Posts Tagged ‘Berbers’

“Tin Hinan” Book II, Chapter 4

April 11, 2012


(courtesy of

LadyNyo A mountain Ksar in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco

I am working to finish this novel by this summer.  A reader can see this chapter is far towards the end, and I hope to conclude in a matter of weeks.  Of course, there is a long period of rewrite, but I can do this. It’s just one key in front of the other.

This chapter is about Tin and Immel and company leaving their mountain ksar.  A ksar is a mountain settlement, usually built into the side of a mountain, and in some regions, a forested mountain.  Some ksars look like beehives.  The lower parts are grainerys and the upper parts are residences.

Over the course of writing this novel, I had to do a lot of research into foods. I was fortunate to know modern day Berbers in Atlanta, and tried to consult them with the issues of ancient grains, foods, etc.  I found that much of what was researched was also eaten today in families, not restaurants.  This is more particular to desert tribes, but today in Morocco much of this food would be recognized in some form.

Thank you to the readers of these chapters of “Tin Hinan” especially those in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and the general Middle East.  All misinformation is mine in the writing of this book.

Lady Nyo

Tin Hinan, Chapter 4 of Book II

Although I knew my purpose in returning to the desert, I felt reluctance in leaving our mountain.  The lush meadows, the pastures, the fruit trees and the early-planted fields of millet were a delight to my desert eyes.  Everything was so green and blooming around me, this first spring of my life in the mountains. 

Everything so different from the desert.  The smells were different too, not of the howling winds, but of budding leaves, blossoms of mountain wild flowers, even the soil smelled of life and regeneration.  I would miss the sharp smell of the walnut trees, when I crushed a leaf in my hand and saw the stain appear.  I especially would miss the beautiful apricots, the tender blossoms and the sweet fruit that would fill my mouth like honey.  And I would miss Niefa. She would have calved by the time I returned, and I wanted to be there, to help her in her first labor, and to guide her spindly-legged calf to her nipples.  Immel laughed at me, saying  Niefa would not need my help in this, but Immel was a man. What did he know about birth and especially Niefa?  She was hand raised by me, and would miss my presence as much as I missed her.

Ah, but by Isis, it could not be helped.  I had a purpose for leaving the mountains, and to return to the desert of my birth. I could not forget this.  I must revenge my tribe, my family, the great insult done to them. I must revenge myself by blood.  Each night I prayed silent prayers to Tanit, to Tinjis, and especially to Ifri, the War Goddess. I asked all that I remember my purpose and that my liver be not steered from my destiny.

But we did leave our mountain, and with Takama behind me on a war camel, this big beast who groaned and moaned like a tiny donkey, we came out of the mountains and approached the desert of our journey, the mighty Sahara.  We would cross other mountain ranges, as this route was different and longer than the way Takama and I had taken.  The course of our small caravan was set by the elders and Immel had purpose for this: he was still a raider, and still a mountain Berber, and he would seek the safety of a big caravan to travel with.  We left with only twenty men, but they were all warriors and skilled in fighting.  Perhaps we would increase our caravan’s wealth along the way, but this had only a secondary purpose.  We had a good flock of sheep and goats herded before us and some of these could be traded for salt and other essentials.  These would also make a greater impression on my tribe, though we carried enough booty to do that.  The bales of cottons and silk, hidden amongst the pack camels were something of great wealth, especially to my desert tribe.  There were even some steel needles and knives especially valuable to my tribes.

We didn’t find a caravan after a weeks travel, and had just left a small oasis. We watered the camels and replenished the water bags, when the fierce dogs accompaning us found a den of a desert fox.  A great howl and fury was heard, even by us in the middle of the caravan, and I saw Immel and other men kick and whip their camels to the source of the dog’s turmoil.  They were too late to save the nursing mother and two of her kits, but Immel grabbed two kits from the dogs and held them high over his head, kicking and shouting at the dogs as he did so.  They were only a few weeks old, and Immel hurried back and with a grin, threw them into my lap.  I looked at these tiny, terrified babies and my heart melted.  They were the color of sand, with huge ears, and big black eyes showing their fear.  Takama pushed her paw forward for one and I gave her a kit.  We knew enough, though I hadn’t seen a desert fox in a long time, to cover their heads, as the sun would blind them.  They came out at night, to hunt the rodents, the lizards of the night desert, and slept during the day.  We tucked them in our robes and they whimpered for a while, squirmed and then fell asleep to our heartbeat.  Later one of the men would make a small cage to fit over the cool water bag on the camel and we covered this with cloth.  They were babies, and I wondered if the rich camel’s milk would nourish them, but one of the men, who took a kindness to these babies, said  if we dilute the milk with water, it would do fine.  They also could eat fruit, if we tore it up into small pieces, or chewed it ourselves to a pulp. Within a few hours, they seemed to adjust to our feeding.  Mostly they slept during the day. During the night, they played in our tent, and would dig through the sand, making small burrows as their instinct directed them.  They had a strange yip, and would get into anything  not secured.   Finally, Takama put them under a loose woven basket during the night, as they tried to burrow under the tent.  The dogs outside would have killed them on sight, and we had grown attached in only a few days.  Immel  laughed at me, as I played with them during the evening hours, and said soon I would be replacing these foxes with my own babe to play with.  Perhaps, but that was away in the future, regardless his and his mother’s desire.

