6.0080 Rs: Psylli (1/27)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Mon, 15 Jun 1992 21:31:11 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0080. Monday, 15 Jun 1992.

Date: Sat, 13 Jun 1992 12:24:37 -0700 (PDT)
From: Nicholas Heer <heer@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.0076 Qs: Psylli

Oliver Phillips asks whether anyone can supply an Arabic
derivative from Psylli. I know of no Arabic derivative from this word.
The usual Arabic term for snake charmer is _hawi_ or _hawwa'_. Perhaps of
interest in this connection is what E.W. Lane in his _Account of the
Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians_ (first published in 1836) has
to say concerning snake charmers:

``Many modern writers upon Egypt have given surprising accounts of a
class of men in this country, supposed, like the ancient ``Psylli'' of
Cyrenaica, to possess a secret art, to which allusion is made in the
Bible, enabling them to secure themselves from the poison of serpents. I
have met with many persons among the more intelligent of the Egyptians who
condemn these modern Psylli as impostors, but none who has been able to
offer a satisfactory explanation of the most common and most interesting
of their performances, which I am about to describe.'' (Beginning of
chapter 20)

He then goes on to describe some of the performances he has witnessed.

Nicholas Heer, Professor Emeritus
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization
University of Washington, DH-20
Seattle, WA 98195, USA
Internet: heer@u.washington.edu