Baraka and Adornment

Moroccan adornment related to Baraka by Sarah Corbett

In Morocco and other Islamic countries the concept of Baraka is the purity and virtue of a saint and also the source of the power of a saint. Baraka is not only the attribute of a saint, it is also a magical potency which attaches to revered objects. These objects are believed to offer protection to the wearer.
Morocco has many saints, both male and female. The belief in saints and the power of Baraka predates Islam in Morocco.

Baraka is a perceived power to protect, preserve and encourage positive life outcomes. The adversaries of this positivity are the Djinn, these bad spirits are of the underworld and are believed to bring problems and dangers of a supernatural kind.

There are many traditional practices related to adornment which are undertaken to invite Baraka.

At Midsummer large fires were set in open spaces, the smoke would be scented by the addition of Alum and Marjoram. People would jump through the smoke which was believed to be a source of Baraka.  Smoke was also used to protect bees from thunder, cattle and sheep from illness, and figs from falling from the tree before they ripened. The ashes from these Midsummer fires would be gathered and mixed with oil to create protective kohl which would be applied to the eyes of Women, newborns and also between the nostrils of horses. Eyes and bodily orifices should be protected for the Djinn. The Baraka of the fires was carried in the kohl, and used as a form of protective adornment through the year.

The Beni Mgild women of the Middle atlas region would collect some earth from a place where three roads met as it was believed to hold Baraka, the unmarried girls of the region would wear a small sewn bag of this earth suspended around the neck. The purpose of this earthy amulet was to repel the evil eye which could prevent the girls from finding husbands.

While weaving textiles the symbols incorporated into the designs and the wool itself were believed to possess Baraka. By creating, wearing and handling these textiles a woman accrues a personal level of Baraka. It is said in the Draa valley that a woman who weaves 40 carpets in her lifetime has reached a high state of purity and is protected. Old woollen pieces are highly regarded and never thrown away, the wool holds Baraka and therefore should be unravelled and reused.

Young boys were considered to be very vunerable to Djinn during circumcision and would be dressed in clothing of green or white as these are colours associated with Baraka. Coins and bags of salt and harmel would be tied to the ankles of these boys, henna would be applied to their hands and feet, and saffron to the top of their heads. All of these substances are believed to hold Baraka.

The tattoos of Berber women were created using charcoal and then covered for several days with a poultice of Alfalfa plant which created a green hue too the tattoo.This was to invite Baraka via the colour green.

Objects and substances therefore became vessels for the Baraka to pass through from the saint’s powers to the blessed object and ultimately by close contact with this blessed object the protection is bestowed upon the wearer.

Amazigh Arts in Morocco . C. Becker 2006
Ritual and Belief in Morocco . Westermarck 1899


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