Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

stream, typical of her who was the model of virgin purity. If the country should be affected with a drought, the Papa and elders of the commune select a certain number of girls under fifteen years of age, not forgetting to choose the most distinguished for personal attractions, to implore their patroness, and all the saints, to intercede for rain to refresh their dying crops. In order, however, to render their prayers more effectual, the maidens exchange their usual garments for others made of the leaves and flowers of such plants as grow in marshy districts. This is intended to represent to the Queen of Heaven that they are obliged to resort to these for clothing, and if the marshes should be dried up, they have no other resource. One of these maidens who, for her superior beauty and vocal powers, is selected as their queen, marches at the head of her followers, singing a hymn composed for the occasion, the others joining in chorus; they dance before each dwelling, till one of the inmates throws over them a pitcher of water, and thus they continue proceeding from house to house, chanting and singing. The Panagia is much venerated among these mountaineers, each dwelling has a picture of her, besides the household saint, which, from a dread of the religious persecutions they formerly endured, and the fear of

some fanatic Turk secing them, are kept concealed, and

only make their appearance on the eve of some festival and on Sundays. An altar is then prepared in some conspicuous situation of the house, a lamp lighted, and incense burned before the shrine, and the whole ceremony of the Greek forms of worship performed, with a decent solemnity perfectly astonishing to a stranger; the patriarch of the house officiating as Papa, when his family and tribe are the congregation. Thus we see, though the Turk may deprive the Rayah of a public place of worship, he cannot prevent him from exercising the rites of his creed, since his own hut serves him as a temple. Although we cannot admire many of the forms of the Greek Church, it is impossible to withhold our approbation on witnessing such an exhibition of fervent piety as this. Still, it must be confessed that the traveller on such occasions, unless a member of the same creed, is placed in an awkward position, since he is obliged to remain a silent spectator, or absent himself from the family worship; in either case he excites a doubt as to whether he really is a Christian—these zealots, like those of every other creed, believing their own to be the only true faith, never fail to denounce those who dissent from it as djourski (heretics). The tradition transmitted from father to son of the persecutions they suffered from the intolerance of the Latin Church is still preserved, and the same deadly hatred exists now as formerly. Consequently no other creed is regarded with such abhorrence as the Latinski. Whether we commune with the simple mountaineer, or the more enlightened denizen of the town, we unhappily find them all entertaining the same want of charity, the same aversion. The churches of the rival creed, ornamented with statues, are condemned as temples of idolatry, the service of the mass as a drama acted by the clergy, forgetting that while they forbid the homage to the graven image, they render to their own painted saints a reverence equal to any ever offered by the most ignorant and bigoted Roman Catholic to his miracleworking image. How forcibly are we convinced of the truth, when we study the character of these Slavonian zealots, or of any fanatic people, that persecution, instead of converting man to the faith of his adversary, only attaches him still more strongly to his own; whereas, leave him in the full enjoyment of religious liberty, and it is highly probable that security will generate indif. ference on those very points of belief—to maintain which he would formerly have died. We have only to cross these mountains of Upper Moesia, where we are now travelling, into the Free State of Tchernegoria, and we shall find a church in every village, with two hundred priests to a population of a hundred thousand; but, notwithstanding this array of priestly in

fluence, the population are considerably more liberal in their religious opinions, and laugh heartily at the infatuated superstition and bigotry of their brethren subject to the rule of the Turk. Again, the inhabitants of Modern Greece and Servia, now that there is no Turkish ruler with the sword of blind fanatic zeal in his hand to coerce their religious opinions, have had leisure to ponder over many of the superstitious observances of their Church, which they consider might be dispensed with. This disposition to investigate must increase as they advance in intelligence; and as a commencement of reform, they have discovered that the number of fast-days they are called upon to observe is unreasonable, and certainly prejudicial to the health of the body, whatever they may be to that of the soul! The Greek Church imposes upon her members the duty of fasting with greater severity than any creed or form of worship whatever. The number of days of abstinence during the year amount to a hundred and eighty-five, and so rigorously are they enjoined to be kept, that during several weeks neither animal food, fish, eggs, butter nor cheese are allowed to be eaten, unless a dispensation is granted by the Bishop—a somewhat expensive indulgence. This severe self-denial exercises a most deleterious influence on the moral, and in many instances a fatal effect on the physical, character of the people.

In addition to the number of fast days, there are one hundred and twenty-five dedicated to different saints, who must be propitiated. Each commune, village, or tribe has its own patron saint, and all these mediators are actively engaged in advancing the welfare of the suppliants, not only in heaven but in our sublunary planet. Poor simple people, they anticipate the advent of the saint's-day with unbounded pleasure, believing that in celebrating his fête they are securing the offices of a powerful friend and mediator. The fête of Sveti Sava, the son of Nomania, one of the ancient Krals of Servia, is celebrated by the Servians in every part of European Turkey with great solemnity. The shrine of this Prince at Meleshevo, in Herzegowina, who it appears was equally renowned for his piety, patriotism, and miracles, continued to be the object of a pilgrimage, till the Turks, finding that so large an assemblage of people had a political tendency, in order to show their contempt for the religion and superstitions of the Rayahs, caused the embalmed remains of the saint to be publicly hung, and then burned by the hangman at Belgrade in 1595. The sacrilege, however, led to a most frightful insurrection of the Servian nationality, but of which we have no record, save in the popular piesmas of the bard.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »