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Arab Legend of a Buried Monastery Author(s): H. C. Bolton Reviewed work(s): Source: The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 2, No.

6 (Jul. - Sep., 1889), p. 227 Published by: American Folklore Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/534153 . Accessed: 15/01/2013 09:19
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Arab Legend of a Buried Monastery.


ARAB LEGEND OF A BURIED MONASTERY.

227

SOUNDSproduced by obscure natural causes have given birth to many legends. In Scotland the noises of sea-caves are attributed to pipers blowing their bagpipes, and reasons are assigned for the detainment under ground of these musicians. Akin to this is the legend of the Bedouins concerning the " Mountain of the Bell" (Yebel Nagozus),in the Desert of Mt. Sinai. My guide gave me the following version, which is less elaborate than that reported by other travellers :-"A Bedouin fisherman, going to work one day, met an old man, who saluted him and conducted him into the bowels of the mountain. There, to his surprise, he found a monastery, gardens of date palms bearing fruit, and good water. The monks received him kindly, gave him food, and when they dismissed him made him swear not to disclose the secret of the monastery. The Bedouin went to his village, Tor, on the Gulf of Suez, near by, and related his discovery. The village people went with him to the spot, but found only a sandbank; and they wanted to kill the man who had deceived them. But the sound of the nagous, or wooden gong used by the priests to call the monks to prayer, is still heard issuing from beneath the bank of sand." Another Arab declared that the nagous is heard three times a day, morning, noon, and evening, at the hours of prayer; he crossed himself when the sound was unusually loud. The fact is that fine-blown sand resting against the mountain at a high inclination now and then slides spontaneously down the slope, and in so doing causes vibrations which yield deep notes. By moving a large quantity of sand down the slope the note can be obtained at will. I found another hill where the same phenomena obtain, and this seriously disturbed the faith of my camel-drivers. The wooden gong is in daily use by the monks of St. Catherine, on Mt. Sinai. In fact, they use three of different sizes, one being struck to call to their daily meal the numerous cats who live in the rambling old structures. The principal nagous is a straight plank about fourteen feet long, and nearly two inches thick, hung horizontally by ropes at points four feet from each end. When struck with a wooden mallet a loud resonance is produced. The cat-nagous is a lighter common board about five feet long, used in the same way. These do not displace iron bars and bells, of which a number are also in daily use. H. C. Bolton.

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