Journal Article

Arabian Gulf <i>&1E22;iyya biyya</i>, Jewish Babylonian <i>farfisa</i>, Christian Sicilian <i>sepolcri</i>: Popular Customs with a Common Origin?

Clive Holes

in Journal of Semitic Studies

Published on behalf of University of Manchester

Volume 49, issue 2, pages 275-287
Published in print January 2004 | ISSN: 0022-4480
Published online January 2004 | e-ISSN: 1477-8556 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jss/49.2.275
Arabian Gulf &1E22;iyya biyya, Jewish Babylonian farfisa, Christian Sicilian sepolcri: Popular Customs with a Common Origin?

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The old Gulf popular custom of &1E22;iyya biyya, in which children grew pot plants during the last ten days of the Islamic pilgrimage month of Dhū 'l-Hijja, and then threw them into the sea, a stream, or a well (the important thing is that it had to be into water) on the night before the Feast of the Immolation, is explained locally as the children's mimicking of this Islamic ritual sacrifice. However, the close structural similarities which this popular custom bears to others in Christian Sicily (sepolcri), Jewish Babylonia (tashlik/farfisa), and the ancient Adonis cult of the eastern Mediterannean, suggest a common, pagan origin which at some point in the past was taken over and reinterpreted in different ways by the organized religions. Recently, in the Gulf, &1E22;iyya biyya has been ‘reinvented’ as part of a shared Gulf ‘national heritage’ in which its ‘Islamic’ nature is emphasized.

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Subjects: Middle Eastern History ; Middle Eastern Languages ; Literary Studies - World ; Biblical Studies

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