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308                  JOURNEYS IN KURDISTAN       LETTER xsix

to the bishops, several of whom are very poor, to grant
divorces for the sake of the fees.

Friday was a severe fast in the Patriarch's household,
as in all others. The fasts of the Syrian Church, it has
been said, "can only be described as prodigious." A
Syrian fast means serious self-denial, for it involves not
only abstinence from meat, but from fish, honey, eggs,
milk, butter, cheese, and all animal products, and the
Syrian eats nothing but rice cooked in walnut oil, raisins,
walnuts, treacle, beans, plain potatoes, and bread. All
Wednesdays and Fridays in the year this strict regimen is
adhered to, and the members of the Old Church also fast
for fifty days in Lent, and twenty-five in Advent, and keep
the very severe three days' fast of the Ninevites. Most
adults keep also the fast of St. Mary, the first fourteen
days of August. No religious observance is more rigidly
adhered to by the nation than these severe and prolonged
abstinences, and it is difficult for the Syrians to believe
in the piety of any who do not, by the same methods,
mortify the body and bring it into subjection.

Mar Auraham, son of Marta, a man of twenty-six,
Patriarch-designate, and a bishop without a diocese, has
returned, and spent part of yesterday evening in my
room. He looks delicate, but has a bright, intelligent,
charming face, and his conversation was thoughtful and
interesting. He really cares about his church and
its discipline, is regarded as honoxirable and straight-
forward in a marked degree, and as preferring the
spiritual to the temporal interests of his nation. He
is apparently a warm friend of the English Mission,
and if he should succeed to the chair of Mar Shimun
great progress might be expected; but intrigues are surging
round him, and the patriarchal family is not without its
ambitions, to which he may possibly be sacrificed.

The succession to the Patriarchate and Episcopate is