By Annick van Rinsum
“If you have a guy, a Saudi guy, his second wife, 99.9 percent of the time, will be Moroccan”. This is what a dear friend of mine told me before I left to Tangier. This social reality, because the 99.9 percentage might be a bit exaggerated, is just one of the causes of the persistent stereotype that Saudis have about Morocco. It is believed, even by people as educated as my friend, that Moroccan women cast spells on men. Being in Morocco, it is easy to understand why. In a country so drenched with religion and tradition that are magical in themselves, mystification can be expected not to be reserved for visitors alone, especially in the ever puzzling area of love.
I was quite confused about the fact that my friend appeared to believe in witchcraft, so I asked her to tell me more about it. She told me about a friend of hers, who once went to visit her aunt in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi-Arabia. Her aunt was living in a compound, a popular place of residence for expats because of its closed and guarded character. One afternoon, a gathering for all the women living in the compound was organized. Amongst the attendees, chatting and laughing, there was a group of Moroccan women. All were just a few years into their marriages. They were discussing the spells they had cast on their husbands. Suddenly they all turned to the aunt and asked: “what spell did you cast on your husband?”. Her aunt was quite shocked to hear such a question and replied: “He has already married me. Why would I cast a spell on him?”. “So he will not cheat and look at other women” the witches answered. “But I know my husband and he is not like that”, she replied. “Well it is your choice, but would you not rather be safe than sorry?”
It appeared to me that in this story, the shocking factor was not the normality with which witchcraft was being discussed, but rather the fact that witchcraft was actually put into practice. Still not convinced about the existence of witchcraft, but intrigued about the fact that a large part of the world population is, I left for Tangier. I had already forgotten about my discovery while travelling. Once arrived, I again perceived the world like I would have done at home: as witchless and rational.
After a couple of weeks in Morocco however, I felt the curiosity in my brain flickering. I asked Zineb, the manager of the project I worked for, to tell me about her perspective on witchcraft. Zineb told me that it is, in its numerous forms, very present in contemporary Moroccan society. In that sense it is very real, but a growing portion of the educated youth, but also some elders, are starting to question its validity.
There is no doubt that spells and witches do exist, as does religion. So, if you like him, you better put a spell on it, otherwise maybe someone else will
Spells exist for numerous ends and take different forms. The most popular ones require a piece of personal material, like a hair, and have the intent to make a man fall in love with you, not cheat on you, or stay with you. However, others are believed to have the ability to make others fall ill. Just like me, Zineb thinks that love spells are effective because of some sort of placebo effect. Is it not much easier to flirt with a guy when you secretly know that you have a magical concoction on your side? As for all the Saudi-Arabians marrying off to Moroccan women, Zineb has a very sensible explanation as well: “Moroccan woman just know how to take care of a man!” Strangely enough, she did not mean sex. Rather, in contrast to spoiled Saudi women, who have money to spend and maids to cook and clean for them, Moroccan women are hard workers and homemakers. A bunch of young Moroccan men had an even more blunt explanation for me. It had something to do with the looser sexual-religious morals of young Moroccan woman and the deep pockets of Saudi man.
There is no doubt that spells and witches do exist, as does religion. So, if you like him, you better put a spell on it, otherwise maybe someone else will…