Morocco and magic

This article is also available in: Italiano

We close the week dedicated to Morocco with magic and why it developed particularly right here rather than, for example, in Egypt.

The origins

Magic is deeply linked to the history of Morocco, so much so that still today many, especially in secret, turn to sorceresses and holy men in an attempt to solve their problems. The origins of the spread of magic in this land is probably to be found in 3 factors: population, geography and ignorance. The first is perhaps the most interesting and to be sought especially in the two “typical” populations of the country, namely the Imazighen and the Jews.

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Amazigh woman

In fact, in every part of the world, magic cults and rites are widespread, but certainly these two populations have rites and traditions so particular as to “strengthen these beliefs”. As we have seen, the Amazigh culture already has within it elements and rites of protection or the like, the arrival of the descendants of Isaac, however, has greatly expanded the thing. Escaped from Andalusia, they settled here, bringing with them many rites and symbols of their history. A typical example is the famous “hand of Fatima”, a symbol historically belonging to the Jewish world but then spread to many areas of the Arab world.

Far from the heart of Islam

Another of the reasons why magic has spread so easily is certainly geography. It is no coincidence that in Arabic Morocco is called Maghreb, or “where the sun sets” / “West”; this is because it has always been the westernmost limit of the Arab-Islamic world and, therefore, subject to much less control than in other countries. The governor of Egypt, to say, could hardly have strayed far from “official” cults, which is very different from the Moroccan Kingdom, far from the eyes.

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Gnawa music, listening to it, should be able to get in touch with the spirits

To this it is also very simple to link the phenomenon of “saints” and their incredible diffusion precisely in the Maghreb and in areas such as Senegal. In fact, Islam provides that a pilgrimage to Mecca must be made at least once in life; if nowadays the possibility of embarking on this journey is, after all, a purely economic question, it was once absolutely not the case. A Moroccan from the 1500s probably had to take at least 6 months to carry out his religious commitment, which is so remarkable that he even deserves the nickname “Hajji”, which still remains in many surnames. Definitely more practical was to go on pilgrimage to some great local man, certainly not at the same level but definitely more feasible.

Ignorance and charlatan

Another and last element that has enhanced everything precisely in these lands is, without a shadow of a doubt, the great illiteracy of the country. Although decreasing, in fact, illiteracy is still developed in different layers of the population which, combined with the great poverty that it entails, pushes many into the easy hands of witches and charlatans.

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Just think, in fact, of how an ignorant and illiterate, perhaps lived only in his small village, can perceive a patient with schizophrenia or suffering from Down syndrome. In these cases there was a tendency to resort directly to magicians and the like who, with the use of amazing formulas, exorcised the patient, sometimes worsening the situation. Not always, then, such rites are carried out to ingratiate or protect, sometimes people also turn to it to bring harm to strangers, thus going to definitely worsen the situation. Economic difficulty and medical malpractice, then, are other elements that push the most ignorant to fall into such scams, transforming them into fervent protectors of their “saviors” and preserving them from a confrontation with the authorities.

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