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Witchcraft thrives in Morocco

Reuters, USA
Apr. 20, 2004 • Friday April 23, 2004

Fes(Morocco): Lalla Aicha’s portly body rests languidly on a mattress as she listens to a young woman murmuring her most delicate secrets.

As she begins to counsel her client the voice of one of the most popular witches in Fes pierces the air. Coming from an elderly woman, it is at an unexpectedly high octave.

“That’s not her talking,” whispers Wafa, a restaurant owner who sought Lalla Aicha’s prophecies for two years. “She is possessed by a spirit of a young girl and only in such a state can she see the future.”

Islam, Morocco’s dominant religion, denounces sorcery as a pagan satanic rite.

However, pre-Islamic practices of black and white magic, witchcraft, beliefs in various omens and superstitions are widespread in the north African country. Many people believe that jinns, or spirits, rule their lives.

Lalla Aicha represents a strong and well-wishing spirit fashioned after a local heroine who battled Spanish colonisers, according to Khadija Amiti, a sociology professor at the University of Kenitra, near the capital, Rabat.

“The phenomenon of clairvoyance has not diminished, it has only evolved in its methods,” she said.

Witchdoctors can be found in most towns and villages. Each souk has a traditional medicine shop, selling everything from hair-thickening agents to body balms that promise
to make a person more popular.

“The Islamic leaders preach against it in mosques,” Amiti said, but, in practice, they turn a blind eye.

“There is a contradiction between religion and the practice of sorcery. But the Islamists are interested in fighting other things, like drinking wine or not wearing a veil. Their issues are political, not social,” she added.

According to Amiti, sorcery is “a cultural phenomenon” in the kingdom of 30 million people and part of everyday life.

“For illnesses people believe more and more in medicine, but for psycho-pathological problems, mostly marital issues, they consult clairvoyants.” she said.

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