Bodies, Boundaries, and Spirit-Possession [Morocco, mainly at Casablanca]









S`uwwafat as Innovatrices



Marginalizing Women






1. (pp. 13-40) "Introduction".

p. 18 antipathies of the jnun

"Besides salt, jnu^n are known to have an aversion to

steel, iron, tar, silver".

p. 18 other terms meaning "jnun"

"jnu^n ... are referred to a number of other names ..., such as ...

il-mlu^k (the kings),

il-muslimi^n (the Muslims),

il->arya^h (the winds),

il-mu>mini^n (the believers) and

ha^dhak in-na^s (those people)."

pp. 19-20 female possessing-spirits




"preferences of two named female jnu^n.

<A^>isha Qandi^sha ... is known to reject Western stiles of dress and to require her followers to wear traditional Moroccan clothing and

La^lla Malika is said to only speak French and to prefer Western or European styles of clothing."


"La^lla Mi^ra is known to ... make human laugh.

She is particularly fond of water and symbolizes autumn.

She requires her followers to wear yellow and burn yellow ja^wi^, or benzoin. ... .


... she is unmarried and believed to originate from a Berber tribe called Bani Mtir. Thus she is sometimes referred to as La^lla Mi^ra il-Mtiriyya. She lives in houses and goes out after the afternoon prayer (Crapazano 1981:179).


<A^>isha Qandi^sha is also referred to as La^lla <A^>isha, La^lla being ... equivalent to Ms. or Mrs.,

or simply as is-su^da^niyya (... Sudanese),

il-gna^wiyya (... Guinean ...),

il-bah.riyya (the one fropm the sea) ... . ...

Her favorite colors are red and black and

her favorite bkhu^r is black ja^wi^, or benzoin.

She appears in the form of a beautiful woman with the legs of a camel which she hides under her caftan when she wishes to seduce men, which she often does.

Otherwise, she appears as a goat with hanging breasts and the legs of a woman."


"Another commonly known and popular named jinn is La^lla Malika.

She is said to be very beautiful, charming, bourgeois and a symbol of springtime.

She like to dress very elegantly and admire herself in the mirror.

She only speaks French and prefers European styles of attire.

Her favorite colors are pink, purple, green and yellow.

She requires those she possesses to dress elegantly in purple, wear perfume and burn sandalwood.

She is good-natured and likes to flirt. She likes to tickle humans and make them laugh."

Crapazano 1981 = Vincent Crapazano : Die Hamadsa. Stuttgart : Klett-Cotta.

pp. 20-1 male possessing-spirits




"The most common male jinn ... in Casablanca is Si^di^ H.ammu^.

He is known ... to lurk around slaughterhouses and to drink blood. He is nicknamed the butcher.


... he usually takes possession of children

who[m] he requires to wear the color red and

to burn red ja^wi^, or benzoin.


Three other male jnu^n well-known ... in Casablanca to take possession of humans are somewhat less common" :


male jinn

his favorite color


Sidi Mimun {Mammon}



S`e^h^ Budarbala

"all colors"




p. 21 jnun "known to act not as individual but as groups or tribes"

tribe of jnun


>ulad >il-H^alifa (children of the successor)

"said to like transparent and shiny things and to be fond of children."

>ulad Bi->l->ah.mar (children of the son of the red)

"said to be extremely dangerous."

p. 21 the legend of Lalla Mimuna, a female of the jnun >o^liya>

"La^lla Mi^mu^na was from a Berber tribe in the region of Guerouan to the south of Meknes. ... She was supposedly the wife of Mu^lay Bu <Azza ["eleventh century ... shepherd ... in Taghiya." (p. 207, n. 24)], a follower of Mu^lay Bu Sh<ayb from Azzemur ... .

Her favorite color is blue and her favorite bkhu^r is h.asalba^n. She takes possession of both men and women (Crapazano 1981:179)."

p. 21 other instances of jnun >o^liya>





Lalla Jmila

Westermarck 1926:i, 364

Lalla Rqiyya

Westermarck 1926:i, 332


Sidi Mulay Mars`is`


Sidi Musa


Westermarck 1926 = Edvard Westermarck : Ritual and Belief in Morocco. 2 voll. London : Macmillan.