We approached another oasis when we spied a small caravan.  Immel and some of the men rode forth and talked with the leaders.  They were Berbers from the East,  travelling part of the way to Morocco.  That night, we joined their larger caravan and pitched our tents apart, which was the usual custom, but we slaughtered two goats and brought dates and salt to a shared dinner.  These Berbers were nomads, who came from pastures with great herds of sheep and goats. They were driving them as trade to the west.  They were very much like my parent’s tribe, wearing some of the same woven cloth and colors I was familiar with.  Of course, I did not ask any questions, as to my tribe, but Immel did find out that there had been wars and raiding to the west.  Information was vague enough but I could only wonder if Hasim and his tribe had been involved.  There were many tribes, and many raiders, some of them the hated Arabs, but I knew little of the world.  Now, from my position in the Spirit World, I know much more of history.  Then, as I said, I knew little.

Their women were like women everywhere. The young ones were shy, the older ones suspicious, and the few elderly on the caravan were wiser than all else.  Of course we sat together, as women would want to do, and exchanged gossip and some minor gifts. We ate their dishes with great relish, as Takama and I were not the best of cooks.  Our porridge was plain and only filled our bellies, but their dishes were so much better for not being made by us. 

Though we found our food was of a common kind, their taguella, a flat bread made from millet and cooked on charcoals in the sand, was eaten with a heavy sauce of spices and dried fruit.  They had yogurt, made along the route, by pouring goat’s milk into large skins and letting it ferment in the sun.  The roll of a camel’s pace stirred it nicely, and the essence of the leather bag contributed a smoky taste to the yogurt.  Ah! Their eghajira was the best I had ever tasted! For those who have had inferior drink,  it is a thick beverage drunk with a ladle, made by pounding millet, goat cheese, dates, dried apricots, camel’s milk and honey. Of course, there was lamb on a spit over the fire and gunpowder tea, sweetened with mint and honey.  Our mouths were greasy with the food and our bellies full. 

 Just when I saw Takama’s eyes close with sleep and mine doing the same, the sound of the rehad floated towards us. Soon bendirs, drums, added their rhythm to the one-stringed fiddle. An ajonuag, the reed flute joined the music,  and a woman started to sing., a strange song half way between a moan and a melody.

Some of the women got up to dance,  holding  large  walnut shells  in their hands, like castanets, as they added their own music to the night.  Stomping their bare feet in the cooling sand, tossing their long hair in circles, they would scare or entice a Zar in the desert night with their wild beauty!

There is nothing so mystical on earth as the sound of music in the desert. It floats like a benediction over the day. The night time air seems to draw forth the beauty of the voice and the pathos of life. Though it was not a song I knew, it didn’t matter.  Our lives, our souls, were of the same material, and we went to our tents late that night feeling cradled in the knowledge  wherever we were, we Berbers were part of the great stream of humanity and never alone in the world.

 Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012

“Tin Hinan”, Chapter 1, Section 4

March 14, 2012

(A Berber Woman with Berber silver and amber/wood jewelry, note also the striped cloth, distinctive of her tribe and location. These were woven on narrow hand looms and strips of cloth sewn together)

Section 4

Three days later I had recovered my senses under the loving care of my kinswomen.  I could now  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 .  I thought my senses had taken leave of me, for one night I started to walk out, after dark, when the desert turns dangerous, even more so than by day.  The old women told me there were Zars out there, waiting to claim my liver, 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 savagely kill him with my bare hands.  He had brought shame on my family; 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 the girl 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 wide circle around our community’s many tents.  I was trying to make up my mind what to do. I knew my parents would take some kind of action, but I had my own to decide.

