Filseta fasting is in commemoration of the saint mary's exile. This fasting period extends for 16 days. Although not everyone can go to monasteries for intensive fasting, some pious orthodox followers who get a break from their work climb to Entoto hills where there are 2 monasteries named after Saint Mary: They camp within the compound of the monastery for 16 days.

Many orthodox christians believe that 90% of prayers made during this fasting period are fulfilled. They also take this annual occasion to wash off their sins. It is these driving forces that lead the majority of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to endure 16 days of hard intensive fasting under difficult circumstances.


During the Filseta fasting everything considered as luxury and suiting to the body will be avoided. In Entoto hills for example where temperatures near 0 degrees celcius:

entoto filseta fastingpilgims at entoto church during filseta fastingentoto

- Believers equiped with nothing but a cover not as thick as a blanket( known as gabi) will sleep in the open air with no mats underneath . The only bed they will know for 16 days is the chilling asphalt or cimented compound floor of the monastery.

- No foods are allowed in the monastery. The only thing that followers are allowed to consume is water and a handful of roasted ble. And it is not only the quality and quantity of intake that is restricted: it is time bound too. Pilgrims are only allowed to eat the handful cereal and water only at 6 p.m in the evening. They will be away from any consumables outside these hours.

- There are subsequent collective prayer times during each day of fasting ( Kidase 2 1/2 hours, seatat 6 hours, Kidan 1 hour, serk 30 minutes.) This makes ten hours of collective prayers in a single day, throughout which the pilgrim will have to stand. When you add personal prayers to the collective ones, it makes more than 10 hours a day of standing still with little food and with little comfort of sleeping afterwards.

- While any contact with the outside world is avoided in the many monasteries, there are also some who make a vow of silence, depriving them from all forms of communication throught the spell.

 It is incredible to learn that despite the harsh conditions no emergencies are reported from any church. Infact it is quite amazing that, having past through conditions that will make 16 days feel 16 years, many pilgrims end up by leaving monasteries with much better looks and physical health.

Although questionable to the non believer, many Ethiopian Orthodox christians claim to go to this pilgrimage every year because their wishes of one year ( be it health related or material) ends up by being fulfilled.

Whether a tourist is from a different religion or is not religious at all, the Filseta pilgrimage is one occasion worth seeing at: it is fascinating to have a look at hundreds packed in a monastery compound, dressed in white and chanting prayers as a massive choire in unique yaredian melody.


Related links

CRUCIFIX FASTING ( Avoidance of food and water for three days)




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