Friday, December 5, 2014

“Morocco and the Deathly Hallows” by Ayoub Lasri – Explanatory Essay

“Never show your palms to a stranger!” A statement that terrorized my early childhood. I was around seven years old when I first heard it from my old neighbor Nissrine. We were playing Hide and Seek around the house with all of our neighborhood friends when I stumbled on the uneven sidewalk and fell down on my hands. Pretending I was not hurt at all, I called all my friends to come see the new cool scratch I had on the front of my hand. All my playmates, gathered around me, were wowed except for Nissrine who, extremely horrified, screamed: “Oh My God! You have green eyes and you’re Zouhri!” Bewildered, I did not understand what she meant. Wail –the oldest boy of our crew and the leader of our adventurous excursions in the neck of the woods– later explained to me that Zouhri is a person whose palms’ lines are perfectly symmetrical, and green-eyes Zouhris are extremely rare and looked for by sorcerers and wizards who use their blood to dig out a treasure protected by Djins. Baffled, I ran to our house to find refuge and comfort. My mother bosomed me tightly while she gently wiped my tears and assured me that all what Nissrine and Wail said is banal fantasy.

Like Nissrine and Wail, believing in the unknown and acknowledging the unreal are two conventional values in Morocco. One may think that this kind of convictions is only common in popular and poor villages where analphabetism and ignorance are ravaging, but in fact “more than 86% of Moroccans believe in the virtue of sorcery […]” according to Ahmad Al Motamassik, a Moroccan sociologist who published a thesis about sorcery and black magic in Morocco.

Visiting Faqihs and colluding with sorcerers are cultural phenomenon in Morocco that involve all social classes. For instance, a former minister’s wife was arrested by the Moroccan authorities in her way to Dakhla to buy a hyena from a hunter (Telquel, 156). Hyenas’ brain is a very powerful ingredient used in rituals and invocations. While some look only for Lbarakka, the benediction of a saint, or Lqabboul, the acceptance by other people, some other people use Shur –Sorcery– and quackery for extremely evil and malicious ends such as poisoning, separating couples, destroying families, and haunting the victim until insanity.

Thousands of Dirhams are spent daily by fanatical zealots to buy ingredients for the rituals. Amulets, talismans, holy water, candles, and incenses are all part of the to-buy list. However, much more expensive and complex items are used for darker incantations and devilry to invoke the Djins; diabolists often require hyenas’ brains, which cost around 140,000 Dirham, donkeys’ tongue, goats’ horns, and even herbs like the colocynth and the astragalus. A colossal black market is conducted in all the Kingdom’s corners to deliver such ingredients used either privately in a one-to-one session between the sorcerer and the potential client, or more publically in sanctuaries, shrines, and mausoleums (Radi, Chapter 3).

To take a closer look at all these witchcraft shenanigans, let’s see what a woman would have to do with the help of a voodoo to conquer the heart of her beloved.

First of all, she has to acquire a raven’s head. Then, take off the forebrain of the bird and smoothly replace it with dirt on which the beloved has stepped. After mixing a donkey’s feces with seven barley seeds, the voodoo would bury the raven along with the mixture in a desert place. When the seeds grow and are about four fingers long, the voodoo would tear them up and give them to the woman who would then hand crush them, rub them all over her body, and feed them to her victim.

This is just one of the many recipes that a Faqih could give a client. For each purpose, many oral and manual rituals are available, ranging from incantations and formulas used to defend the person from Lain –Nocuous spells conjured by enemies– to awfully complex concoctions involving animal sacrifices and dead’s bones and skulls pulled out from graves in cemeteries (Radi, Chapter 3).

Another highly powerful and widespread kind of spells is manual rites supplemented by oral incantations. While crafting mystic talismans and brewing elixirs and potions, the oral incantations usually call for Djins and Shayatin –devils– which makes the sorcery profoundly deadly in some cases. For instance, to manipulate a person and make him or her abide by all your rules, all you have to do is take seven elements of plant and animal origins meticulously prescribed by a Faqih, put them in a clay container with charcoal embers, and walk through your victim’s house with the vessel in which the mixture burns while reciting the following hocus-pocus: “This son of this person, you do not sleep, you do not relax, only if your head is by my head, and your feet are on my bed. Word of God, word of the prophet, and word of Lalla Mkouna, daughter of Mkoun the king of Djins. When I say this son of this person, he shall be mine” (Radi, Chapter 4).

Although Morocco is considered a Muslim country, it is quite stunning how sorcery is rooted in the deepest traits of Moroccan culture. Many everyday life acts that seem innocent are in fact totemic rituals inherited from our ancestors of the paganism era and are strictly condemned by Islam. Now in an attempt to explain this puzzling cultural paradox, we must bring to light the fact that Moroccans generally visit Faqihs, Chouaffas, and Siyyed when they are desperate. When facing the unknown and the uncertain, they turn to ancestral and assumed effective practices to ward off bad luck and help fulfill their goals. The Moroccan world is a very bizarre place and nothing is off limits. The absurdity and illogicality of sorcery doesn’t seem to bother its practitioners. In fact, sorcery and black magic seem to be the gateway to reach the impossible.


-Saadia Radi, Surnaturel et société ; Centre Jaques-Berques, 2013 ; Article 156-157, Abdellatif El Azizi ; Arcitle of 01-16-2009, Brahim Habriche

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