Puslapio vaizdai

knowledge of this custom is sometimes of great use in traveling among them.

When they are visited in their mountain retreats, a great feast, in order to do honor to their guests, is often prepared for the entire encampment. At such times, when several kids or lambs are to be cooked, holes will be dug in the ground, then filled with wood and branches of trees, which burn one or two hours, furnishing an abundant supply of coals; then the carcasses of the kids will be placed in the hole, raised a little above the fire, and the whole covered to prevent the heat escaping. Viands prepared thus are very savory and tender. When all are assembled around the low table, some ten inches above the ground, sitting upon the carpets or cushions, the host places his visitor, as a distinguished guest, at his right hand, and, during the repast, to show him the greatest possible honor, he frequently separates the choicest bits from the carcass, pulling them off with his fingers, and kindly offers them to him. The writer has thus frequently taken choice bits from the fingers of Kurdish chiefs, or Turkish governors and pashas, and has eaten them with an excellent relish.

The condition of Kurdish females is in many respects far preferable to that of the women of any oriental nation with which the writer has been acquainted. Their morality greatly exceeds that of the Turkish females, or of those of some oriental Christian nations. They are treated as equals by their husbands, and they laugh at and despise the slavish subjection of the Turkish women. They are very hospitable and attentive to guests, joining freely in conversation with them, in the presence of their husbands and men of their tribe. They go unveiled, and yet are modest and respectful, virtuous, ingenuous, and unsuspecting; they exhibit an easy familiarity which is both attractive and pleasing. Kurdish women are also very intelligent and industrious. Those remaining in the tent, or at home, give much time to the manufacture of carpets, similar to those which are made by the Persians and some tribes of the Turcomans. These are very beautiful, and give evidence of much ingenuity.

Some customs relating to marriage among the Kurds are quite different from those of other Oriental nations. Among the Turks, Armenians, and some others, the parties really most concerned or interested in the marriage are not in the least consulted, being betrothed by their parents, frequently when mere children, sometimes when in the cradle, and not seeing each other till after marriage. Not thus, however, among the Kurds. They permit their young people to associate together and become acquainted, and never compel them to marry against their will.

The Turks consider their wives as creatures for their pleasure, whom they must control gently to preserve peace in the family, or as toys, which they must handle carefully in order not to break them or tarnish their brightness, but they accord to them neither esteem nor confidence. These rude mountaineers, however, show marked respect and deference to their women, conversing freely and confidingly with them, and consulting them in all important affairs. They have nothing of that feeling of shame which the Turk ever manifests when he suddenly finds himself in the presence of a Frank lady, but are entirely at ease, respectful and attentive. Having traveled for weeks and even months with ladies, among these Kurds, and with Kurdish muleteers, remaining in their encampments over night, and entirely in their power, in all embarrassing and delicate situations, never has the writer seen the least departure from the strictest decorum, or even from the proprieties of refined and civilized life. Frank and ingenuous, they have conversed freely, asking questions without end, eager for information, but always entirely respectful. They are affable and benerolent, without observing the etiquette of a cold formality.

Dancing is a passion with them, as well as music, particularly with the females. All the Oriental dances are nearly of the same character, and of the highest antiquity. The women, adorned with silk dresses, gold buckles, and turbans, dance usnally in a circle, and with much grace and beauty. These dances are in the field, or at the fountains, where they frequently assemble to pass a pleasant and joyous hour. In the common dance performed by the men, they clasp each other around the waist and form a long train. In another, which


they sometimes practice, they dance in twos, flourishing the sword and shield. While the Kurd thus shows the vivacity of his character, the Turk, who manifests little or no inclination to activity, is never seen to dance.

Their music is simple, though not entirely destitute of art. It is usually expressive and melancholy. The mountaineer singer prolongs and slightly modulates monotonous sounds, articulating a few words which he forcibly throws in between sighs and tears. He greatly varies his lamentations in force, and usually closes by pouring forth the most moving cries. The correctness and sweetness of the voice are valued very much less than its extent or strength. To eulogize a singer, the Kurds say, “he can be heard a parasang.” Indeed, the chant for them, while they wander in the mountains, is the means to make known to their friends the place where they are to be found.

