“Tin Hinan” Chapter Two

September 28, 2022

Though the wedding was months off in the future, the first thing done was to take a piece of my Mother’s tent and sew it into one of my own.  All the woman of the tribe gathered at my Mother’s tent one morning and with singing and playing of the bendir, a frame drum, we cut out a large piece in the back of her tent and started stitching the heavy cloth woven from goat hair.  It was long and tedious work, but we ate dates and millet puddings and drank mint tea and told stories.  For a fortnight we worked on my marriage tent.  The east side would be for Hasim, and the west side for me.  I would have our marriage bed and our stores, musical instruments and rugs in my side.  The marriage bed would be a day couch for my children and me.  Hasim would fill the west side with his weapons and saddles.  By tradition, after the marriage, Hasim would sleep outside, part of the guard men that protected our settlement from raiders across the mountains and from  the desert.  Also by tradition, the tent, the bed and everything in it, except the weapons and saddles would be my property.

Our settlement was in a large oasis, nestled at the foot of a mountain range.  It was lush and shaded in parts by woods and orchards and streams running through the land. We tilled the fertile earth, made so by the runoff of soil from the mountain, and fed by the snows of winter.  It was a beautiful site for our nomadic people, and we defended it fiercely from others that would drive us away. I walked to a little plot of land with a small stream running by and my father and I decided this would be the place for my tent.

There was much more to do, but the next  task was to build my marriage bed.  This was to be the most important piece of furniture that a woman could have, and each was done differently according to the skills and imagination of the carver.  My father hired the best carpenter and carver around to build it.  It would be big and wide and would be not too high off the carpets that would pave the floor of the tent.  My father went with the carpenter to pick the wood, and he obtained some beautiful, scented cedar to make the marriage bed.  When it was carved and doweled together, it took six men to carry and place it into the tent.  It was so beautiful, but of course, I was not allowed to lie down on it, or even to sit upon its frame.  I would have to wait for the wedding night with Hasim before I was allowed even to touch it.  But I did peek in the doorway before the divider between our two sides was woven, and saw the beautiful symbols of fertility and luck carved along with the flowers and palm trees.  In the very middle of the back of the bed, was a large and flowing palm tree, with its roots extending outward towards the side posts. Little pigeons and doves were being chased by two hawks and some of the doves were hiding in the tree.

I knew I would have to be involved in the sewing of the mattress for the bed.  My mother and her kinswomen sheared sheep and stuffed the thick wool into two large sheets of thick and coarse cotton.  Then we spread it out on a carpet and during the night, my kinswomen, young girls to elderly women, my cousins and great aunts, would sit around the heavy mattress and we would all take up our bone needles and stitch carefully across and down the mattress.  This would be laid upon the woven ropes that were stretched from one side of the bed frame to another, and weaved back and forth until there was a tight foundation for the mattress.  Our tradition said that a tightly woven bed frame augured well for a marriage.  Loose or slack weaving would let the attentions of the husband sag and the wife would stray in her affections.

As the wedding approached, I was bundle of nerves.  I had not seen Hasim, except from a distance.  We were watched very closely, for there was to be no contact before the wedding day.  I was not allowed to venture to the river without another woman with me, and I believe that Hasim was told he could not approach me when his tribe came with herds of goats or to discuss pasturing with our men.

All seemed to be going according to plan, when the demons of Hell took matters into their own hands.  I say Hell for nothing but that could have caused such a reverse of fortune and happiness in my life.

One day, very close to the time of the wedding, when already there were preparations for the five days of celebration in the works,  I heard some women in my mothers tent crying wildly and went to see what had happened.  Suddenly, as I approached her tent, my Aunties ran out and threw themselves upon me.

“Aicha, Aicha,”  for I do now, in relating this story, remember vaguely my name at the time.  “ You must prepare yourself!  You must be strong and comfort your parents!”

