528 Religious Sects of Syria. [July,
gain his affection and confidence ; and, at length, began to sound him
on the matter of religion. Finding all his efforts in this way
useless, he imprisoned, beat, and nearly killed him, but with no better
success. The poor man finally told him that, if he should actually beat
him to death, he would not disclose anything. " But," said he, " you
have a slave; commit him to me for forty days; I will take him to the
mountains, where he will be initiated into our mysteries; and then, as
he is your slave, you may do what you please with him." But the slave,
when he returned, was as stubbornly silent as the other, and actually
died a martyr to his secret.1
The Isma'iliyeh, or Ismaelites, were
also, originally, a subdivision, partly religious and partly
political, of the Shi'ah sect of the Muhammedans. They are now few in
number, being the comparatively feeble remains of the people who, in
the time of the crusades, were well known and universally dreaded,
under the name of Hashshashin? or Assassins. They are
found in Northern Syria, and between them and their neighbors, the
Nusairiyeh, there is the most inextinguishable hatred. They also have
a secret, mystical religion, and are divided into several sects, one of
which, the Kud-damQseh, is universally believed to observe rites whose
obscenity does not admit of description.
The Yezidees, or
devil-worshippers, in Syria, are very few in number, and are found on
the extreme north-east frontier, the great mass of the sect being
found in the neighboring districts of Mesopotamia and Assyria.
According to the late Dr. Grant, who was familiar with them, they
profess to believe in one God, and " teach that Satan substituted a Jew
for the Saviour on the cross, so that Christ ascended into heaven
without having died, and will appear again from thence, to subdue all
men to himself. They baptize
1 See W. M. Thomson's Journal, Missionary Herald, March, 1841.
2 This word is supposed to be derived from Hashshish, the name of a species of grass, from which is obtained a substance that intoxicates and maddens those who receive it into the system. Assassin is the English form of the same word, and strictly means one whom intoxication infuriates and leads on to deeds of violence and murder.