El Jadida - The imam summoned back a terrible experience in the belly of the whale (Casablanca) marked by roaming the streets all over a couple of nights. Even the very hood of his djellaba pricked up when his body writhed in pain. He had to go back to Sidi Barek to spend a month there. During his stay at the shrine, his suspicions about his sickness dissipated and he discovered about its nature. There was a man in the shrine under treatment, who was haunted by seven air-jinn (l-riyah). During his fits and deliriums, he betrayed the secret deeds of all patients to the saint. For instance, if someone stole a candle, he would tell it.
El Jadida – The imam summoned back a terrible experience in the belly of the whale (Casablanca) marked by roaming the streets all over a couple of nights. Even the very hood of his djellaba pricked up when his body writhed in pain. He had to go back to Sidi Barek to spend a month there. During his stay at the shrine, his suspicions about his sickness dissipated and he discovered about its nature. There was a man in the shrine under treatment, who was haunted by seven air-jinn (l-riyah). During his fits and deliriums, he betrayed the secret deeds of all patients to the saint. For instance, if someone stole a candle, he would tell it.
One day, the imam was sitting by the tomb staring absent-mindedly in the void. What was he doing there? Was there an end to this misery? Could the saint divulge his secrets? In the midst of those rambling thoughts he was awakened by a mournful cry. The possessed newcomer was attacked by an uncontrollable spectral outburst, and the jinni’s voice in this medium’s body grieved and twisted the body’s eyes to gaze at the imam, and then spoke: “this man who roves in confusion and sits for hours reading the Koran; he gets in and reads, and gets out and reads; he wants to know what happened to him. The cause is those letters with which he worked without sacred permission (idn). He could not find a solution to them. Those living beings in the taleb must leave him in peace; otherwise I will blow them over, and throw them to the sea!”
It was a clearing that dawned on the imam’s mind, a moment of epiphany that wrenched him out of darkness into light. He discovered he was possessed. Wahya my God! What shall I do with this spectral guest? How shall I treat him? Where can I find the cure?” he wondered.
Once she heard about this secret divulgence (ntiq), the imam’s wife told her husband that they should travel to Safi to see an exorciser (hkaimi) there recommended by many of the patients in the shrine. Professional exorcisers have shamanistic skills to contact the spectral world and talk to spirits and restrain them by the force of their powerful jinn. Perhaps, in the case of the imam, the exorciser’s cure might work well because he was doing a similar profession and was attacked during labour. This was the way the wife and some women patients rationalized the imam’s crisis inside one of the qubbas of the shrine. But the imam rejected their opinion. He told his wife that no professional healer could cure him because he was himself a healer. He added that he knew all the formulas and rituals practiced by healers. He thought that only a saint or shrif descended from a holy lineage could cure him, no professional healer could do anything in his case.
However his relatives insisted on their demand and convinced him that the journey to Safi was better than his stay at the saint in vain. He was plagued by their insistent inducement and finally decided to venture for professional cure. He discovered that the healer in Safi was a mere fortune-teller (shuwaf). He was working in a room painted in black from the outside to the inside. The imam immediately recognized the curer’s spectral contact. He was working by the mediation of Mimoun, a jinni who liked to be invoked in black settings. The imam was still sitting in the room waiting inattentively for the curer when the latter suddenly came in interrupting the imam’s preoccupation. The moment he set eyes on the curer, the imam felt that there would be no result. The imam’s relatives never told the curer beforehand that the patient was also a healer.
The curer used basic methods to invoke jinn already exhausted by the imam. He took an iron slipper and a stick. He started the healing practice by perfuming the room with some fumigation, and then followed with striking the stick against the slipper. At this point, the imam lowered his head scornfully, and told himself in a soundless voice: “Do anything you can do, but all these things are common to me.” The imam feigned attentiveness to the healer’s banal incantations and at the same time mumbled with him: “By the power of Harrasin and Karrasin, of the great treasure, of the complete word, of the burning spectres and shooting star, there is no saviour except for the closer answerer!” (bihaqqi harrasin wa karrasin/ wa bi-l-kanzi l-‘adhim/wa bi al-kalimati ttamati/wa l-‘ajaibi al-muhriqati/wa shshihabi thaqibi/laysa mughitun siwa qaribun mujib). The imam rehearsed in jest all those expressions. He maintained his lowered head posture in front of the healer and waited for him to finish. He knew all the formulas by heart. When the healer noticed the imam’s withdrawal from the ritual of cure, he asked him about his work. The imam answered with a resentful smile: “I am your fellow at work!” Once he heard that, the healer ceased the magical work.
The imam and his wife spent two days in Safi; then they returned to Casablanca. It was a Tuesday when they arrived and the imam’s health kept stable for three days until Friday afternoon when the pain visited his body again. He was told to visit Sidi Ahmed al- Bahlul. He went to the saint and toured other sanctuaries albeit in vain. Ups and downs punctuated the course of his sickness. He lived in vicissitudes till the arrival of Ramadan. The pain could abate only by the power of the sacred of word with frequent long recitations of the Koran.
What made him dull of soul, the imam said, was that he spent 350 dh, and 200 kilograms of corn in one week, telling himself: ‘This may function! This may work!” He spent all the money consulting healers. A curer gave his wife a convenience black beetle (bakhusht l-buwala), and told her to put it in an envelope with some corn flour, and hang it inside the house. He explained to her that when the insect ate all the flour, it would die and, with its death, the sickness would vanish. Still another curer asked the imam to bring him a rooster with a comb (nuna) made of seven stripes, a strong big rooster. The imam burst out in sardonic laughter when he remembered the event. The curer wanted the rooster to feast upon with his family. The imam never gave him anything. Rather disgusted with the belly of the whale’s imposters and schemers, he bid farewell to the shanty towns of Casablanca and once for all returned home but very sick.
This is a short ethnographic serialized story published by installment with each episode coming forth approximately every Saturday.