chapter  XI
39 Pages


ShSr may also be practised without reference to any particular individual. If a band of scribes are in need of money, one of them feigns to be dead and the others cover him up with a blanket, sit down round him, and read over him as if he were dead. The effect of this sham funeral is that there will soon be a death which will bring them profit ; a funeral is welcome to the scribes, it is called their wedding (A it W aryager). For the same purpose they knock the bier which is kept in the mosque, telling it to get up to w ork:— Qiim fhdem ‘dla rasak ; and they believe that somebody will die within three days (Andjra). A m ong the A it W aryager they beat the bier three times at night, saying, Kdr athadmed yd rmahmer, “ Get up to work, O bier And when they want a feast they take the empty palmetto or esparto mat (dasfir t) on which they keep their food when

The term shdr is generally applied to unlawful magic practised for a wicked end. Y et it is also used for practices which serve a selfish rather than malevolent purpose, and sometimes even for m agical acts which are actually benevo­ lent, as when a person puts something in the bridegroom ’s slipper to counteract the effect of tsqaf which has been imposed on him by an enemy. In any case, secrecy is a general characteristic of shdr ; Arabic writers maintain that sihr is derived from a word which originally meant “ to be hidden ” .2 Muhammadan theology prohibits the sihr , or enchantment practised by the aid of evil spirits, in accordance with the condemnation passed on it in the K oran.3 But Lane observes that although it is almost universally acknow­ ledged to be a branch of Satanic magic, “ some few persons assert (agreeably with several tales in the Arabian Nights), that it may be, and by some has been, studied with good intentions, and practised by the aid of good Jinn : conse­ quently, that there is such a science as good enchantment, which is to be regarded as a branch of divine or lawful magic ” .4 This is in agreement with the opinion I heard expressed at Fez, that shdr may be not only evil and unlaw­ ful but also, in certain cases, good and lawful. On the other hand, the words sahhar and sahhara, so far as I know, have always a bad meaning attached to them. A professional sahhara is haunted by jn un , she will never give birth to a child, and blood oozes out of her face as it does in the case of a person who has committed homicide (U lid BiVaziz). Leo Africanus describes witches as tribades.5 A person

versed in lawful magic is called hklm (plur. hokama), and as such a person is always a man there can be no female hokama. But nowadays this term is said to be appropriated by mere jugglers practising l-hanqatera

As appears from many facts stated above, the supposed efficacy of shdr is due, not merely to charms written for the purpose and to the assistance given by jn un , but also to the belief that qualities and events in certain circumstances, whether with or without material contact, produce effects which are more or less similar to them. This belief, which springs from the natural association of ideas by similarity, plays a very important part in the magical beliefs, practices, and taboos in Morocco as elsewhere. Abundant evidence of this is found in other parts of the present work, as well as in my book Marriage Ceremonies in Morocco, and the instances might be multiplied almost indefinitely.