tent, dressed in gala habits.— This being over, the priests returned to the river with the crosses, singing hallelujahs amidst the continued firing and skirmishing. The water used for this sa
cred purpose is polluted by several hundred boys, calling themselves deacons, naked, except a rag about their middle, plunging into it. The people in general now approached the edge of the water, and were sprinkled decently, at first by boys appointed to act as deacons; but, when the governor, priests, &c. had withdrawn, the whole became a scene of riot and confusion.
The Abyssinians take the sacrament in both kinds: instead of wine, they use a kind of marmalade, of bruised grapes, and, strange to say, large pieces of unleavened bread: the size is increased as the rank of the communicant rises higher; the priest stuffing such large portions of the loaf into the mouth of a great man as almost to choke him.
Churches are very numerous in this country, the building of one being esteemed an atonement for every species of wickedness: they give the country a picturesque appearance, from the situations always chosen for them, which is on the top of some beautiful round hill, watered by a running stream, for the convenience of the ablutions, &c., and surrounded by luxuriant plantations of Virginian cedars, intermingled with a tall, elegant tree, called Cusso. They are built round, with a cone-shaped roof, of thatch. The outside is encircled by a number of wooden pillars, formed into an agreeable colonnade, by the projection of the roof, which secures those who walk under it from the rain. Nobody is permitted to enter a church, unless they are barefooted and free from
every kind of pollution. On the inside the walls are hung with paultry daubings of saints. A priest, called the Abuna, is regarded as their patriarch. A foreigner is always chosen to fill this high office.Many absurd superstitions are mixed with their religious ceremonies, which plainly show that they are a people buried in ignorance.
Having given you a sketch of the manners of the Abyssinians in general, I shall leave Gondar for the present, and proceed by the same route as our countryman, Bruce, to the source of the Nile.
Journey from Gondar to the Source of the Nile.
I set out, one fine morning, in April, properly attended, and in two hours came to a considerable ri. ver, called the Mogetch, and crossed it over a bridge of four arches. Our company now entered an extensive plain, where I was disappointed in my search for curious plants.
On the other side of the river Jedda, the road divides: the eastern branch leads to Wechué, in the wild, uncultivated territory of Belessen, famous for no production but honey. We took the western road, and, after crossing the Gomara, a large stream, that stands in pools in the dry season, we came to the village of Correva, beautifully situated, in view of the great lake Tzana; from thence we proceeded