LETTER xxiv THE PEKSIAN PASSION PLAY 159 the Passion Play. As night came on it was possible to feel the throb of the excitement of the city, and till the small hours the march of frenzied processions was heard, and the loud smiting on human breasts and the clash of the chains with which the dervishes beat themselves, were intermingled with a united rhythmic cry of anguish —Ah Houssein \ Wai Houssein ! (0 Houssein ! Woe for Houssein!) Ya Houssein! Ya .Hassan I and in the flickering light of the torches black flags were waving, and frenzied men were seen beating their bare breasts. In some of the cities these processions are a sickening spectacle. Throngs move along the streets, escorting large troops of men either stripped to their waists or wearing only white shirts which expose the bosom. Beating their breasts with their right hands in concert till they make them raw, gashing themselves on their heads with daggers, streaming with blood, and maddened by religious frenzy, they pass from street to street, and the yell rises from all quarters, Ya Houssein I Wai Houssein I Occasionally men drop down dead from excitement, and others, falling from loss of blood, are carried away by their friends. It is at the end of the month of mourning that these pro- cessions, called testeh, increase so much in frenzy and fanaticism as to be dangerous to the good order of cities, clashing with each other, and sometimes cutting their way through each other with loss of life. To join in a testeh is to perform a "pious act," and atones for sin committed and to be committed. The Tazieh or Passion Play itself, acted in splendour before the Shah, is repeated every- where throughout Persia, lasting from ten to twelve days, the frenzy with which the different incidents are received culminating on the last day, when the slaughter of Houssein is represented. On the whole the Tazieh is among the most remarkable religious phenomena of our age.