Prince Yuri Lubovedsky

So it continued for about two weeks, until one day we were called into the third court, to the sheikh of the monastery, who spoke to us through an interpreter. He appointed as our guide one of the oldest monks, an aged man who looked like an icon and was said by the other brethren to be two hundred and seventy-five years old.

After this we, so to say, entered into the life of the monastery, were allowed access almost everywhere, and began gradually to find out about everything.

In the centre of the third court was a large building like a temple, where twice a day all those who lived in the second and third courts assembled to watch the sacred dances of the priestesses or to hear the sacred music.
When Prince Lubovedsky completely recovered, he went everywhere with us and explained everything, and was thus, as it were, a second guide for us.

The details of everything in this monastery, what it represented, and what was done there and how, I shall perhaps recount at some time in a special book. But meanwhile I find it necessary to describe in as much detail as possible one peculiar apparatus I saw there, the construction of which, when I had more or less grasped its significance, made a tremendous impression on me.

When Prince Lubovedsky had become our second guide, one day on his own initiative he obtained permission to take us to a fourth court, at one side, called the Women’s Court, to the class of pupils directed by the priestess-dancers who, as I have said, daily performed sacred dances in the temple.

The prince, well knowing my great and absorbing interest in the laws of movement of the human body and psyche, advised me to pay special attention, while watching this class, to the apparatuses with the aid of which the young candidates for priestess-dancers were taught their art.

The external appearance of these peculiar apparatuses gave the impression, even at the first glance, that they were of very ancient workmanship. They were made of ebony inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl. When they were not in use and stood grouped together, they reminded one of ‘Vesanelnian’ trees, with branches all alike. On close examination, we saw that each apparatus consisted of a smooth column, higher than a man, which was fixed on a tripod. From this column, in seven places, there projected specially designed branches, which in their turn were divided into seven parts of different dimensions, each successive part decreasing in length and width in proportion to its distance from the main column.