Morocco Alumni Update: A Modern Life Tinged of Ancient by Ikbale Bouziane

Morocco has been inhabited by the Amazigh, also known as the Berber ethnic group, since at least 5,000 years ago. It was a part of Mauretania, a region in the ancient Maghreb that stretched from today’s Algeria westwards to the Atlantic covering the northern part of Morocco and its Atlas mountains. By the 7th century, the land was conquered by the Arabs. Until then, the area was inhabited by indigenous Amazigh and Romano-Berber people. These indigenous people now make up the majority of the population in modern-time Morocco, though they are mostly Arab-ized.

The Amazigh or Imazighen are among the oldest inhabitants of Africa. In spite of their contact with numerous civilizations, like that of Ancient Egypt, Phoenicia, and Babylon, their mythology remains intact. Like any other primitive people, the Amazigh had their own share of myths that reflect their beliefs, perception of creation, and interpretation of certain natural phenomenon.

Out of my awareness of the importance of this ethnic group’s culture – besides being an indigenous Amazigh person myself and noticing the Moroccan people’s unwillingness to learn more about this piece of the great puzzle forming their collective identity – I decided that my B.A. research project should be about the Amazigh oral literature. More precisely, I wanted to document the mythical influences on the daily life of these people. The following is an example of the myths told by grandmother, of which I carefully translated into English:

Id Bab n’Oukham (the house owners) are known in the Amazigh mythic thought as the closest invisible beings ever created to humans. They are the guardian creatures sent on earth by ​Aassass n’Ignouan (guardian of the skies) to settle an argument between ​Lalla Tamourt (earth) and​ Timssi (fire). Because of the chaos that there was, ​Timssi started to burn ​Tamourt out of boredom. To stop the suffering of his wife, ​Aassass n’Ignouan​ did as ​Timssi asked him and built houses on earth. However, being the superior power in the universe, he decided to assign every house a guardian and send ​Timssi back to chaos as a punishment for attempting to rebel against his will.

Based on this mythical story, Amazigh people still believe that in every house lives one of the ​Id Bab n’Oukham whom they should respect, and give sacrifices to in specific times of the year. In addition to sacrificing animals for these invisible beings before moving into, or building, a house, the Amazigh people avoid brooming at night time in fear of hurting them, and save them a portion of food after the Amazigh new year (​Id Yennayer)​ festivities. People generally try to maintain a relationship of respect and harmless friendship with these invisible beings because of their ability of playing an intermediary role between the divine and ontos.

Written by Ikbale Bouziane, a 2017-2018 Global UGRAD student at the University of Maine