Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Celebrating Timkat (Epiphony) In Lalibela

We revisited the churches using a book lent to us by our friend Si Say who works at the Hotel Churchill where we stayed in Addis. He had returned to Lalibela,where he lives, for his annual leave. It was great to walk around again without a guide, taking photographs in a more relaxed way.
In the afternoon we returned to the area just below the two church compounds in time to watch the procession of Deacons, Priests and other Church Office Bearers. The procession was very colourful but dignified in a religious way. The procession was bringing 10 replicas of the Ark of The Covenant, one from each Church, into the village. Each Church retains a replica of The Ark Of The Covenant in an area described as The Holy Of Holies (behind a curtain at the front of the Church).
This procession is very slow as a small group of helpers roll out a few sections of carpet in front of the procession. As the procession passes the carpets are lifted and replaced at the front in a continuous process. There is a lot of singing and chanting whilst drums and other symbol like instruments are played. There is a large crowd that envelopes the procession and a lot of tourist taking photographs. The procession and marshals were very tolerant of all the tourist and worshippers.
The destination of the procession was an area where a further celebration would take place the next morning.
Our plan was to be at the site of the celebration at 06h00, we overslept but still got there in time. As we arrived we saw a small grandstand full of tourists alongside a pool built in the shape of a cross. We took up our seats at a cost of Bir 300 each (R200). It was still dark and many of the worshippers were wearing white shawls and holding candles. This created a wonderful atmosphere. The groups of Church Office Bearers were wearing beautiful colored robes and some holding decorated umbrellas. Some of the worshippers even climbed trees to get a better view. This time no sign of the 10 replicas of The Ark Of The Covenant. After some drum beating and playing of symbol type instruments, with gentle swaying of bodies to the rhythm of the music the Deacons came to bless the Holy Water in the pool in front of us. Holy Water was created.
We were anticipating a very formal and dignified ceremony where worshippers would be baptised with the Holy Water. Not so our great surprise the water was splashed out of the pool, initially by the Deacons, onto the crowd that surged forward. Even two garden hoses connected to taps were employed to wet the crowd. This turned into a fun event with great excitement, splashing of water and filling of water bottles to take home.
In the afternoon the procession that brought the replicas of the 10 Ark of The Covenants down from the Churches yesterday retraced their steps up the hill to the Churches. Again much singing, dancing and playing of their drums and symbols. At the head of the procession were a few groups of young men dancing in circles with sticks, very similar to toy-toying.
We have thoroughly enjoyed the cultural experience of celebrating Timkat, tomorrow we start a 2 day trek to Addis Ababa.

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