By Fatima-Ezzahra Metkal
Casablanca – In Morocco, traditional folk medicine is alive, well and coexistent with more modern medicine. Folk medicine is especially prevalent with respect to the health of women and children and used as a remedy when sorcery is at work. Those who practice folk medicine have a special place in Moroccan society.
A “farraga,” for example, is the original pediatrician. She is a woman who has been blessed by a former farraga. In other words, she has received “Baraka,” the blessing from an old man or woman who used to perform the same job.
Her job? Healing babies. She heals those who cannot sleep at night because they smell or see a work of sorcery, for it is believed that babies are angels who can feel and see things that adults cannot. The farraga also treats babies who have a cough, stomach ache, or those with “big heads” caused by the “evil eye,” according to her.
The tools of her trade are organic eggs, fenugreek, and a bandage for the babies’ big heads. She uses a drink of lavender, thyme, and other herbs for the babies’ cough. She also uses a small thin stick that she heats a little, then dips in tar. After that, farraga starts tapping the baby’s little fingers, toes, and head with the stick, so that the baby will grow up quickly and gain strength.
The farraga’s clinic is usually a room in her house. On average, one treatment takes three to four sessions. The frequency of sessions depends on how often the baby meets with people outside the family, especially women, for they are the ones believed to be involved in the practices of sorcery.
For this reason, some families tend to hide their babies and do not take them to crowded places. The price of the treatment is not fixed. The farraga will accept any amount of money one might give her, but it is agreed that the treatment runs around ten to twenty dirhams per session.
Many people prefer to take their newborns to this traditional “pediatrician.” They claim that modern pediatric medicine cannot help when it comes to witchcraft. The poor often resort to the farraga because they have faith in the “Baraka” that she was purportedly given. Moreover, the treatment costs next to nothing. Some intellectuals consult her after trying a medical pediatrician’s prescription, which usually includes antibiotics. These medications are a double-edged sword that many prefer to avoid for the benefit of the child’s immunization.
Thousands of mothers believe in the farraga’s magical healing powers, since she is believed to have enough knowledge and experience to take care of their babies. But the debate goes on as to whether to opt for traditional remedies or modern medicine.
Edited by Elisabeth Myers
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