The Eremitical Life in Ethiopia
“Though it has long since disappeared in the West, the eremitical life is still widespread in Ethiopia. The cenobitical monks and indeed the ordinary people regard the hermitage as Man’s highest abode on earth, and often monks seem fearful at the possibility of God calling them to it.
In almost every monastery there are a number of monks – perhaps one tenth of the total-who confine themselves to their cells. They are described as “the monks who never see the sun.” They have no responsibilities within the community and do not attend the daily common prayers. Food is brought to their huts each day by a single monk permanently designated to the task, and the hermit only emerges for the Mass in church on Sundays and feast days. Usually their cells are within the monastery compound, though sometimes they are a short distance away: at Debre Damo, for instance, hermits can be seen in apparently inaccessible caves in the sheer cliff beneath the monastery.
Other monks or lay people can visit them (if they can reach their cell), and even today many of the rulers of Ethiopia, including the Emperor himself, frequently seek the advice of these hermits on both spiritual and temporal matters.
Besides these monastic hermits, there are countless holy men (ba’atawi) living in remote forests and caves throughout Ethiopia. These men have totally rejected human contact, and if they ever visit a church they “come by night, crawling through the undergrowth so as not to be seen.” as an admiring priest described it. They live only on the wild fruits and herbs which Nature provides.
A few of these holy men are ordained monks who have left their communities, but mostly they are lay people – as another monk put it, “God has called them to holiness from nothing, as Christ called Peter and Paul.””
From: Robert Van de Weyer “The monastic community of Ethiopia” Full text available on-line at: https://tseday.wordpress.com/tag/hermits/
For Ethiopian Hermits, see: https://citydesert.wordpress.com/?s=ethiopia