How to get rid of bugs and foretell the future with balls of dough. Egypt, 1830’s

Here is some lore from early 19th Century Egypt, from Lane .  The manner of ridding a house of bugs is certainly bio-friendly…:

Fellaheen (peasants) in Egypt, 1830s - Lane, Manners and Customs...

The night of the 17th of June, which corresponds with the llth of the Coptic month of Ba-oo’neh, is called Ley’let en-Noock’tah (or the Night of the Drop) as it is believed that a miraculous drop then falls into the Nile, and causes it to rise.

Astrologers calculate the precise moment when the drop is to fall; which is always in the course of this night. Many of the inhabitants of Cairo and its neighbourhood, and of other parts of Egypt, spend this night on the banks of the Nile; some, in houses of their friends; others, in the open air.

Many also, and especially the women, observe a singular custom on the Ley’let en-Noock’tah; placing, upon the terrace of the house, after sunset, as many lumps of dough as there are inmates in the house, a lump for each person, who puts his, or her, mark upon it: at day-break, on the following morning, they look at each of these lumps; and if they find it cracked, they infer that the life of the person for whom it was placed will he long, or not terminate that year; but if they find it not cracked, they infer the reverse.

Some say that this is also done to discover whether the Nile will rise high in the ensuing season.Another absurd custom is observed on the fourth following night, Ley’let en-Sarata’n, when the sun enters the sign of Cancer: it is the writing a charm to exterminate, or drive away, bugs. This charm consists of the following words from the koor-a’n*, written in separate letters:

”Hast thou not considered those who left their habitations, and they were thousands, for fear of death?  and God said unto them die:’ die: die.”

* Chap, ii., ver. 244.

The last word of the text is thus written three times. The above charm, it is said, should be written on three pieces of paper, which are to be hung upon the walls of the room which is to be cleared of the bugs; one upon each wall excepting that at the end where is the entrance, or that in which is the entrance.

These quaint customs seem to have died out as ‘modernity’ came in – certainly not in use during the years that I lived and worked in both rural and urban Egypt.

Source: Edward William Lane – An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, Written in Egypt during the Years 1833, -34, and -35, partly from Notes made during a Former Visit to that Country in the Years 1825, -26, -27, and 28. In Two Volumes


About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
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