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 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
) 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!