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Customs & Remedies

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Showing 1 - 18 from 18 entries

> The Semiology of the Palestinian Face
> Aida Kattan (1): The taboun
> Aida Kattan (2): The Palestinian Mukhtar
> Aida Kattan (3): the Palestinian wedding in the...
> Aida Kattan (4): Henna brought on the bride
> Aida Kattan (5): Nuzha, the summer picnic
> Aida Kattan (6) Traditions from the home courtyard
> Shepherds, Grazing Fields, and Recreational Games
> Nablus' olive oil soap: a Palestinian tradition...
> Palestinian Wedding
> Plant-Lore in Palestinian Superstition
> Mulberry
> Tosheh: a Palestinian Villagers’ Quarrel
> The Palestinian Wedding Practices and Rituals
> Privacy and Love in Palestinian Villages
> Feast days in Jerusalem as they used to be
> Washing their hair with herbs
> Chamomile (Babounej)
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Plant-Lore in Palestinian Superstition
submitted by Jerusalem Quarterly

Tawfiq Canaan

Jerusalem Quarterly
Summer 2005

Marking the olive harvest of 2005, the Jerusalem Quarterly presents here an excerpt from “Plant-lore in Palestinian Superstition,” published in the Journal of Palestine Studies (1928). The essay is exceptional among Canaan’s works in its emphasis on agricultural lore, rather than the healing and prophylactic properties of plants. Canaan’s complete writings and amulet collection have been catalogued and are on display at Birzeit University.

After finishing the harvest the fellah thinks with a sense of gratitude on Him who gives everything. He therefore consecrates to some sanctuary the first fruits and the best of the oil. Thus the first sa’ of wheat is known by the name of sa’ el-Halil (Abraham’s sa’) and is given to the poor. The ‘Idwan bedouin say: awwal sa’ qta’ lan-nabi Su’eb - The first sa’ is the fee due to the prophet Su’eb. The corn is given to the qayim of the sanctuary. Sometimes a sheep is killed as soon as threshing is over. It is called haruf el-Halil -Abraham’s sheep. Many Mohammedans hang in a weli one or more kaff qamh, as a sign of their gratitude. The Christians offer to a church in the name of the Virgin a quantity of the newly pressed oil. Only after such an offering has been given may the freshly pressed oil be used or sold. Formerly the inhabitants of Bet Djala were in the habit of offering the first fruits of their vineyards on the alter of the church. Even now the first grapes are by many offered in the church on the Feast of the Transfiguration. They are blessed by the priest and then distributed among the congregation. It is a great pity that most of these customs are falling out of use. They show clearly the persistence of the custom of first-fruits mentioned in the Bible.

The harvest of the corn and the period spent in the vineyards and the time of gathering the olives are always occasions of joy. Men, women and children are busily occupied. The olive and corn harvests demand heavy work, while watching the vineyards and gathering in the grapes is a cheerful time of recreation. The whole family goes out to the vineyard where they spend from two to three months, living in huts (qasr) built of branches and rushes (Math. 21:33, Is. 5:2). The substructure is made of loose stone and the hut itself is reconstructed every year. From these high “towers” it is very easy to overlook and guard the whole vineyard. In the daytime the singing and shouting of women and girls fill the air while they gather or spread figs for drying or attend to some other work. Only the first signs of the approaching rain put an end to this primitive and natural outdoor life, and hills and mountains again become lonely and deserted (Is. 16:10). In the afternoon the greater part of the family gathers under a tree (I Kg. 4:25, Mic. 4:5) chatting, sewing and embroidering. As in olden times (Zeph. 3:10) guests are received and attended to under trees. Donkeys and mules are still fastened to a vine or a fig-tree (Gen. 49:11). The following stanza, describing this outdoor life, voices the thought that many friends are such only so long as they derive some gain: yom ‘inbak utinak kull en-nas (i)mhibbinak, halas ‘inbak utinak kull en-nas ‘adauwinak - During the days of your grapes and figs all people love you; but when your grapes and figs are over then all people become your enemies.

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