The songs of the Kurds are of love, war, and heroism. Many of their national chants celebrate, in a simple manner, without much rhetorical display, their homes, mountains, valleys, rivulets, deeds, their arms well furbished, their garments of bright and gandy colors, and every thing accessible to their feelings and conceptions; and in these there is no want of humor. Their war-songs are vividly descriptive of the honor, bravery, and struggle of the conflict; the trumpet that calls to combat, the dress of the sharp-shooters, the hiding place of the archers, the enemy harrassed or discovered by ambuscade, the noise of the cannon, the overthrow of battalions, the wounds of the bleeding, the death of the dying, and the crown that awaits the victor, covering all with glory and beauty.

The Kurds, in their rudeness and barbarity, preserve certain forms and usages which show in them an inclination towards civilization and generosity. Thus they are very fond of society, even wishing their guests to prolong their visits, devising many ingenious expedients to entertain and amuse them. And, with this keen relish for social and lively intercourse, their eye is ever open and attentive to every object around them. Rarely is a Kurd ever seen wandering alone, but always with two or more companions; they visit each other often, and if many are found together, there is always singing and mirth. They talk much in praise of their chiefs, of their courage and generosity, and relate with emotion the misfortunes which happen to them, through the faithlessness and cruelty of some Turkish pasha. In their work of plunder, even, they sometimes give strange proofs of their generosity and humanity.

They are by far the safest and best muleteers to be found in the eastern parts of Asia Minor, and particularly for conducting one through the wildest and most unfrequented parts of the country. The best policy at such times is, to seek as muleteers thyse Kurds who are the most notorious robbers; then one may feel safe. A most striking characteristic of these predatory Kurds is strictly to preserve and defend wliatever is committed to them. Whatever they agree to, at the commencement of a journey, when employed as muleteers, can be safely relied upon. They are honorable in all business transactions. The word of a Kurd is sufficient security.

Many of the superstitions prevalent among the Kurds are of considerable interest. Various living creatures are seen in the stars, and representatives of the animal kingdom are brought

near relation with human life. Peter Lerch has giren a few instances of the latter, which accord with what have come under our own observation. IIe says: “The belief,

, for instance, that the cuckoo was a human being, is very prevalent with them. Hussein, at one time, when taking a walk with me, hearing a cuckoo, said, 'this bird calls kékö(brother). He said that he had once been a man and killed his brother, and, by the punishment of God, had been changed into this bird, and now, from sorrow, he calls continually, brother! brother!” According to some, the cuckoo cries kikust, "who killed ?” mekust, "I killed," and this he utters in a mournful tone.

The owl, they say, was once a maid, who, on account of grief over the death of a brother who had been murdered by his step-mother, prayed the Creator that she might be changed into a bird.

into a

The stork (leglég) is among the Kurds, as among many other Oriental nations, regarded as sacred. They believe that in harvest time he goes to Mecca and Medina, and hence they call him Hadji Leglég. When the storks depart, they are believed to go to some distant place, where all assemble together in a temple. Here the old ones die, and the young ones alone return to their nests where they were reared.

The white cock they also regard as the watcher and caller to prayer.

Though the sentiment of patriotism is not distinctly understood by the Kurd, yet he possesses what is its equivalent, and its brightest gem. He loves his mountain heritage, he loves his people, and never was it known that a Kurd was a traitor; so that one of the proverbs best known in the wild mountains and fertile plains of Western Central Asia is, “Kurds are never traitors.”

With respect to the religion of the Kurds, many and varied accounts might be given, since in different parts of Asia they are influenced by different religious systems and ideas. Some are bigoted Moslems, and these are generally the most dangerous. Such will frequently give themselves to acts the most cruel, and preserve, at the same time, an air of religion. After killing a man without scruple, they will put themselves on their knees, and most devoutly go through all the forms of Mohammedan prayer.

The Kurds are not regarded, however, by the Turks as good Moslems, since they are not generally particular in observing the Mohammedan fasts or forms of prayer; and, when esteemed Moslems by the Turks, they are usually put down among the heterodox sects. In many places throughout Asia Minor, we are inclined to believe that they make a show of Mohammedanism when having to do with the Turks or living in their vicinity, through fear, rather than from any settled conviction of its truth. The writer has frequently offered Kurdish chiefs articles of food during the Moslem Ramazan, or month of fasting, and never las he observed that they had any scruples in eating, provided the door of the apartment was locked, so that no Turk should come in suddenly to surprise them. Their uniform tes

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