“What? What? What has happened that I am to be ‘strong’ as you say?”  I started to run towards her tent, and since I was tall, my legs were long, and my Aunties could not keep up with me.  I heard them wailing behind me, yet I did not heed their calls.

I made it to my mother’s tent and entered her western side, where I found both my parents in her quarters.  My father looked somber, and my mother was rocking back and forth, like she was in grief.

“What has happened, oh my parents?  Has something happened to Hasim?  Tell me, oh tell me now!”

My mother was beside herself, and had thrown a cloth over her head as we do when a kinsman dies.  This is to blot out the sight of any happiness and is one of our forms of our mourning.  I was white faced with fear and was sure that Hasim was dead!

“My daughter, my daughter,” began my father, with tears in his eyes.  “Our family has been tricked, we have all been betrayed. Even though our gifts were returned this morning, it is not to be borne.  Hasim has contracted to marry another woman and he has left to go to her tent.”

I was told later that I stared like a dead person, my eyes empty,  my mouth  open without sound and then started to moan. One long lamentation came out of my throat before I collapsed  on the carpet at my father’s feet.

Three days later I had recovered my senses enough under the loving care of the women to sit up in my mother’s bed, for she would not have me leave her.  I drank mint tea until I was tired of walking out into the desert to squat down.  I thought my senses had taken leave of me, for one night I started to walk outward, after dark, when the desert turns dangerous, even more so than in the day.  The old women told me that there were Zars out there, waiting to claim my soul, but I knew there were desert snakes and scorpions and these alone were trouble enough.

I did not care.  I was torn between love, a pitiful, self-effacing sentiment where I  cried out for the man I had never really known.  But then, like a limb that has fallen over a high rock, and teeters, first one side then the weight of it on the other, I fell to hating Hasim with all my heart. My hatred for him made my fingers curl and a lump of burning pain in my stomach rise up to my throat.  If he were before me now, I would be the savage and kill him with my bare hands.  He had brought shame on my family, but mostly he had disgraced me, the woman who was his intended, the woman who was to bear his many sons.

Until a new moon rose in the sky at night, I walked a part each night in the desert, tailed by my servant, Takama, who was sent by my mother to watch me.  I bore her presence until finally annoyed, I yelled for her to go to the devil.  Takama was a good girl, a slave in our family, and she fell on her knees and threw her apron over her face.  I took pity and told her she could follow, but only at a distance of three camels. I turned and continued to pace out in the desert, always in a circle around our community’s many tents.  I was trying to make up my mind what I would do. I knew my parents would take some kind of action, but I had my own to deliver.

On the third night of my pacing, I went out into the desert, and forbade Takama to follow.  I had bathed myself in a ritual bath in the river that ran through our oasis, and had thrown off all jewelry.  I unbraided my long black hair and drew on a white cotton dress, and barefoot I went into the desert.  There I chanted and prayed to my goddesses for I wanted them to help in deciding my course.

Isis was the first goddess I prayed to, lifting my hands to the heavens and imploring her. It was Isis who gave justice to the poor and orphans, and though I was neither, I knew she would hear my plight.  Isis was all-seeing, but apparently busy. 

I also prayed and chanted to Tanit and Tinjis.  I needed all the answers and ideas I could find.  They were silent, but suddenly I shivered, and I knew that one of them had listened to me. Or perhaps it was a Zar that tickled my spine, for Zars were known to attack a woman when she was alone in the desert. They delighted in that.  It made their access to souls so much easier.

But I was looking for a stronger solution. I was enraged at the treatment of that man. By now  I couldn’t even speak his name. 

I closed my eyes, threw out my arms to the heavens, to the moonless sky above me and threw myself into the vortex of my misery. Ayyur, the Moon God was one I exhorted, and then Ifri, the war goddess.  I needed some strong answers. I needed some plan of action. I mumbled and prayed and exhorted them all until the constellations in the sky above me revolved with the passage of hours.

Finally, it came to me.  I knew what I would do when I heard the sound of the imzad, the violin only a woman can touch and vibrate.  I heard it’s sad sound floating over the desert in the evening air, and I knew finally what I would do.  I knew now what my destiny would be.

“A Tanka”

September 25, 2022

A late Summer moon

Floats above the conifers.

Autumn is coming.

Do pines know the season turns?

Their leaves don’t fall; do they care?

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“Tin Hinan”, a novel

September 18, 2022

 Tin Hinan was an actual historical figure of the 4th century in Algeria.  She gathered the Berber tribes from Morocco and Algeria into a nation.  There is not much known about her so this is a work of pure fiction.  I did try to stick to the ‘facts’ in her journey across the desert with her slave. That was known about Tin Hinan, and her galvanizing power to unite the Berber tribes.  That’s about all, though her large tomb was found in the Algerian mountains in the 1920’s. Her skeleton was wrapped in a red leather shroud with gold leaf symbols, seven gold and eight silver bracelets on her arms, and other jewelry and amulets around her body. Clearly, this was a woman of great status, and as she is called today, “The Mother of Us All”, still revered by Berbers.

Considering the tribal traditions of any century, what Tin Hinan did in just this venture, leaving her tribe (at the age of sixteen) and setting out across these mighty deserts is amazing. Considering the odds of her survival, it is especially amazing.

I learned many things in writing “Tin Hinan”, and I relied on Berber friends and associates for their own information about Morocco and Algeria, and with help with this difficult language, but I also learned that the Great Deserts did not look then like they do now.  There were grassy plains that extended all over, and lush oasis.  Today, there are less oasis, and of course, the Sahara has become a thousand miles of mostly sand and rock.

The Berbers opened the trade routes across northern Africa, and defended those routes from the Arabs.  Interestingly enough, Berbers were influenced by Christianity early on and many Berber tribes especially in the mountains resisted Islamic influence into the early 20th century. (Though Islam made great inroads from the 7th century onward.)  Between Christianity and Islamic religion, they were closer to the Egyptians in their worship of Ammon and Isis.

 The story seemed to weave itself like a rug, knot by knot and color by color. This novel is nearly finished, but I am adding much more information (especially on the djenoun as I deal with my own qareen) .   I have noticed over the past few years this story has garnered readers on the blog in a consistent way.

One important fact of Berber culture:  The Soul resides in the Liver. )

TIN HINAN

CHAPTER 1

I am called Tin Hinan. I had the destiny of a woman ‘rooted in flight’.  Even my name means “Nomadic Woman”.  Sometimes I forget my birth name before I became Queen. It is now lost in the sands of the Great Desert. 

I founded a nation from the stirrings of my womb.  This is my story. 

I was born in an oasis near what is now called Morocco.  My people were nomadic, but if our tribe had a name, we would be Tagelmust, meaning “People of the Veil”. The Arabs, our enemy, rudely called us Twareg, “Abandoned by God”. We now are known as Tuareg, or Berber by the white Europeans. But since I am speaking from my short time of fifty years on this earth and now only spirit,  you should know my story and life harkens back to the sixth century.  Life was very different then. But men and woman were not so different from now. Hearts are the same.

Our tribe is matriarchal.  All things, possessions, are passed down through the women.  The men still make the laws, but we women have great power.  Nothing is decided until the council of elder women and men meet.

 We basically had two classes of Tagelmust people, Imajeren, the nobles, and Iklan, the slaves.  There are subgroups in all that, but that’s not important. My family were Imajeren, my father a tribal elder and leader.  My mother had great status as the first of his four wives.

I was born in the spring, during lambing time.  I was exceptionally tall for my sex, and poems were written by my mother and other women about my hurry to reach up to the stars.  That is the reason they gave for my height.  I had long, thick black hair and hazel eyes, which was not rare. As I grew to marriageable age, more songs were sung openly around the fires as to my beauty.

Perhaps you wonder when you think of Arabic women with the chador and burkah covering their features, how would you sing to a black sheath of cloth with two dark eyes staring back at you?  We, the Berber, are blessed by Ammon and Isis, for The Veiled People only applies to the men!  They wear the veil, an indigo dyed cloth that wraps around their heads and covers their faces, with only the eyes and the bridge of their noses exposed.  We, the women, carry our faces proudly to the sun, to the wind, and when it comes, the blessed rain.  The men are mostly stained a dark blue, like a devil or zar because their sweat makes the dye run from the indigo and stains their faces.  They look funny for it does not wash off, but seeps into the skin.  So when you marry, you beget children from a  Zar-looking creature.  Perhaps that is why children are such little devils.

“Aicha, Aicha!” The aunties were calling me in from where I was loafing.  I liked to stand at the edge of the oasis, and look at the sea of sand before me.  I would think of great spans of water, for some travelers once told me about the great ocean to the north.

I turned and ran towards my mother’s tent. To ignore the aunties would be rude, and besides, they had many surprises and secrets in the folds of their robes.

“You, Aicha!  Your mother wants you to come to her, hurry!  Here, be a good girl and take this basket.”

I slipped the large basket over my arm and went into the tent side of my mother’s. 

She was sitting on the floor of the tent, shelling dried beans. There were other women, most of them my aunts, her sisters, also working on the floor.  Our clan was a large one, one of the largest that made up the tribe. Growing up, there were women enough to pull my ears when I was bad and to soothe when I was mournful.

My mother looked up, noticed me standing there and motioned for me to sit down.

“Aicha, you are of the age when you should be married, or at least engaged.  Your father and I think it time that we look around for a husband for you.”

I knew it!  I saw the sly glances of the aunties, and heard the laughter when I passed a group of women. At the river, when I carried down the washing, I got looks and giggles even from those women and girls I didn’t know well. Something was brewing and this time I was the last to know.

“Come, you graceless girl.” My mother’s oldest sister, Aunt Aya called out to me.  She reached behind her broad hips and pulled out a packet wrapped in wool.  Slowly opening it, she revealed a heavy silver and amber necklace made up of many silver rounds and large amber beads.

It was fun for them, to dress me in the women’s jewelry like I was a child’s doll.   But they were serious in their business. 

“Hold still, you silly girl. This kohl will poke out your eye if you don’t”.

 This from another auntie.   My face and hair were fiddled with, and I suffered the blackening of my eyes and their hands twisting my hair into designs.

That day they had their fun, and I emerged from the tent at evening to be walked around the fire to the whistles and comments of the collected tribe.  My hair was braided in intricate styles and small silver discs peppered my head like beaten full moons.   Heavy silver and wood earrings weighted down my earlobes.  I was of course, without a veil, and two women held my hands, leading me around the tribe’s main fire to the sound of drums and the ney flute.

Although I could not to marry within my tribe, I was being presented for our tribe’s delight.  Grooming for marriage was a ritual and my blushes showed appropriate modesty that evening.

********************

There was a young man who was part of a neighboring tribe a day away.  During marriages, celebrations and festivals, I would see him and he would look for me.  We are modest women, but we do stare in the eyes of a man we are interested in marrying. We even wink at them.  Are you shocked?  Well, we did.   We had many customs, but  Berber women, before the hated Arabs, had much freedom.

Hasim was his name, and he was a tall man, taller than I was.  I thought only proper I be married to a tall man. What woman wants to look down on her husband?  It sets a bad example for a woman.  She starts looking down on him in other things.  Hasim was a few years older and at one marriage celebration, I danced a line dance with other maidens and gave him one of my bracelets.  This was an accepted way of flirting. When the musicians took a rest, I went to get my silver bracelet back, and he slipped it down the front of his robe. He crossed his arms over his chest and smiled boldly. I should have known then Hasim was trouble, but my foolish heart flip-flopped.  Ah! Girls can be so silly.

Hasim was handsome, already a man though only about twenty-two years of age.  He had golden skin where the sun had not burned him dark and black eyes like deep shaded pools of water in the oasis.  His nose was long and slightly bent, like the hunting hawk, and his mouth was full and red, like a split pomegranate.  His teeth were white like bleached bones in the desert.

How do I know this, if our men are veiled?  My Hasim, for I already claimed him mine with the certainty that he would be…. had unwrapped his indigo blue veil from his face. And yes, his cheeks were stained a light blue where his beard would be.  I should have known that the Zar blood was deep in him, not just on the surface, but Isis! How was I to know then?

“Come, little sister, fish deep in my waters and you will find your bangle.  You want your precious silver back, do you not?”

Ah! My father would kill him if he heard his words!  But Hasim just grinned, playing a man’s game and my head whirled inside.  Other parts of me were disturbed, but I only knew of this by our women’s bridal parties before the weddings.  My heart flipped and my stomach turned over, too.

I am not known for being shy, perhaps it is because I am so tall, but shy I was before Hasim.

He reached out his hand and traced my cheek to my chin, gently pushing the back of his thumb over my lips.  My eyes were locked to his and I could not pull away. I must have looked like a little fool, for my mouth opened a bit with the firm  pressure of his finger.

Hasim dipped into his chest and reluctantly pulled out my bracelet.  “Little sister, be careful in what hands you place your silver. .  You might come across one who will take more than your jewelry.”

I heard his voice off in the distance.  He closed his eyes slightly, his long, black lashes brushing downwards, and the spell was broken.  I staggered a bit, and he threw out a hand to steady me, an enigmatic smile on his face.

I saw Hasim a few times after this first occasion and each time grew dizzy by the sight him.  During the last harvest festival, Hasim was mounted on a large, white camel as he raced across the desert with the other riders.  The groans and bellows of the beasts, the yelling of the men placing their wagers and the dust churned up from many feet made it hard for me to concentrate.  I could only follow the white of his camel for he was surrounded by mounted men.

That autumn, my mother and father called me before them, and announced that it was time I marry.  I of course had no choice, I was of age, but I noticed an exchange of smiles between my parents.  Unknown to me, my father had consulted with the marriage broker and a visit had been made to Hasim’s parents.  He was considered a good prospect, and with the status of our tribe and that of my father, I was considered a likely bride for Hasim.

My heart was light and leaping about in my chest.  I walked now with confidence, my breasts pushed out and a smile upon my face.  I would have the status of a wife, not just a common, unmarried girl.  There were many things to settle, preparations to make and issues far beyond my concern.  These were the matters of the elders and my mother’s family. But I was to be a bride!  Finally, I would take my place in the tribe with all the authority of a wedded woman.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

2007-2014 Copyrighted by the author.

“Storm Drain Baby”

September 17, 2022

Yesterday a baby was born,

Placed in a storm drain

To die by a father who wasn’t.

Three days of heavy rain

Washed the Blood of this Lamb

Into the sea.

He was found, expected to live

And died,

His short life measured in scant public

Outrage.

=

The 19 year old father said as they

Led him away:

“It was a miscarriage gone wrong.”

=

The rain continues today

Rushing down streets

To storm drains,

Making a gurgling sound.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

“A Mountain Autumn Poem”

September 13, 2022

“Mountain Road”, a poem of Autumn.

kappa[1]

( A Kappa….certainly a monster.)

It feels a bit like fall with the rains and cooler weather.   Imaginary Gardens  with Real Toads has a prompt about ‘Monsters’, either symbolic or …..

This is my offering.  I find Nature sometimes monstrous.  People, too.

Lady Nyo

MOUNTAIN POEM

It is almost Halloween.

The early dark of dusk

Creeps in before finishing

With the day–

Strange imaginings

Cause shadows to rustle,

Briars entangle

And nothing seems exactly –right.

