Photos (2) During Timkat, the priests come out of their churches carrying the Tabots on their heads and form a grand procession to the symbolic River Jordan. The Tabots are large engraved slabs of wood or stone featuring inscriptions of the Ten Commandments. They represent the original tablets believed to have been carried to Ethiopia in the Ark of the Covenant. Wrapped in rich brocades, they are shielded from the gaze of the laity.Young deacons wear gold washed filigree crowns, symbolising the Crown of Enlightenment, and embroidered capes which, when spread out, form the shape of a cross. Each deacon carries a processional cross whose design is emblematic of 12th century, Ethiopia.Carrying the processional brass cross that represents his church, a young deacon closes his eyes in prayer. His filigree crown symbolises the Crown of Enlightenment.At sunrise on the final day of Timkat, the priests and laity surround a large pool of water in the shape of a cross. In an affirmation of their commitment to their faith, pilgrims splash each other with holy water, symbolizing the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist.The priests dip their processional crosses into the baptismal pool, which represents the River Jordan.Colorful religious paintings decorate the doors and walls surrounding the Holy of Holies inside Ura Kidane Mehret, a fourteenth-century church and monastery built on the Zege Peninsula in Lake Tana. Within the Holy of Holies is a replica of the Ark of the Covenant.A Priest passes through the tall wooden door leading to the sacred inner chamber of his church, known as the Holy of Holies, Lake Tana.A Priest holding a processional cross and an illuminated manuscript, stands at the entrance to the Holy of Holies in the sixteenth-century church of Ura Kidane Mehret on Lake Tana. The wall murals decorating the church were painted 100-250 years ago and tell colorful stories of Ethiopian Saints.The reign of King Fasilidas in the seventeenth century. Painted canvases, affixed directly on to the walls and ceiling, depict the Holy Trinity, equestrian saints and religious heroes. The ceiling of Debre Berhan Selaisse is covered with paintings of archangels whose eyes are believed to follow the faithful as they come to prayer.Above left, on the walls of the Church of Ura Kidane Mehret on Lake Tana; two equestrian saints, Estateos and Fasilidas, chase nonbelievers out of Gondar. Below left, Abadir and Abole are seen chasing Catholics or Muslims from the Christian Capital. Above right, Filatios destroying subjects of Pagan worship. Below right, George, Patron Saint of Ethiopia, is depicted slaying the dragon (19th C)A twentieth-century Gondar painting depicts twenty-four elders wearing filigree crowns and swinging incence burners as they approach the throne of God.A modern painting of Saint Gabre Manfas Kiddus by Afewerk Tekle hangs in Cathedral of St.George in Abbas Ababa. As the Saint crosses the desert preaching to wild beasts of prey, he finds a bird dying of thirst and allows it to drink water from his eye. Legend has it that he wandered for 300 years before being called to sit next to God in heaven.The Animals Banquet is a twentieth century painting by the artist Hailu. It symbolises the union of animals in friendship and love. In the beginning the animals preyed upon one another, but when God revealed to them that their plight was the work of the devil, they united to kill their oppressor. This painting is on dispaly at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa.A depiction of the devil chomping down on a non believer, Gondar.In the 17th Century Gondar was the capital city of Ethiopia. It’s palace, walled compound and fortifications were built by King Fasilidas.Peasant farmers and artisans, the Falasha – who call themsleves Beta Israel (House of Israel) are indigenous Ethiopian Jews. Their origins are cloaked in mystery. Today, many of them have emmigrated to Israel.A Falasha potter, wearing the Star of David, fashions clay figurines depicting legends from the history of Judaism. Falasha women, who prefer to be called Beta Israeli (House of Israel) are skilled in pottery. The clay figure, at right, depicts the Cahen, or HIgh Priest, carrying the Torah.Inside their village Synagogue, Falasha elders celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, by sharing a special feast of Njera (sourdough pancakes) with Wat (spicy meat sauce). At right, a Falsaha Cahen or High Priest, holds the Old Testament.A Falasha High Priest, Tarek Egn Mengista, holds the Torah; a hand-written parchment scroll containing the 5 books of Moses. Its cloth covering is decorated with the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew. At right, the tear in the eye of a High Priest, reflects his sadness at leaving his Ethiopian homeland behind. Months after this photo was taken in 1985, the Falasha people were airlifted to Israel, believed to be the Promised Land.A painting of Saint Estateos (14thC) from the Church of Debre Sina at Gorgora, Lake Tana. The stylised features of Saint Estateos remind us that Christian and Falasha holy men live side by side in communities thorughout the region. The exageratedly large eyes of the Saint are believed to follow the faithful as they come to pray.