“Tin Hinan” Chapter 10

I will be gone for a week from this site.  I am going to Montreal for a vacation, site seeing, but mostly a Belly Dance workshop with the Conmigo Dance Company, taught by the infamous Audra Simmons.

This technique is totally new to me: Tribal Fusion and World Fusion.  I am a Turkish/Egyptian dancer.  The two are very different.  I am struggling to be open to the experience, and need to be.  I need to grow further as a dancer.

Wish me luck!

Lady Nyo/Teela


There is nothing Berber people love more than a wedding, except possibly a successful raid on a rich caravan.  Four days after appearing before the elders, we received word we could wed.  Of course I was fearful the council would not allow Immel’s request.  Now this issue was taken from us, and we could be married.

We had to make a number of compromises.  Most marriages were made in the autumn, after the harvest. We were to marry in the spring only two full moons away, then leave for my parent’s tribe immediately after the ceremony and the consummation of our marriage. This would be a long trip and we were to bring as much gifts and clan wealth as could be spared. In the fall there would be others, but a spring wedding was unheard of. The women were excited and other clans pitched in with much energy. We had only two moons to prepare, but the women of the kzar joyfully took up the plans.

Instead of a black goat hair tent to sew, Immel and his kin started to build two more rooms onto his father’s house. They gathered stone and mixed the adobe mortar and built the walls.  The roof was flat, made of timber and rushes, for each family would sit in the summer evenings on their roofs and enjoy the cooling winds.

With such a short time before the wedding, Immel and his father made the wedding bed themselves.  I thought of the beautiful, carved cedar bed that was to be Hasim’s and mine, and started to cry. My heart was still sour.  That bed probably stored in some tent, away from the sight of the women of my clan.  If it were ever to be used, it would have to be purified from the spirits that possessed things.

We Berbers believed in spirits, good and evil, but especially we are on the lookout for the evil ones.  They permeated all of our doings and we were always making little sacrifices and hanging amulets around doorways and around our bodies to thwart their mischief.

Of course we believed in blessings, too, calling down the favor of this god or goddess on our daily life.  I had grown sloppy in my prayers, for they didn’t answer me in the desert, and I had grown cold to my duty.  Mother Leila was always waddling around mumbling prayers and beseeching this god or that one, and shaking her amulets around her neck.  Maybe she knew something I didn’t, but she hadn’t revealed it to me.

There was too much to do in such a short time!  One labor Mother Leila put me to doing was embroidering of my wedding gown.  It was a light, white wool, and she wanted me to embroider with green wool and silk thread designs on the hem, sleeves and breast. I was a natural artist with threads, though I hated it when younger.  Now, a woman of decent age, I found it satisfying labor to do so, even on leather.

The usual alternative was the slow and tedious weaving of the cloth and rug loom.  Most days, when our chores were through, a pot of food stewing outside on the tripod, the three of us, with Ladil playing about our feet, worked together in the main room. Takama would weave on one loom and Mother Leila on the other, and I sitting as close to the fire as possible for light, drew and embroidered designs on the dress. The traditional design for a wedding dress were stylized leaves and flowers, but I embroidered wolves chasing rabbits, and hawks soaring around the breast of the dress, around the leaves and through the flowers, looking for other birds.  Takama was shocked at my designs and Mother Leila clucked her tongue, but no one could fault the beauty of my sewing.  I made the figures little enough and obscured within the main design, and only by looking very closely could you see the hunt.

The door opened and Immel stuck his head in.  His mother yelled at me to cover the sewing for only misfortune would come if the man saw the dress before I was wed.

“Aicha, will you take a walk with me?”

Mother Leila cut her eyes at him and then a warning glance at me, but I was almost married and would be my own woman.

I walked out, first putting my woolen shawl around my head and over my robes, and Immel grabbed for my hand.  I hid it behind my back, refusing him this slight intimacy.  We would be walking past others, taking the cool evening air.  Already men and women were hanging out of their windows, their houses stacked like so many beehives up the lower side of the mountain.

This time Immel directed us to the almond grove, where the flowers had not yet burst out into fragrant bloom. There were branches where a few white flowers were visible, and he stopped to pick a small twig with the fat buds and the few flowers.  Spring was nigh and these the telling of it.  He led me through the dried winter’s grasses deep into the grove.  As soon as we were out of sight of people, he grabbed my hand and held it firmly.  I looked up at him, but he did not say a word except smile, keeping his eyes straight ahead.  Finally, we came to the end of the grove where it started to wrap around the side of the mountain.

“Aicha, do you know why we are allowed to marry so quickly?”  Immel stopped and pulled me down besides him under an old almond tree.

I was still very shy, and knowing we would be married soon only increased my shyness. I had no answer to his question.

“The elders have given their approval for the best of reasons.  They are very wise men.  They know I have mourned for Cherifa for four years and have not desired a woman in my bed.  They want me to be married, and soon for I will take my place on the elder’s council in a matter of years.  But only men that are married or widowed may sit on the bench with the rest of them.”

Immel plucked a piece of almond twig and bit into the scented wood.  He looked out far across the valley, and seemed to be lost in thought.

“There is another matter.  My father tells me they are aware of the passions of young men, and perhaps Cherifa was taken from me because Ladil was an early baby. Perhaps I tempted some evil spirit with my lust and the payment for my sin was Cherifa’s life.  Perhaps he is right.  What do you think, Aicha?”

He turned, with the twig between his teeth and all I could think of was my own sin!  Ah! He was beautiful in that soft, dimming evening light.

“Immel, what is it you are asking me?  Do I believe in the spirits? Do I believe in the gods and goddesses we live our lives around? Do you want the truth of my thoughts?”

He nodded silently, looking at me curiously.

“I prayed for three nights in the desert, Immel.  I prayed harder than I had ever prayed for a thing.  You want the truth of that time?  No goddess answered me.  I was left to figure out my destiny, what I was to do next.  Takama thought me zar-struck, and perhaps I was.  But no answer did I get from the precious goddesses.”

Immel had turned his face to look at the sun go down across the valley.  He put his arm around my shoulders and silently we looked at the beauty in front of us. The far mountain was purple with the gathering darkness and the forests that lay across the wide valley spread out before us were almost black in their mass.  The sun, now barely above the far horizon, lit the underside of the clouds in a rosy clay color. Swifts cut through the air like little crescent moons. Soon, the valley and mountain would be dark with only the illumination of the vast stars above.

Who needed silent gods or goddesses?  Perhaps there is no destiny except what we make of it.

I leaned into his side and Immel turned his face to me and kissed my forehead softly.

“Aicha, the goddesses may not exist in the heavens, but something brought you across my path.  Perhaps some zar or jinn brought you into that mountain, and there I saw you and Takama before the wolves got to you.  Whatever exists, who’s to know?”

Immel turned back to catch the last of the glorious rays of setting sun, and to watch the shadows crossing the valley low before us.

“Just in case they do, I would be wise to offer a little sacrifice in thanksgiving.”

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007, 2009

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: