By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 5/7/2006 | 4:57 pm
Temara---"Quli Taslim" (submit to the power of Jinns). I was asked to say so at the entrance of a fortuneteller's house, located in Temera on the outskirts of Rabat. The house of Fatima Zohra was full of people from all walks of life who came to ask about their future, their relationships and their work.
Fatima Zohra's house was very chic, though located near a shantytown in the area. There was a waiting room for guests, and an office with a telephone and a secretary. My colleague and I were so stirred by what we saw.
"Wow, it seems that she is richer than Bill Gates," I told my colleague laughing.
"Don't forget, you are my translator and I am Madam Lopez, beware of the slip of the tongue," I added.
In a taxi, before coming to see the fortuneteller (Shawafa in local dialect), we were searching for a lie to tell the Shawafa.
We couldn't tell her that we are journalists and coming to do an investigative reporting on witchcraft in Morocco. So I chose to perform the character of a rich American who has been deceived by a Moroccan guy. My colleague should play the role of my translator as I am supposed to know only few words in Darija. I thought it was a funny game.
We started thinking about a name. As we were listening to a Jennifer Lopez song, we decided that I should be named Madam Lopez.
Before getting to the Shawafa's house, we had mixed feelings: phobia and amusement. We hesitated before entering the house. I burst out laughing and I told my colleague: "Come on, my translator. Let's get into this adventure."
At the waiting room, we were scanning everything around. I was busy chatting with my colleague until I heard "Madam Lopiiiiiiiiiiiiiiz" with a countryside accent.
The Shawafa was in her twenties. Her office was very tidy and organized. In the corner of the room, were many hjabat (talismans), magically charged objects used to attract a certain type of energy or a particular type of person.
"Bojor Madame Lopiiiiiz," said the Shawafa in a Moroccan-countryside way (Bonjour Madame Lopez in French).
Fatima Zohra told my 'translator' to ask me to put an egg next to my heart and think about what I want to know.
I concentrated on the story of the Moroccan guy who was supposed to have deceived me.
Fatima Zohra told me about a guy that I had never known. My colleague and I found ourselves deeply involved in the 'show'.
"Madame Lopiiiiiz, rah andak laakas (you are unfortunate, and cursed). Someone has cast spell on you. Tell me; do you have any of his clothes, or anything of his belongings," said the Shawafa.
"No," I answered.
"Ok, what's his name and his mother's," she asked.
I looked at my supposed translator as we both didn't think about this question. My colleague answered quickly: "Morad wald Khadija".
As my colleague was talking, the phone rang. We heard the Shawafa telling the caller: "Safi gharadak takda, douz aandi bach naatik douk el hjiybat (your wishes are fulfilled, come and take your talismans), said Fatima Zohra.
Her phone didn't stop ringing. It seemed that she got calls from all over Morocco and abroad.
As she was busy speaking on the phone with her clients, it gave us the opportunity to think about what we want to say next.
Our thinking was interrupted with the screaming of a woman in the waiting room. Fatima Zohra jumped from her chair and rushed to the room to see what was going on.
"Taslim Taslim, rah lamra tayhouha el msalmine (submit to the power of Jinns, the woman is possessed)," said some of the women in the waiting room.
Fatima Zohra asked us to wait in the room until she looked into the case of the possessed woman.
"It seems that this day will never end. I don't know how much time we have to wait here. I started having little phobia," I told my colleague.
Back to the waiting room, we saw people busy talking about the objective of their visit to the Shawafa, and shared their stories.
Why people consult Shawafat?
Amina, 50, said she came to the Shawafa to know about the future of her beautiful daughter.
"My daughter is very beautiful, but she is nearly beyond the normal age for marriage. Lots of men ask her hand, but as soon as we agree on marriage, the men leave without reason. This has happened with at least six men and I don't want my daughter to be a spinster," said Amina.
"My daughter is psychologically ill and refuses to see anyone who comes to ask her hand, as she knows that he will leave without reason like the others," added Amina.
The said mother is among lots of women and men who resort to fortunetellers and Fakha to solve their problems.
Leila, another woman in her thirties said she was advised to come here to bring back her husband who no longer cares about her.
I felt thirsty. My colleague asked the secretary for a glass of water. She, then showed us the way to the Kitchen.
Once there, we were astonished to see several pictures of Khaliji-like men (people from the gulf, middle-east) along with candles of different colours lit on in front of the said pictures.
"It's a funny game, isn't it," I told my colleague. As we were watching the pictures, the secretary called us to see the Shawafa.
The latter gave me several Talismans, along with a list of things to buy for the Boukhour (a mixture of herbs, plants, and/or essential oils in a flower or wood base that, when burned, is aromatic. Incense has been used for centuries in religious and magical rites).
My colleague asked her about the Boukhour. Fatima Zohra said we can either buy them from "el Attar" (herbs vendor) or give her MAD 1000 (about 90 Euros) to buy them for us.
My colleague and I were stunned. "What's this Boukhourthat costs MAD 1000," we wondered silently as we were exchanging looks.
"No, don't worry, we will buy them ourselves, anything else," my colleague told Fatima Zohra.
"No, when you bring me what I asked you to do, I will tell you about the next steps," she said.
We gave the Shawafa MAD 200, and left. Then we went to see a Fkih, located in the opposite neighborhood. A Fkih is a kind of witchdoctor. He is a healer who believes that illnesses are caused by magic and are therefore best cured by it, as opposed to science or developed medicine.
We were told that in Temara, there are many fortunetellers and witchdoctors. I started feeling a terrible headache. There was a Fkih who has an echo in the area called “al-Mokhtar”. This time we had to perform other characters.
Men go to Fkih to gain power at workplaces
My colleague and I performed the character of simple Moroccan women, who are curious to know about their future. At the waiting room, we were surprised to see men who came to see Fkih. We previously thought that this world was only reserved for women. However, it proved to be untrue. We learned that several upper and middle class men resort to Fkih to gain power at workplaces.
Some put Talismans in the corners of their offices; others splash coloured water, usually yellow, on the ground of the office. These things influence the people who get in and out from the office.
The Fkih was young in his late twenties. The majority of his clients were young men and women who resort to him for their psycho-pathological problems. Consulting a psychiatric or psychologist is not part of the Moroccan culture; only few people do.
The Fkih started telling me that I will inherit a big amount of money and that I will meet the man of my life within a period of three months, but I have to get rid of my curse first and blabla blabla.
The young Fkih was looking at me in a strange way while giving me Talismans. He told me to do Boukhour for 3 consecutive days, and then put a talisman into water and wash my body, but advised me not to throw this water in the toilet. Instead I should throw it on the grass.
As we left the Fkih's house, my head was turning upside and down. “What are we going to do with all these Talismans,” I told my colleague.
“Let's burn them,” she replied. “No, we have to read them first and then see what will we do next,” I stressed.
I knew it was a mysterious and enigmatic world and certainly very dangerous. However, my colleague and I decided to continue the adventure.
The writing on the Talismans was strange, accompanied by tables and some drawings. It seemed that it was written in the language of Jinns (evil demons having supernatural powers).
A friend of mine told me there is a woman called Najma who could help us decode the Talismans. The woman in her twenties was also a Shawafa. My friend told me she was possessed by the Jinns who were guarding a treasure buried in a place near Marrakech.
Najma was kidnapped when she was 8 years-old to help the Fakha to decode the place of the treasure and open it. Fakha usually use people who are “Zohriyine” (people who have horizontal straight line in their hands, and whose eyes get crossed from time to time) to open treasures hidden in some lands hundreds or thousands years ago.
Moroccans spend lots of money on witchcraft
While waiting to see the Shawafa, we heard two women talking about their neighbour who was possessed by Lalla Aicha. “Lalla Aicha” represents a strong and well-wishing spirit fashioned after a local heroine who battled Spanish colonizers.
Several people in Morocco believe in various omens and superstitions. They also believe that Jinns rule their lives. The two ladies continued talking, but this time about their husbands. I understood that it was the objective of their visit to the Shawafa.
In Morocco, several women do not go to psychologists or marriage counselors (rarely or ever existed), they go instead to see clairvoyants.
One of them said: “I suspected my husband betraying me with another woman. But don't worry; the Shawafa will take charge of that.”
According to popular belief, a woman who wants to bring back her husband must collect some of his sperm and then give it to a witchdoctor.
It was our turn to see the third Shawafa for that day. Najma, the Shawafa, started laughing when she read the Talismans given to us by the Fkih. She told me that they are meant to attract me to the Fkih as he liked me.
“If you use these Talismans, you will be obsessed by the Fkih and unable to restraint yourself from seeing him very often,” she said.
I looked with my colleague and said to myself: “Oh God, that's not funny anymore; it started getting dangerous.”
“Can you help us get rid off these Talismans,” I told Najma.
She accepted on condition that we give her MAD 300 (about 27 Euros). I gave her the money as I only wanted to run out of the place and go back home. Suddenly a woman started screaming.
I thought it was the same scenario as it happened in the house of the other Shawafa. But I was wrong. This time, it was more serious than before. The lady was in a complete hysteria. The lady started talking a different language with a man's voice.
We were asked not to talk, not to laugh and not to move. There was a face to face dialogue between the Shawafa and the woman, or the spirit who possessed her as they say.
As soon as the Shawafa took the lady in another room, we run away from the house, leaving all the Talismans and everything behind. It was truly a mishap, but interesting to discover a hidden world.
We concluded that the Fakha and Shawafat therapies are varied. People use these methods according to their money. Some use the candles to attract the people they love (it costs no more than MAD 50); others use Kouboul (attraction) and it costs around MAD 300 to MAD 500. People also prefer to use Ldoune (sort of metal used to undo bad hex). Those who have a lot of money use Kouboul made up of the hyena's brain, and other herbs (the hyena's brain could cost up to MAD 20,000).
Islam bans the practice of sorcery, science rejects superstitions
Islam bans the practice of sorcery. The religion states that the bewitched person could be cured by using Koranic verses. Muslim leaders preach against it in mosques and denounce sorcery as a pagan satanic rite.
Psychiatry also states that hallucination, abnormal visions, strange voices, unbearable pain, and depressive ideas are symptoms of a person who has psychological problems.
Yet, several Moroccans still can't help but associating this kind of symptoms with metaphysical beliefs and chose to waste their money and gamble with their lives to see a Fkih or a Shawafa.