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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

The Legacy to Modern Egypt                389
in cars as a protection against the evil eye. The cosmic con-
nexion, however, is gone.
The conflict between intelligentsia and the masses goes on
over the fairs which are annually held in honour of the saints.
These remain too obviously pagan to be left in peace by the
purists of Islam. Whether any particular festival is the lineal
descendant of an old heathen one is not of great importance;
it is sufficient that the genus continues the ancient way with its
processions, its visits to the shrines, and so on. Only, having lost
the support of the great, these fairs are much simplified and
amorphous. The celebrations have not the elaborate structure
of the ancient rituals; the variety of episodes is gone with the
variety of the pantheon, though the ship is still carried in pro-
cession at the mosque of Abu '1 Haggag in Luxor. There is now
only one God to glorify, and the ways of doing so are reduced to
one or two. All the rest which cannot be reconciled with the
severe simplicity of Islam is relegated to the secular. Juggling,
games, dramatic performances which are incompatible with the
austerity and single-mindedness of Islam are despised, and even
persecuted, by the purists. If they cannot be abolished alto-
gether they are segregated from the religious exercises. Thus
a wedge has been driven between the religious and the profane
which did not exist before. The profane is merely the religious
that has been cut out by a new system, and left to sink into
pure amusement, even fooling.
The low estimation in which these fairs are held reflects the
diminished state of all the minor powers before the rise of one
supreme God. Whether any of the modern saints are old local
gods in disguise is doubtful; some are definitely known to be
real men who lived in Arab times, perhaps all are; but that is
as immaterial as the antiquity of their fairs. As a class they con-
tinue the functions of the ancient gods and of the ancient dead
(the two run into one another in virtue of the fundamental
principles of the religion). This is shown by such concrete cases