In the mountains

Clouds dip low

Smothering the landscape.

Only the moan of winds

Round eaves shaking the skeleton hambones

Hiding in attic corners

Breaks the silence—

A strange cacophony.

Monstrous, ghost trees

Wedged together in

Stumbling rows,

Indian Snake arms

Wave warnings to

At all daring to approach

Their Joseph’s –coat-of- many colors

Tattered by

Blasts of Autumn winds

Tearing around the mountain.

The hoot of the owl

Drives on dis-ease until dawn.

Roads dip and swell

In a frenzied, jagged run

Straight into the heart of danger.

Nerves uneasy,

There is too much mystery in this night!

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

9-11″

September 11, 2022

9-11″

September 11, 2022

9-11″

September 11, 2022

9-11

That beautiful morning–

Teasing taste of early Autumn

The unthinkable happened

And our world stopped turning

I saw the plane, I saw the fire

I saw the smoke descend like

A blanket of blinding grief

Too late to spare those on the ground

The sight of Armageddon.

Mortar-grey people transformed

Into gritty moving statues,

Holding hands, blinded by smoke,

Move down streets where

Paper, bricks, metal, glass rained down

Like the Devil’s Ticket Parade,

Walked in silence towards the bridges,

Barely a moan heard,

An Exodus unexpected on this

Morning of such seasonal promise.

I saw worse.

I saw people jump

From the ledges, holding hands,

Some with briefcases

And all I could do

Was howl:

“I will catch you!

Jump into my arms

I will not drop you.

Do not be afraid,

Aim for my embracing arms,

With the last of my life—

I will catch you.”

That day of fire and ash,

Inexplicable funeral pyre,

Of brave souls rushing in

And frightened souls rushing out

And the ash, the ash, the ash,

Covered everything like a silent September snow.

Seventeen years later

Grieving when this day approaches,

I hear the words swell up in me:

“We will catch you!

Jump into our arms,

We will not drop you.

You will not be forgotten,

With the last of our breath–

We will catch you.”

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 9-11-2011-2016, (This poem, “9-11” was published in “Pitcher of Moon”, and can be purchased at Amazon.com. Published, 2014)

“The High Road”

September 11, 2022

“The High Road”

September 11, 2022

HIGH ROAD

Asking directions to the high road,

I got shrugs and blank stares

yet knew there were two roads-

both led into infinity

both coursed through

all manner of life with pitfalls, trenches

where bones were broken

skulls rattled loose from moorings

like ships in high winds, dangerous waters.

What was the difference

and why should it matter?

The effort costs

energy regardless the choosing.

An old man sat at the crossroads,

a bum, grizzled gray hair

sprouting porcupine’s quills,

rheumy, pale eyes staring at the world–

little interest in what passed by.

I asked him the way to the High Road

and with a toothless grin

he stared at my feet, my hands,

lifted his eyes to my face.

I thought him mad and cursed myself

(asking questions of a fool!)

And was moving away when I heard his voice:

“Did I know of the eagle and crow,

how they soared upon thermals

higher and higher

became dark, formless specks upon a limitless sky,

lost to human eye, invisible even to gods?”

I thought him crazed and started away-

he cackled and spat on the ground.

Something made me turn, startled,

And saw the wisdom of Solomon in his

now- shining eyes.

“The crow harries the eagle, the eagle flies higher.

Vengeful, annoying crow flies round eagle’s wing

turning this way and that, yet the eagle flaps upward

soars upon thinning air until the crow

breathless and spent, drops to the common ground-

falls to his death.”

“The High Road, the path of the eagle.

The low road, the path of the crow,

mingling with dullards

daring nothing, with eyes cast downward

only saving a bit of energy

learning nothing of worth.”

Silently he sat, an old man

eyes glazed with age and fatigue.

With a nod to his wisdom and a toss of a coin

I gathered my strength and pushed onward,

Upwards, the lift of eagles, now under my limbs.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2022


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