They affirm that the wisdom of Solomon not only enabled him to search into the most hidden thoughts of men, and to hold converse with them in their respective languages, but that the gift extended even to the whole brute creation; by which means he could hold unlimited converse, not only with the animate, as birds, beasts, and fish, but with inanimate objects, as shrubs, trees, and, indeed, the whole tribe of vegetable nature; and, further, that he was permitted to discern and control aerial spirits, as demons, genii, &c.
The pretty bird, known in India by the name of Ood-ood, is much regarded by the Mussulmauns, as by their tradition this bird was the hurkaarah of King Solomon; and entrusted with his most important commissions whenever he required intelligence to be conveyed to or from a far distant place, because he could place greater confidence in the veracity of this bird, and rely on more certain dispatch, than when entrusting his commands to the most worthy of his men servants.
The ood-ood is beautifully formed, has a variegated plumage of black, yellow, and white, with a high tuft of feathers on its head, through which is a spear of long feathers protruding directly across the head for several inches, and is of the woodpecker species. The princes, Nuwaubs, and nobility of Hindoostaun, keep hurkaarahs for the purpose of conveying and obtaining intelligence, who are distinguished by a short spear, with a tuft of silk or worsted about the middle of the handle, and the tail of the ood-ood in the front of their turban, to remind them of this bird, which they are expected to imitate both in dispatch and fidelity. I am told, these men (from their early training) are enabled to run from fifty to sixty miles bare-footed, and return the same distance without halting on the same day.
The religious devotees of the Mussulmaun persuasion, who are denominated Soofies, are conjectured, by many, to have a similar gift with Solomon of understanding the thoughts of other men. By some it is imagined that Solomon was the first Soofie; by others, that Ali, the husband of Fatima, imparted the knowledge of that mystery which constitutes the real Soofie. I am acquainted with some Natives who designate the Soofies ‘Freemasons’ but I imagine this to be rather on account of both possessing a secret, than for any similarity in other respects, between the two orders of people.
My business, however, is to describe. The Soofies then are, as far as I can comprehend, strictly religious men, who have forsaken entirely all attachment to earthly things, in their adoration of the one supreme God. They are sometimes found dwelling in the midst of a populous city, yet, even there they are wholly detached from the world, in heart, soul, and mind, exercising themselves in constant adoration of, and application to God; occasionally shutting themselves up for several weeks together in a hut of mud, thatched with coarse grass, with scarce sufficient provision to support the smallest living animal, and water barely enough to moisten their parched lips during the weeks thus devoted to solitary retirement and prayer.