3. (pp. 79-111) "S`uwwafat as Innovatrices : from Seeress to Self-made Businesswomen".

p. 79 typical spirit-medium consultation-session (woman-to-woman)

"A ... boisterous woman ... is seated on the lih.a^f or Moroccan style polstered bench ... . ... The client enters and takes a seat on the cushion on the floor opposite the shuwwa^fa. The shuwwa^fa adds more bkhu^r [incense] to the mjma^r [censer] and directs the smoke towards herself ... . She burps several times long and loud. The is a sign that her spirit medium {possessing-spirit}, <A^>isha Qandi^sha, has taken possession of her. She takes her tsbi^h. ["string of ninety-nine beads" (p. 226, n. 92)]from the table and hands it to the client. The client holds it over her heart and then returns it to the shuwwa^fa with the ftu^h. ... . The shuwwa^fa ... looks at the beads of her tsbi^h. and begins questioning her in a direct manner."

p. 228, n. 104 women practitioners in particular districts of Morocco

"Gaudry (1929), studying folk religious practices among women of the Auras, distinguishes ... different types of roles for women :

the sorceress, which she offers as the translation of the Berber titles tasehhart ["sah.h.a^ra, the Arabic word for sorceress"] and settant;

the diviner, her translation of the Berber title tagezzant".

"Westermarck uses the term ... for women in Dukkala and Fez who perform practices similar to today’s consultation sessions for women and for women who hold ceremonies similar to today’s liya^li^.

Women performing similar practices in the Rif are referred to as dizuhriyin, the singular of which is dizuhrit.

He uses ned.d.ara and talla<a for women in Andjra and Sale respectively who hold ceremonies ... similar to the liya^li^ of today (1926:356)."

Gaudry 1929 = Mathe’a Gaudry : La femme chaouia de l’Aures. Paris : Geuthner.

p. 229, n. 107 magic & secret trips for secluded women

"Goichon, in her study of the secluded bourgeois women of Fez, explains that these women were given to invite male and female members of the Gna^wa order to organize "an evening of music and magic" (1929:6-7). Secret trips out of seclusion were also undertaken by these women for the purpose of consulting black sorceresses who had come to Fes from various parts of the South together with black sorcerers."

Goichon 1929 = REVUE DES E’TUDES ISLAMIQUES, I, pp. 1-74.

p. 87 vision, in a cemetery, of absent person

[translated from Legey 1926:208-9] "in order to have news of someone who is absent, the seer[ess] draws a large circle in the palm of her right hand with charcoal which she then spreads out within the circle. She then closes her hand firmly and goes off alone to a very isolated place in a cemetery. When she is able ... to enter into a state of trance, she opens her hand and stares intently at the pile of charcoal which suddenly becomes shiny like a mirror. She sees the image of the person who is away clearly in this mirror."

Legey 1926 = Franc,oise Legey : Essai du folklore marocain. Paris : La Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner.

pp. 87-8 forecasting the future by means of spirit-possession




[translated from Legey 1926:209] "It is the spirit, La^lla Mi^ra, who takes control of the seer[ess] and allows her to forecast the future. To attract her {the spirit} the women present play the taridja [p. 229, n. 114 : "The tarija is a Moroccan drum."] and burn all her favorite kinds of incense in an incense burner :

salaba^n (a kind of sap), coriander, white incense, black incense, terebinth gum, aloe wood ... . When the scent gets very strong, the spirit arrives.

At this moment, the seer[ess] lets out a strange cry, pulls ... her hair ..., bites herself and beats on her chest to show her powerlessness. She is fighting with the spirit which little by little succeeds in taking control of her.

Then she lets the rhythm of La^lla Mi^ra control her and she dances wildly, gets down on all fours and kisses invisible spirits which are hastening through in large numbers. ...

Finally, ... the women ... have come to consult her.


These women say in unison : ‘Merhaba, welcome.’ {Greeting the spirit.} Then one of them poses questions. The same patter is always used. ‘You took a long time to get here. Where were you?’ – ‘In the forest.’ – ‘Which forest?’ – ‘In the forest of Those People.’ [p. 229, n. 115 : " ‘Those People’ is ... used to refer to jnu^n".] Then sugar is put into the mouth of the seer[ess] so that she {the spirit, speaking through the seeress} announces the good news. The women take turns asking her questions and ... they cover her head with a head scarf and take her left hand.

When the seer[ess] is tired, she ... wakes up. The session ends with a communal prayer to the spirits, recited with outstretched hands, palms up."

p. 89 a blind seeress {cf. Shinto institution of blind female spirit-media}

"a blind shuwwa^fa ... simply reads the message transmitted to her by the jinn possessing her from a blank sheet of paper. ... she holds the blank page in front of her and explains her diagnosis and remedy to the client while running her finger across it as if she were following lines of writing."

p. 90 to entice a jinn

"The Arabic word ftu^h. ... can best be translated here as ‘that which opens or opener’. According to informants, it was originally seen as a kind of enticement to the jinn at the beginning of the session to elicit it cooperation .. . ... it was ... something to please the jinn, such as a small quantity of the jinn’s favorite bkhu^r, dates, olives, etc."

pp. 92-6 renewal of mediumship-powers




"Shuwwa^fa^t ... are ... a common sight at the shrine ... . These shrines constitute a place where they can renew their connections to the supernatural. ...


