Page images
PDF
EPUB

The practice of drinking the water in which the charm has been washed is also in vogue in Gambia in Western Africa, where the “doctor”, having been called in, comes and, after looking at the patient, sits down by his bedside. Then he writes out on a wooden slate, a long rigmarole in Arabic characters, which' generally consists of passages from the Koran. The slate is then washed, and the patient is made to drink this dirty infusion. A practice, very similar to this, is resorted to by the Lamas of Tibet. When a person suffers from dementia, which, the Tibetans believe, is caused by the evil eye, the Lama exorcist writes with Chinese ink on a little slab of wood the particular letters, called “the edible letters (2a-yig), and besmears the writing with a thin varnish of myrabolam and saffron paste. Then, on every twentyninth day the inscribed slab of wood is reflected in a mirror ; and, while so reflected, the surface of the mirror is washed with beer. The washing thereof is collected in a cup, and the patient has to drink it in nine sips.['] In Bihar, a similar device is had recourse to for the purpose of expediting the accouchement of a parturient woman. A magic square, divided into 16 smaller squares, each of the latter containing a number, is drawn with chalk on a new earthen saucer. The numbers, inscribed within the smaller squares, if added horizontally, perpendicularly, or diagonally, total up to 32. This diagram is then shown to the parturient woman and washed off with water, the infusion being collected in a vessel. She is then made to swallow this liquid ; and it is believed that she is immediately thereafter brought to bed of the child. [1]

I have already shown that, in Bengal and Bihār, charmed water is administered to a person suffering from hydrophobia.[^^] It is also used for curing rheumatism, as will appear from the next incantation which has been discussed infra.

page 401.

[°] The Buddhism of Tibet or Lam uism. By L. A. Waddell, M. B. London : W. H. Allen & Co., Ld. 1895,

["'] Vide the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay, Vol. VIII, pages 349-350

M] Vide the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. XI (27. 8.), pages 221

223.

a

We have, at the very root of this practice of administering charmed water to a person suffering from some particular kind of ailment, an idea which can be traced back to ancient BabyJonia which was the birth-place of black magic and sorcery. The beliefs of the Jews, Greeks, Syrian Christians, and Arabs in demons and witches, were derived from the Chaldean sorcerers and soothsayers. It was a very strong artiole of faith among the ancient Babylonians that, along with the spirits of light, there existed a terrible host of infernal beings, the “ black gods as they were called, who were for ever waging a deadly conflict with human beings. These terrible demons more or less kept company with the restless and uncared-for souls of dead men, the ghosts and spooks, the vampires, the phantoms of the night, and the uncanny ghouls and evil spirits whose favourite haunts were the desert, the solitary rock-caves, and ruined buildings. Like the Egyptians, the Babylonians believed that the souls of the dead, whose wants were not ministered to by their surviving kinsmen, whose funeral offerings were not supplied, would come out of their dread abodes, haunt men and demand from them their dues. It is for this reason that, in one Babylonian incantation, the ghost is addressed thus : “ Whether thou art the ghost of one unburied, or a ghost that none careth for, with none to make offerings for it, that hath 'none to pour out libations for it, or the ghost of one that hath no posterity." The uncared-for revenants of the dead, therefore, subsisted" on the dregs of the cup, the leavings of the feast, or that which was cast into the gutter.” To this is to be traced the belief that, in the darkness of the night, the cities were haunted by restless revenants, searching for food in places where they could find it and ready to assail any benighted wayfarer. But still more terrible than the ghosts of the sterner sex were the female revenants, the spirits of women who had died in child-birth, or while they were nursing their children, or young people of marriageable age who had died untimely deaths. In this category is to be included the female ghost Lilitu-the Lilith of Talmudio folkbeliefs—the demon consort of Adam, to whom she bore quite

a family of ghostly offspring. A curious feature of the ghost-lore of ancient Babylonia was the belief that the revenants of unmarried women restlessly roamed about, seeking for some one who would be captivated by their ghostly charms. This has given rise to the alleged existence of those beautiful demonesses who are said to have tempted the early Christian Saints in the deserts and caverns remote from the haunts of men.

Another interesting feature of the ancient Babylonian demonlore was the intimate connection that was believed to exist between the demons, diseases and storms, who are described in one tablet as follows:

“Through the gloomy streets by night they roam,

Smiting sheep-fold and cattle-pen,
Rending in pieces on high ; bringing destruction below,
They are the offspring of the under-world.
Loudly roaring above ; gibbering below,
They are the bitter venom of the gods.
They are the storms directed from heaven.

