Haile Selassie I - Anecdotes

The Feast of St. George (1934)

At six o’clock one morning I was wakened by his interpreter, a French-speaking Abyssinian, with a message:

‘Blatta Teklu wants you to know that the Emperor is going to drive to the Feast of St. George to-day. Perhaps you would be interested to see this Abyssinian ecclesiastical celebration, and he has sent me to take you there.’

‘Thank you’, I aswered, still half sleep; ‘but why is it necessary to be called out of bed at six o’clock?’

‘Because the service has already begun and the Emperor is praying with his subjects’.

It was not difficult to find the way, for the street leading to the Coptic Church was crowded with people who wanted to see the Emperor. They had waited since midnight to see him for a split second as he drove past in his motor, and were now squatting there till noon, when he would return. When we arrived prayers were still being said in the church and we had to wait outside. (…) At the top of the church steps which continued right round the building hung a white curtain, and a costly carpet had been laid down for the Emperor when he came out. In the background the people were collecting in thick masses, and all the while the priests chanted on, scarcely audible above the din of the crowd. Now I was seeing the real Abyssinians, an ancient immutable race.

Suddenly a wave of movement swept across the crowd. The warriors stood up (…) The priests had appeared at the church door, dressed in blazing vestments of heavy brocade, the bishops wearing crowns of rich gold. (…) The high dignitaries of the land began to leave the church, bowing down before the Emperor’s box that was erected at the top of the steps outside the entrance. After some time the heavy white curtain swayed; people were moving behind it, although it was impossible to see who they were. My guide whispered to me that the Emperor had already arrived but he had to be shielded from the eyes of the Evil One. Then suddenly the curtain dropped. The people saw their Emperor in the flesh, and every man in the crowd collected in the square, from ministers and bishops to warriors and beggars, called out with one voice: ‘Habet, Habet!’ Little Father, Little Father! I bowed to the ground and the Emperor acknowledged my gesture with a friendly smile, for he knew already who I was and I learned later that I had been invitated to the festival at his special command.

Then the service in the square took place. The monks played sing-song psalms of the Coptic Church on their stringed instruments and others performed sacred dances. The music grew wilder, the drums beat louder and the dancing monks whirled in more extravagant ecstasy. Everyone was moving to the rhythm of the thundering drums, while the Emperor, majestically calm, stood quite unmoved by it all.

The dance over, the sacred procession started to go round the church three times. At the head walked the priests, followed by the Emperor, carrying his rifle over his shoulder, a special honour which he renders only to God, for on no other occasion does an Abyssinian nobleman carry arms. The Emperor’s numerous servants attend him and before God he is himself only a servant. His rifle is now not covered because the Devil is crushed out when God is present, but as soon as the procession leaves the vicinity of the church the costly weapon is wrapped up in silk, out of sight of the Evil One.

As the Emperor went past I noticed that he was strikingly pale, and the mayor’s interpreter confirmed my impression.

‘His Majesty is tired out’, he told me, ‘he rose at three o’clock this morning to finish some State business before the Church festival’. (…)

The powerful princes of the Church take the greatest pains to insure that the Emperor always arrives punctually, and woe betide him if he leaves before the end! In many respects he is the Church’s prisoner, for the Church is the real ruler of the country. (…)

The Emperor has often to give up radical reform plans for fear of straining his relations with the Church. The Church is now playing a particularly important part by trying to force the Empire to declare war, but Haile Selassie is standing firm and will remain a pacifist as long as he possibly can.”

(Taken from “Abyssinia On The Eve”, L.Farago, London, 1935 p. 56-62)

Ethiopian Orthodox Church

The 12 Tribes of the 12 Apostles

According to the Ethiopian Tradition, each one of the 12 Apostles comes from one among the 12 tribes of Israel, thus fulfilling his own personal life as the prophetical resonance of his ancient tribal Patriarch.

To ovastand the spirtual character of our tribal fathers is the first step to identify symbols and qualities of the 12 tendencies (at-tribu-tes), and it should be taken before any astrological elaboration if one has to discover and determine the I-self.

Take notice of the traditional Ethiopian wisdom, for someone has tried to reconstruct the identity of the Apostles according to individual perspectives and without the knowledge of the fathers, committing many faults and falsifying the doctrine. Nobody can know with surety about the Apostles, except the Ethiopian Orthodox Church descending from the Apostles.

Of Her, Haile Selassie I said: “Ethiopia, an island of Christianity, has made her own distinctive contribution to the Christian faith; for, ever since her conversion to Christianity she has remained faithful, her age-old ties with the Apostolic church uninterrupted”. (Selected Speeches p. 637). “Holy Fathers, as the spiritual descendants of the Apostles of Christ you have an eminent responsibility” (Selected Speeches p. 639).


*** Peter was of the House of Simeon, through his mother.

*** Andrew the brother of Peter, was of the House of Ruben, through his father. In certain instances, Andrew is counted in Simeon and Peter in Ruben.

*** James of Zebedee was of the House of Levi, through his father.

*** John of Zebedee (the Beloved writer of Revelation) was of the House of Judah, through his mother.

*** Philip was of the House of Zebulon.

*** Bartholomew (formerly called John) was of the House of Neftali.

*** Matthew was of the House of Isacchar.

*** Thomas was of the House of Asher.

*** James son of Alpheus, was of the house of Gad.

*** Thaddeus was of the House of Joseph.

*** Simon of Cleopas (also called Nathaniel) was of the House of Benjamin.

*** Judas Iscariot was of the House of Dan.

*** Matyas, the one who replaced Judas Iscariot, was of the House of Efraim (Joseph)

*** Paul (formerly called Saul) was of the House of Benjamin.

Main Ge’ez traditional sources: “Gedle Hawaryat” (“The contendings of the Apostles”), Andemtà (traditional commentary of each book of the Bible), “Book of the Mysteries of Heaven and Earth”