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Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51973 10/21/02 01:27 AM
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Herbigny Offline OP
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May I ask our resident expert on the Ethiopian Church, Aklie, about the office of the Debtera?

I know almost nothing of the Debtera, except that perhaps they are a kind of a Church musician or Cantor or Psalmist and they use Sistrums?

Is this correct?
What do they do?
Are they ordained?
Do they dance?

What about the Drums?
And, while I'm at it, the Umbrellas?
Oh, yeah, and the T shaped canes?

Thanks for your help.

cix

herb.

ps: I realize that this is not exactly "Byzantine" worship, but I humbly beg the indulgence of Members & Administrator.

Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51974 10/21/02 05:32 PM
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Aklie Semaet Offline
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May I ask our resident expert on the Ethiopian Church, Aklie, about the office of the Debtera?

Aklie is no expert, resident or otherwise, on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; he is just an Ethiopian Orthodox taking it a day at a time. I am an archaeologist and not a theologian and I find theological questions, Ethiopian or otherwise, as difficult as everyone else (meaning everyone with the exceptions of Joe Thur, StuartK, Dr. John and Alex).

I know almost nothing of the Debtera, except that perhaps they are a kind of a Church musician or Cantor or Psalmist and they use Sistrums?

Yes, the Debteras use sistrums (as the Copts did or still do. I don't know if they still do but they have sistrums in their museums).

Since the hymnographical role of the debteras is increasingly becoming the role of the modernized choirs then the choir (orzemari) also use the sistrums on some songs.

Are they ordained?

The Debtera is a scholar and not an ordained position. While they are not an "official' of the Church, no Church service would be proper (and sometimes even possible) without them.

Do they dance?

Yes on certain festivals and only an ecclesiastic dance; they are not free to do folk dances, cultural dances or the electric slide.

I should also mention that the Debteras also retained some traditional African stuff that they are not to popular for with the Priests such as traditional medicine and healing techniques. That is called African "witch-craft' by some die-hards but I don't know for sure.

What about the Drums?

The Ethiopian Liturgical tradition takes their inspirations from the place in Psalms were David says praise Him with the drums, praise him with the 10 stringed instrument, etc. As far as I know Ethiopia is the only Christian community that has retained all 10 strings on the harp (including from the Israelite tradition).

The Drum (kebero) in Ethiopian tradition (as with the rest of Africa) represents happiness so as such the drum is played during normal times in the Church. It is not played during funerals nor is it played during the entirety of the Lenten Fast (55 days more or less) because it is seen as the days leading up to the Crucifixion and is thus a time of mourning and spiritual contemplation. In fact our whole liturgical music (our "Gospel music' outside of the Divine Liturgy) takes a turn during this period. During the entirety of Lent we play and listen to a certain spiritual "music' called Tsome Degwa which has the huge harp but no drums whatsoever. On Psalm Sunday and Holy Week leading up to Easter we reintroduce the drum, celebrate and don't even have Divine Liturgy until Easter.

The actual beat of the Drum is characterized by a short and rapid staccato style hit to the long and drawn out ones. This represents the different short and rapid and long and drawn out lashes that Christ received when being tortured by the Romans. It can not diverge from this style and any cute and personal innovations are seen as hymnographic heresy smile

and the T shaped canes?
(Ok, I had to get a chuckle out of that one, he he he he, "T shaped canes.')

The "prayer-stick' that you mentioned is called a maqomiya "maqom' means to stop or to stand, so "maqomiya' literally means something that you stand with. The "t' shape that you observed on the top of the stick (besides being a Cross) is simply for you to rest your hands on, in order to rest your chin on your knuckles, in order for you to lean on your rested chin (so it is imperative that it be the right size). The debteras also dance with the prayer-stick. Usually, the maqomiya is for Debteras, Priests and Elders in the Church. For young and devout people like us; we are expected to be able to stand up for the entire service (and if you are really devout stand on one foot like a rooster). But on long nights like Christmas eve where we spend the whole night in Church (from sundown to sunup) singing hymns and Liturgy a Maqomiya comes in handy since you don't sleep and are expected to stand (for the most part everyone eventually sits down at times).

the Umbrellas?

Oh oh, that's a long one; and I have to drive 50 miles to go to class but for now:

It is totally out of Christian character for someone to consider the Church Umbrella for blockage of sunshine (even though people do so) or rain (it would not block rain anyway).

Certain Umbrella covers hover over the Procession Cross and the Gospel; certain colors are used by the laity (who chose to have an umbrella) certain colors could only be used by the Patriarch and the emperor and certain other colors are used to hover over the couple at a weeding. Alex, as far as Blue is concerned, Blue was supposed to be for the Emperor and the Patriarch.

O.K. gotta go!


Egzi'o Marinet Kristos
Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51975 10/21/02 05:38 PM
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Just in case anyone missed this discussion and had similar questions I am pasting a communication that Alex and I had on another thread:

Quote
Originally posted by Orthodox Catholic:
[b]Could you explain more about the Cross tattoos? I've heard of them. Where are they placed and how - within the context of a liturgical service or blessing? Who may wear them? [/b]
Selam Alex!

