Of Love Between Saints and a Jinniyya

Of Love Between Saints and a Jinniyya

You know that you have arrived at the correct destination when the hotel proprietor seriously enquires whether you would like to sacrifice a sheep the following day in  the grotto of Lalla Aisha.  I had arrived at possibly the  strangest place yet on my travels through Morocco.

The small town of Beni Rashid on the Zerhoun mountain is better known as Sidi Ali,  named after the 17th century sufi saint Sidi Ali ben Hamdush.  His tomb lies in his zaouia in a small gulley at the edge of the town looking out over the fertile valley where Meknes can be seen in the distance.   Of more significant interest is that Sidi Ali is bound by legend to another sufi saint,  Sidi Ahmad Dghoughi,  his disciple and servant,  who is buried in the nearby village of Beni Ouarad,  and that they are both bound by legend to a hostile but beautiful female spirit ( jinniya ) called Aisha Qandisha.

It is a love triangle with a difference;  the legend describes how Sidi Ali’s baraka was transferred to Sidi Ahmed upon his death, how the Hamadsha brotherhood obtained its traditional ‘hal’,  that is ecstatic dance,  how music and its healing role of people came into being,  how the Hamadsha acquired its self-harming behaviours once in trance,   and finally how the she-devil Aisha Qandisha became an integrated and indivisible part of the Hamadsha Sufi traditions.

The legend also describes the genesis of the cultural-medico concept of Ethno-Psychiatry where ecstatic dance and spirit expulsion,  sometimes facilitated  by animal sacrifice,  has traditionally been first choice for treating a range of illnesses in Morocco.

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Sufi Brotherhoods and Trance Ceremonies in the Maghreb

Sufi Brotherhoods and Trance Ceremonies in the Maghreb

 

Article taken from here 

Entering the Sufi Spiritual World of North Africa
Sufi Brotherhoods and Trance Ceremonies in the Maghreb

 

Zawiya in Souk Ahras in East Algeria

This zawiya is in Souk Ahras in East of Algeria, sometimes
people call the zawiya a marabout – they really mean the
saint. It happens that meals are offered to the poor
every Friday of the week, here we see in the middle of
the picture people sitting and eating bread, on the left
of the picture a man is standing, he is the caretaker.

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Pilgrimage : Moulay Brahim and the Gnaoua

Pilgrimage : Moulay Brahim and the Gnaoua

“You will fly over the ocean,” he continued, “by the power of baraka, the blessing of Sidi Moulay Brahim,  tair lajbal, indicating the spirit bird that flies over the Atlas Mountains”

Memoir of a Berber by Hassan Ouakrim

The young girl got up from the cushion and stood beside the figure in colourful, flowing robes already dancing directly in front of the line of musicians. The low monotone of the hajhuj and the rhythmic clacking of the qraqebs crackled through the cold November air.  She imbibed heavily from a white cloud of burning incense and a cloth of colour was placed over her head. Blind, her own dance joined that of the dancing figure beside her.

The girl was endeavouring to cure or treat a ‘malady’ of some description,  either by invoking or pleasing benevolent spirits or by propitiating malicious ones.  She was entering trance,  a dissociative state which permits the fording of dimensions between this world and the world of the troublesome, mischievous jinn.

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