Of those holy figures with shrines situated in and around Casablanca, ... of particular significance to shuwwa^fa^t :

Si^di^ <Abd ir-Rahma^n on the coast just beyond Ain Diab,

Si^di^ ... Mu^lay Marshi^sh in the hills outside the city on the road to Mediouna".


Nigh the shrine of Sidi <abd > "is a small cave-like hole between the rocks dedicated to <A^>isha Qandi^sha."


A certain female s`uwwaf "visits Marshi^sh periodically throughout the year to reinforce her relationship with Malika, the named jinn who serves as her medium {possessing-spirit}. Every Wednesday evening a spirit possession ceremony is held by the Jila^la order."


"As we walked up the rocky slope towards the last cave inhabited by Si^di^ Mi^mu^n, we passed by an enclosure with an olive tree growing in the center of it. "That’s the Shari^< il Mlu^k (the court of the jnu^n).""

p. 101 spirit-possession in S.ufi religious orders

"the ritual of ..., involves possession by jnu^n which cause their victims to dance or sway to the rhythm of accompanying drums and sometimes other instruments. ... The can also include sacrificing animals to jnu^n ... . The major orders of this kind include Jila^la, Gna^wa, <I^sa^wa and Hama^dsha."


4. (pp. 113-142) "Marginalizing Women : Spirit-Possession".

p. 119 types of female practitioners

"Those shuwwa^fa^t who still function almost exclusively as spirit mediums and are consulted to answer questions about the unknown ... and to find out about the outcome of these events will be referred to as type one.

Those shuwwa^fa^t who also serve exclusively as spirit mediums and who specialize in the casting and breaking of magic spells ... will be referred to as type two."

p. 129 sleight-of-hand; fraud; belief in powers

"Probably most shamans and medicine men, the world over, help along with sleight-of-hand ... . ...

{Sleight-of-hand is done with the help of benevolent spirits.}

Field ethnographers seem to be quite generally convinced that even shamans who know that they add fraud

{Fraud is done to impress malevolent spirits, thereby convincing such to desist.}

nevertheless believe in their powers, and especially in those of other shamans". (Kroeber 1952:311)

{Their powers are genuine, for they influence spirits.}

Kroeber 1952 = Alfred L. Kroeber : The Nature of Culture. U of Chicago Pr.

p. 131 vocation; caerimony of recognition of entry in practitionhood

"In her study of shuwwa^fa^t in Rabat, Amiti explains that they learned their vocation by observed during their treatment period,

{This is largely the case even for Siberian shamanism.}

that a li^la is organized to celebrate the woman’s recognition of her entry and that the ceremony is obligatory for obtaining the tools of the trade (1993 [sic : 1983?]:91)."

{This is also generally the case for Siberian shamanism.}

Amiti 1983 = Khadidja Amiti : La voyante. doctoral thesis, Universite’ Paris 5.


6. (pp. 167-197) "Lila : Women & Communal Religious Ritual".

p. 169 occasions for the holding of liyali [plural of /lila/]

"Shuwwa^fa^t hold liya^li^ on any of four different occasions :

at least once during the month of Sha<ba^n and

sometimes during the Mi^lu^d,

to appease and renew their relationship with the jinn serving as their medium,

when a client is in need and

sometimes on weekly or monthly basis."

pp. 169-79 description of a particular lila




"After mats and rugs have been spread out for the guests and musicians, the shuwwa^fa sprinkles milk and burns bkhu^r in the four corners to please and attract the jnu^n. ... Shortly after one o’clock ... musicians from the Jila^la order arrive ... with their instruments ... . ... Their instruments include two qizba^t [p. 236, n. 169 : "Qizba^t is the plural of qizba, a reed flute about 18 inches long."], two bana^di^r [p. 236, n. 170 : "Bana^di^r is the plural of bandi^r, a round, flat drum about 18 inches in diameter ... played by tapping one’s fingers on the outer edges."] and one set of qara^qib [pp. 236-7, n. 171 : "Qara^qib is a percussion instrument ... with two castinet{castanet}-like metal plates about five inches in diameter back to back ... and played by moving the plated apart and back together making a muffled, tinny sound."]. ... the musicians warm the bana^di^r over the coals in the qanu^n, or earthenware pot, prepared for them. ...


Introductory chant :

" ... The waterwheel is turned by blood ... ."


In honor of Mu^lay <Abd il-Qa^dir [p. 237, n. 176 : "He is the patron of the Jila^la order."] :

" ... The bird of controversy, he is the ...

salvation of the land and the sea. ..." ...


In honor of Mu^lay Bu^ Si^lha^m :

" ... he dwell in the mountains ...

He beckoned me with his coat ... ."

He beckoned me with his hand ... .