Good questions. First let me inform you that getting tattoos is something that is restrictive to the country side; no one born in the city would have a tattoo.

The tattoos can come on the hand, the arm or the forehead. The women usually are the only ones who get crosses tattooed on their forehead. In fact, I would not be surprised if the ratio of men to women with tattoos was 1/8 with the females as the 8.

They are given with painful traditional tattooing techniques when you are a baby. Like Ethiopian circumcision, the process does not take place inside the Church but by a village specialist or even a family member. It is simply meant to identify one as a Christian (as opposed to a Muslim or Jew) and has no role at all in liturgical service.

There is a history behind tattoo prevalence. Of course it was always practiced one way or another (as witnessed by similar tattoo traditions in East Africa and the Sahara) and no doubt people were making them in the form of Crosses since the beginning of Christian times. During the reign of Atse (emperor) Zara Yaqob (1434-68) a controversy called the Stephanite heresy took place. The Stephenites refused to venerate the cross and refused to bow to icons of Mary. In fact, their view of Mary seems proto-Protestant.

Zara Yaqob was a devout Orthodox who was educated in a Monastery. He himself has written several spiritual books and built many Churches. But he was no joke on dealing with heretics. It is said that he had two of his own children executed for practicing paganism. When the Stephanite heresy took place, he invited them to the court to defend their views. After showing them the flaws in their theology he shut down their ministry (usually the Patriarch or the most talented Clergy were used to debate heretics but Zara Yaqob was talented enough to personally participate in the debate). He reminded Ethiopians that they are the fiefdom of Mary and that Stephanite views were unacceptable. He also reminded them of Christ's words to carry the Cross.

So, to make sure that the nation got the point he commanded everyone (and especially Stephanites) to get the Cross tattooed on their body. What ever small scale this practice was before the heresy it became massive in its aftermath. He also made them get words tattooed on their arm that read “I deny the devil, I am a slave of Mary.” (of course no one wears that particular tattoo anymore.

There is nothing funnier than watching an Ethiopian woman who converted to Pentecostalism running up and down screaming and tongue speaking in church with a big fat Orthodox Cross tattooed on her forehead.

Also, are even smaller Tabots used privately for worship in the home of laity?

Absolutely not; when the Tabot comes out on the Saints day in a special service to be marched in procession it is covered. The laity, including Deacons, are not allowed to even touch it. If they do, then a special service just to ritually cleanse the Tabot is made. Take it home? One of our local Churches is actually inside of the Assyrian Catholic Church. The Assyrians have said that we can use the Tabot in our services but can not leave it on the Altar afterwards. So the Priest takes it home with him. This is a well kept secret because it is actually a scandal. Needless to say, that the Brits having some of our Tabots that they looted sitting in boxes inside of the Museum storage is an insult of the first order.


Egzi'o Marinet Kristos
Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51976 10/21/02 05:56 PM
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Herbigny Offline OP
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Aklie:

Your Church is "way COOL!!!!"

Thanks every so much!

cix

herb.

Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51977 10/21/02 06:03 PM
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Dear Aklie,

I second Herbigny's motion!

As for blue umbrellas, of course I don't have blue liturgical umbrellas as that is definitely for emperors and patriarchs.

Mine is coloured purple . . .

Alex

Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51978 10/22/02 06:10 AM
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The Ethiopian Church has Sacred Dances?!! Wow!!! What are they like? When do you do them?

--the closest we come to that is our Katavasia or perhaps the Great Entrance (pales in comparison to your Dances).

What are the Sistrums used for?

Besides the Debteras, do you also have Cantors or Psalmists?

Is it your church that has little finger cymbals?

Finally, is Circumcision a Sacred Mystery?

Thanks so much.

cix

herb.

Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51979 10/22/02 12:34 PM
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Dear Herbigny,

The Ethiopians do their liturgical dance at sacred Feasts such as Christmas etc. I've seen them do their very dignified dancing, reflecting, as it does, the dancing of David before the Ark.

They do the same through their sacred dance before their Arks or Tabots, with the priests holding their miquamiya prayer staffs on their shoulders.

(There was one movement where the priests danced backwards a few steps and then slightly hopped - quite remarkable!).

The Ethiopian Church is the only Church that has kept the order of Scribe from the Temple of Jerusalem and this is what Debteras truly are. I've seen one Debtera/Cantor with small finger bells, and they have the small bells on their censors and musical instruments.

I visited an Ethiopian Church here where Father showed me how use some of these instruments . . .

I understand that the Debteras do perform the function of Psalts and Cantors as well.

Circumcision is not a Mystery, but it is done along with Baptism, a kind of Old Testament accompaniment to the Mystery of Baptism in memory of the covenant of Abraham. So it does have religious significance.

Portuguese missionaries to Ethiopia were shocked when they saw this rite, but the Ethiopians maintained it nevertheless.

