Report by Addison E. Southard, United States Minister to Ethiopia
National Geographic, June 1931
“As Sunday, November 2, dawned clear, all in Addis Ababa began to prepare for the impressive event of the morning. The Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah and his Empress have just completed a night of prayer and devotion at the most high altar within. Through the early morning the chanting of praises continued, accompanied by the dancing of the priests with their great pulsating drums, the whole suggestive of the Ancient Jewish rites which were in use at the time of King David danced before the Ark of the Covenant.
“Proceeded by waving incense burners, His Imperial Majesty, attired in white silk communion robes, entered the ceremonial hall with an escort of aides and clergy, and took his place upon the Throne. The thrilling but solemn silence gently breaks to the throaty voice of his holiness the Abuna Kyrillos:
“Ye princes and ministers, ye nobles and chiefs of the army, ye soldiers and people of Ethiopia, and ye doctors and chiefs of the clergy, ye professors and priests, look ye upon our Emperor Haile Selassie the First, descended from the dynasty of Menelik the First, who was born of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, a dynasty perpetuated without interruption from the time of King Sehale to our times.”
“Forty nine bishops and priests of this ancient Christian country, in groups of seven, have held place for seven days and nights in the seven corners of the National Cathedral to chant without ceasing nine Psalms of David. They are now joined by hundreds more. The established Coptic Church is revered and all-powerful in Ethiopia. This is a day when it may and does show its impressive might and splendor.
“The Emperor, whose name is Anglicized as Power of the Holy Trinity, before the questioning of the Abuna gives his sacred pledge to uphold the Orthodox religion of the Church, to support and administer the laws of the country for the betterment of the people, to maintain the integrity of Ethiopia, and to found schools for developing the Spiritual and Material welfare of her subjects.
“Chanting and prayers to the God of Gods rise from a multitude of priestly throats and reverberate from the lofty ceiling of the Cathedral. One by one with the solemn rites and blessings of the high Ethiopian clergy, He received the Gold-Embroidered Scarlet Robes, the Jeweled Sword, Imperial Gold Scepter, the Orb, the Diamond Encrusted Ring, and two Gold Filigree Lances in token of His position and responsibility. Following ancient customs, as when Samuel anointed David, and Zadok and Nathan anointed Solomon, so the Abuna anointed His Majesty’s head with oil. Seven differently scented ointments of ancient prescription are received on the Imperial head, brow, and shoulders. He then concluded with the words:
“That God make this Crown a Crown of Glory. That, by the Grace and the blessing which we have given, you may have an Unshaken Faith and a Pure Heart, in order that you may inherit the Crown Eternal. So be it.”
The centuries seemed to have slipped suddenly backwards into Biblical ritual.
“The assembly applauded their greeting, and the visiting naval band played the National Anthem, while outside cannons roared a salute of 101 guns, and cheer after cheer came from thousands of subjects massed in the vicinity of the Cathedral.”
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