In honor of Tayr <Alla^l [p. 238, n. 178 : "Tayr <Alla^l is the nickname for Si^di^ Mas<u^d ... . His sanctuary located in >Ula^d Fara^d."] :

" ... the qubba is shimmering with beauty ... ." ...


The main segment of the li^la begins ... between four and five o’clock. ... With the exception of the musicians, all those present are female.


The shuwwa^fa seats the three clients ... on one side of the courtyard to left of the audience. She covers them with pieces different colored cloth, placing one piece of each of the favorite colors of the jinn possessing them. The music begins ... . Milk and dates, which were brought by the three central clients ... as offerings for the jnu^n possessing them, are served to all present during the first 15 or 20 minutes of playing. ... .


... the musicians perform chants focusing solely on the jnu^n. ...

While <A^>isha Qandi^sha is summoned with a chant ..., black olives are served to the guests, s she is fond of the color black.

During the chant to La^lla Malika, one of the women serving the shuwwa^fa circulates among the guests with a bottle of perfume for the guests to sample, as La^lla Malika is fond of perfume. These gestures encourage the jnu^n to come and take possession of the guests. ...


In honor of Mu^lay Bu^ Silha^m ...


In honor of T.ayr <Alla^l ...


In honor of Bu^ <Abi^d Sharqi^ ...


In honor of La^lla <A^>isha il-Bah.riyya [p. 239, n. 189 : "performed to summon La^lla <A^>isha ... . il-Bah.riyya is one of her titles. It means the one from the sea."] :

" ... she’s the companion of S^di^ Mu^sa^ [p. 239, n. 191 : "Si^di^ Mu^sa^ ... is known as a jinn-wali^. In Dukkala, he is believed to rule over the jnu^n of the sea."] ...

She crosses the river on the wind – and she leaves in the morning and arrives in the evening ... ." ...


In honor of Gna^wa il-Khal [p. 239, n. 194 : "Si^di^ Mi^mu^n is also known as is-Sulta^n il-Khal (Westermarck 1926:i, 391)."] :

" ... The doorkeeper of Gna^wa has the key to open the door ... ." ...


In honor of Sultan Gna^wa :

" ... Wearing a belt of silk and a black dress with seashells ... ." ...


In honor of il-Gna^wi^ Bi-l->Ah.mar :

" ... I will put on a red turban ... and a black cloak ... ." ...


In honor of H.a^jja Mi^mu^na ...

she’s buried in the mountains.


In honor of Ba^sha Gazza^r [p. 240, n. 198 "also known as Si^di^ H.ammu".] ...

Lord of the daytime sacrifice,

lord of the biggest slaughtering knife.


In honor of La^lla Mi^ra ...

She’s wearing seven dresses each with its own color ... .


In honor of H.a^jja Malika :

".. Lady of the green dress, her crown is of silver ... ."

Her teeth are like jewels ... .


In honor of La^lla Fa^t.i^m Shilh.a [p. 240, n. 201 "La^lla Fa^t.i^m Shilh.a is the daughter of Si^di^ H.ama^d u Mu^sa^ who is said to be the patron of the tribe of Tazerwalt ... . ...


By performing a sacrifice at his shrine, a musician is ... becoming skillful (Westermarck 1926:i, 163-64).

{Hermes "invented tortoise-shell lyre" (GM 17.d).


He also has a reputation for helping robbers and thieves (Westermarck 1926:i, 181)."] ...

Hermes was a cattle-rustler (GM 17.a).}


Daughter of a fqi^h from the Souss ... .


In honor of <A^>isha >Awi^sha :

" ... she’s the daughter of S^di^ <Alla^l ... ." ...


In honor of T.a^lib il-Fqi^h ...

Holding his book in his hand, few are hose who have memorized it.


In honor of Rija^l il-Gha^ba [p. 240, n. 205 : "a tribe of jnu^n."] :

" ... In the basket there are dates and figs, he carries the basket of assistance ... ." ...


In honor of il-Bu^ha^li^ ... [p. 240, n. 207 : "The term bu^ha^li^ is used for those who are mentally disturbed and incapable of living a normal existence. They are often considered to have supernatural powers".] ...


In honor of >Ula^d Khali^fa :

" ... the lords of glass ... ." ...

the lords of doves ... . ...


The possessed, including the ... clients for whom the li^la was organized and the long term regular clients of the shuwa^fa, become possessed and rise, one after another or simultaneously, when the chant being played is addressed to the jinn inhabiting them. The jinn causes them to move the upper part of their bodies in time to the rhythm being played. This usually entails forcefully moving their heads forward down to their chests and then jerking it back over one shoulder then down to their chests again and back over the other shoulder."

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.


Margaret Rausch : Bodies, Boundaries and Spirit Possession. Transaction Publ, New Brunswick, Piscataway (NJ), 2000.