If you ever get a chance, by all means visit an Ethiopian Church - here we have both Ethiopian Catholic and (2) Orthodox Tewahedo Churches.

The best time to visit them is during the celebration of one of their feast days. Their Nativity falls on their own unique calendar day - January 7th . . .

Wait a minute, isn't that also . . .? wink

But they celebrate New Year's Day in September and have many, many other Jewish features as well.

Alex

Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51980 10/22/02 03:32 PM
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Herbigny,

As our Honorary Oriental Orthodox Kievian Debtera pointed out circumcision definitely has religious significance but not in the form of a Divine Mystery. The Ethiopian Church embraces it as small "t' tradition or custom, the same as the Jerusalem Christians in the days of the Apostles. In fact even Apostles of the "Gospel of the uncircumcised' such as Paul are known to have circumcised people on occasion (Paul circumcised Timothy). Just as Paul said however the Sacrament of Baptism has replaced Circumcision so where Jewish newborns were circumcised when their mothers were cleansed and could enter the Temple (after 40 days) this is now the Sacrament of Baptism.

What is Katavasia? Does the "Great Entrance' imply a wedding? How do the Dances look?


Egzi'o Marinet Kristos
Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51981 10/22/02 03:33 PM
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But they celebrate New Year's Day in September and have many, many other Jewish features as well.

Yes, Ethiopian New Year falls on Sept. 11 so imagine.

Mine is coloured purple . . .

I don't believe it. I don't believe any man that has as much affection for kings as you do would have any other color than blue smile

Anyway purple (along with gold) is very symbolic; it represents the principle of Tewahedo.

Processional Crosses, umbrellas, and you even thought about putting a Tabot in your prayer room? So, I thought that you needed a new house because your wife was getting tired of the size of your personal library. Now I know that it is because of the abundance of your religious paraphernalia smile What was the reason you chose not to be a Priest again?


Egzi'o Marinet Kristos
Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51982 10/22/02 03:37 PM
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Egzi'o Marinet Kristos
Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51983 10/22/02 03:42 PM
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Dear Aklie,

Purple and gold are representative of Tewahedo?

Then it's Tewahedo all the way!!

As you know, purple is the highest royal colour in European monarchies, as it was the most expensive.

St Lydia, the first European convert of St Paul, was a "purple-seller" and was well off as a result, helping the Church with her resources.

You had to dive deep down into the sea to get the shells that gave the purple colour.

Although private Tabots are out of the question wink , we do have the Cross and Commandment doors at home.

The pioneers made these doors with six indented rectangular shapes.

The above is the Cross, the two rectangles below represent the Ark of the Covenant. Believe it or not . . .

Selam!

Alex

Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51984 10/22/02 04:04 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by Aklie Semaet:
What is Katavasia? Does the "Great Entrance' imply a wedding? How do the Dances look?
I'm sorry to have to disappoint you, but these aren't even dances, they are only Processions (it's the closest thing we've got).

The Katavasia is where the 2 Choirs [north and south] come together in the middle of the Sanctuary (aka "Nave" in the Latin Church) to sing certain parts of the service in combined voice, e.g. during the Kanon at Matins.

The Great Entrance is the Procession where the clergy carry the Blessed Gifts into the Altar.

Even there, I think you Ethiopians have us beat. You guys I think have that big fancy woven basket thing with tassels and a banya [onion dome thing]. (I've seen photos) What's that all about?

herb.
several shades of green with envy

ps: what's a Tabot? Is that a kind of Kivot/Kovcheg? What does it look like? What's in it?

pps. what's is a "Tewahedo"???

Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51985 10/22/02 04:10 PM
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Dear Herbigny,

We Oriental Orthodox will do our best to answer your questions wink .

"Tewahedo" refers to the faith of the Ethiopian Church referring to the union of the two Natures in the One Christ. "Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church."

Some European theologians sometimes interpreted it to mean "Monophysite" but that was incorrect . . .

The "Tabot" is a carved Ark of the Covenant - you are right. It contains a copy of the Ten Commandments bearing the "Shekinah" or Presence of the Lord.

Ethiopian hand Crosses often have a square at the end of the handle that represents the Ark - both the Cross, the "Al-Maskal" and the Tabot bear the Shekinah of the Lord.

The Ethiopians have one in each of their Churches, it is named for a saint e.g. St Michael and it is the focal point for the Church's worship. It is carried in procession etc. And you can't keep one at home, as I understand . . .

As for the other item you mentioned, I haven't the faintest idea.

I would like to also ask Aklie about it AND if one can have one at home . . .

Alex

Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51986 10/22/02 04:10 PM
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And here I thought "Debtera" was the cleric's wife who went wild with the credit card each month. biggrin

John

Re: Debteras ??? & other Ethiopian rites #51987 10/22/02 04:12 PM
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Dear Bisantino,

Perhaps you may want to suggest this to Dan Lauffer for his upcoming interview . . . wink

Seriously though, it comes from the idea of having "first debs" on liturgical music sheets.

Alex

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