They are as owls that hoot over the city.” From the above passage we get an inkling of the ancient Babylonian belief that diseases and storms were caused by evil spirits and demons—an idea which has survived, even to the present day, in the animistic belief existing among many aboriginal races of people inhabiting India-a belief in “the shifting and shadowy company of unknown powers or influences....... which gives its spring to the tiger, its venom to the snake, which generates jungle fever, and walks abroad in the terrible guise of cholera, small-pox, or murrain.” The plague-god was believed by the Babylonians to "march from city to city, resting alike on the body of chief and slave.” The war-god was his brother ;

and his disciple was Isum (“the burner")"the god of infectious diseases"-who is described, in a very old Babylonian poem dating from about B.C. 2500, as "the one who goes to and fro in the streets,” from house to house, and is said to have been born in the "gutter of the street,”--thereby anticipating the modern diagnosis of the etiology of the infectious diseases.

Now the Babylonians and Chaldeans performed many rites and ceremonies for exorcising evil spirits and, for the matter of that, disease-demons from persons afflicted by them and for protecting the latter from their assaults. They used to sprinkle holy water on persons or houses haunted by these demons in order to expel the latter--a rite which was believed to be very efficacious, as it was thought that the water-spell caused the demon "to trickle away like water," just as a censor or torch of pure light was believed to drive the malignant spirit out of the afflicted person's body. [12]

It will thus be seen that the mantle of the ancient Babylonian sorcerer, exorcising disease-demons from persons afflicted by them by means of holy or charmed water, has fallen on the latter-day Bihari and Bengali ojha or medicine-man.

I shall, now, take up for discussion two incantations which are used for the cure of rheumatism. They are as follows :

CHARM No. I FOR THE CURE OF RHEUMATISM.

Dard dūrkarnekā mantra.[18]
1. Bāt re bāt, jānlām tor jāti.
2. Amāvasyā mangalvāre tor ut patti.
3. Duiyūbāt, puiyābāt, pāthuriyābāt, sajashtiyābāt.
4. Rāma bole na harūt, Lakshan bole na harūt.
5. Chalchul amuker ange thākibār janya.
6. Chal Lankāyı pad, siddha gurū Sri Rāmer äjrāya.
7. Gangā, Jamunā, Triveni, amuker kāhini.
8. Amuker khanda katthanā māni.

TARIKA.

Is mantra se jal padhkar wah jal rogi ko pilāwai. Our mānthe wo ākhoun par chhidko.

TRANSLATION OF CHARM No. I FOR CURING RHEUMATISM.

1. O rheumatism ! I know of what kind you are. [""] For a fuller discussion of Babylonian Magic and Demonology, see The First of Empires : Babylon of the Biblein the Light of Latest Research. By W. St. Chad Boscawen. London and New York: Harper and Brothers. 1913, pages 270-273.

[18] I have revised the text of this incantation, the corrupt text whereof is given at the end of this paper.

:

:

2. You were born on the last day of the dark half of the lunar month and on a Tuesday.

3. O duiyā ["4] rheumatism ! O puiyā [14]rheumatism! O pāthu-riyā [16] rheumatism ! O sājshtiyā rheumatism !

4. Rāma does not say harut; [15] Lakshan does not say harut.[15]

5. Go, go to so-and-so's body for staying there.

6. Go and fall into Lanka (Ceylon) at the command of the preceptor Sri Rāma who is well versed in sorcery.

7. O Ganges ! O Jamuna! O Tribeni! This is so-and-so’s traditional practice (literally, story). 8. Amuker khanda katthana māni.[18]

DIRECTION. Water should be charmed with the recital of this incantation. The patient should be made to drink this water which should be also sprinkled over his head and eyes.

The most noteworthy feature of this cure-charm is the sprinkling of the charmed water on the patient's head and eyes. I have already stated above that the ancient Babylonian sorcerers used to sprinkle holy water over persons or houses haunted by demons in order to exorcise the latter. The practice became developed in later times into the custom according to which persons afflicted with dire maladies bathed in sacred rivers, pools, or springs in order to heal themselves. It is under the behests of this custom that Naaman the leper (2 Ki. v. 6) bathed in the Jordan seven times and became healed; it is in accordance with this practice that a whole host of sick people used to wait their turn on the margin of Bethesda for the healing dip (John v. 2). This old custom has survived even into modern times in the shape of the practice of dipping rickety children in holy wells and in the bathing of cripples in St. Winifred's Well in Flintshire, to which crutches are offered up as votive offerings. With the same object in view, the Tibetan goes to the sacred spring-called by

["*] The meanings of the words “ Duiya.”, “Puiya", " Pathuriya”, and Sajshtiya" are unknown to me. Probably they signify different kinds of rheumatism.

[""] The meaning of the word " Harut "is not known to me.
[10] I have not been able to make out the meaning of this line.

.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »