Tuesday, July 10, 2012


     A brilliant account could be written of the saga of the Haddadoua and their destruction.  The patron saint sat smoking kif in a nargilah all day every day, it is said; even seven or eight years ago adepts could still be found smoking around the ruined tomb.  The brotherhood has been painstakingly eradicated by the authorities.  Sometimes you see a lone man walking along the road wearing the dusty rags and wild hairdo of a Haddadaoui, but since the cult no longer exists (and perhaps, more importantly, has no headquarters) such a man no longer deserves the respect which being a member of the brotherhood would give him, and so for most citizens he slips into the category of ordinary madman.

     In the eyes of the government, the Haddadoua were not a religious sect at all, but an organized group of brigands to be finished off with bullets.  Apart from their uncanny powers over goats, which made it possible for them to arrange the wholesale theft of these animals all over northern Morocco, and their use of magic spells as a threat in order to extort money from the rural populace, there would seem to be no valid reason for their persecution and extermination.  Perhaps it was the fact that they built a fortress and kept a good many women shut into the cellars.  They claimed that the women had come of their own volition and asked to be taken in as adepts.  Whether or not that was the case, once the women had been present at the rituals they were not permitted to leave the premises, but were locked into the basement where they performed domestic duties. **

     The Haddadoua placed great stress on food.  Each meal was a banquet.  This emphasis on eating may have been the result of the vast quantities of cannabis the men ingested each day, but the meals themselves were made possible by the easy availability of edible livestock.  A Haddadaoui could go out alone into the countryside and return in a few days with hundreds of goats following him in single-file formation.  This alone was enough to strike fear into the hearts of the peasants.

      No one appears to know exactly how they imposed their will on the animals, but all agree that it was a special art which took time and patience to learn.  When you consider that the men learned the technique by lying down among the animals and conversing with them at night during their sleep, it does not seem so improbable.  The Haddadaoui lying in the Marrakech dust forty years ago “became” a goat while I watched, and there in front of me was a man’s body with a goat inside it, as if the goat had been able to assume the visible form of a man, while at the same time it remained unmistakably a goat.  Whatever it was that they stumbled upon in the way of esoteric knowledge, their misuse of it was their undoing.

**  This is the legend.  A recent examination of the place, however, proved to me that there are not cellars beneath any of the structures in the sanctuary.

From: Paul Bowles, Things Gone and Things Still Here, included in Collected Stories, Santa Barbara, Black Sparrow Press, 1983.

Note:  This passage describes activities in northern and central Morocco.  The goats appearing in the photographs are the famous and remarkable Argan climbing goats of southwestern Morocco.

No comments:

Post a Comment