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 narrow 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 their 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 orphaned, and though I was neither, I knew she would hear my plight.  Isis was all-seeing, but apparently busy. 

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

But I was looking for something else. I was enraged at the treatment by that man. Now, my anger was such I could not speak his name except to spit it.

I closed my eyes, threw out my arms to the heavens, to the moonless sky above me and gave myself over to the vortex of my misery. Ayyur, the Moon God was one I exhorted, and then Ifri, the war goddess.  I needed some answers, 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 its sad sound floating over the desert in the evening air.  My destiny was staring me in my face.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009, 2012

“Tin Hinan”, Section 3 of Chapter 1

March 8, 2012

(Berber girl, from

My thanks to all who are reading this Chapter 1 of my novel, “Tin Hinan”, especially  the readers from d’  I am delighted by your comments and encouragement.  I have broken this long chapter into 4 sections, and will post Chapter II, but will also break it  into sections.

After 4 years I am close to finishing this book, and Bill Penrose, who formatted my last three books at, will stand again for this book.  Thank you, Bill.  None of these books would ever have seen the light of day without your hard labor.

Lady Nyo

Section 3, Chapter I, “Tin Hinan”…..‘Wedding Preparations’

Though the wedding was months off in the future, the first thing to do were 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 honey-sweet 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 on my side.  The marriage bed would be a day couch for my children and me.  Hasim would fill the east side with his weapons and saddles.  By tradition, after the marriage, Hasim would sleep outside, part of the guard men protecting our settlement from raiders across the mountain and from the desert. By custom, 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 water 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 who would drive us away. I walked to a little plot of land with my father and 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 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 not be too high off the carpets paving 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 bed.  When it was carved and doweled together, it took six men to carry and place in 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 even to touch it.  But I did peek in the doorway before the divider between sides was hung and saw the beautiful symbols of fertility and good fortune carved along with flowers and palm trees.  In the 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.

Next was the sewing of the mattress.  My mother and her kinswomen sheared sheep and stuffed the thick wool into two large sheets of thick and coarse cotton. 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 woven 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 Hasim was told he could not approach me when his tribe came with herds of goats or to discuss shared pasturing with our men.

All seemed to be going according to plan, when the demons of Death took matters into their own claws.  I say Death  for nothing but that could have caused such a reverse of fortune and happiness in my life. We Berbers believe strongly in malicious spirits, and they seemed to hold their own festival with my wedding plans.

One day, very close to the time of the wedding, when already there were preparations for the five days of celebration planned,  I heard some women in my mother’s tent crying and went to see what had happened.  As I neared her tent, two of my favorite Aunties  ran out and threw themselves upon me.

“Aicha, Aicha,” said one fat old auntie, panting in her excitement. “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 am 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 cries.

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 and has left to go to her tent.”

I was told I stared like a dead person, my eyes empty, my mouth open without sound. Then, one long wail came out of my throat before I collapsed on the carpet at my father’s feet.

“Tin Hinan”, second part of Chapter I

March 2, 2012

Continuing Chapter I to the  end of the chapter.

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 a man we are interested in marrying. We even wink at them.  Are you shocked?  Well, we did.   We had many customs, and 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 festival, 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, 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 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 at 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.  Of course I had no choice, I was of age, but  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

Copyrighted, 2009-2012


“Tin Hinan”, a novel…. beginning section of Chapter One.

February 27, 2012

(from the website:

(Tin Hinan and her slave making the journey from Morocco to central Algeria)

A couple of years ago I started writing a novel based on the historical Tin Hinan. I have posted many chapters on this website, but have not completed the book.  Life, especially poetry, not to mention publishing three books in the last three years, got in the way of continuing the work on this novel.  However, I have been informed there are consistant readers of this work, and surprisingly, somewhere in Finland.    Recently, I have received  emails asking when this book will be finished.   So I am going to take this spring to finish and publish “Tin Hinan”.  Bill Penrose, who has formatted my last three books is up for the job.  Without him, none of these books would have seen the light of day.  Bill is a wonderful friend, but also a fine author himself, also published at

 Tin Hinan was an actual historical figure of the 6th century in Algeria.  She gathered the 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 much was known about Tin Hinan, and her galvanizing power to unite the Berber tribes.  That’s about all, though her tomb was found in the Algerian mountains in the 1920’s.

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

The Berbers opened the trade routes across northern Africa, and defended those routes from the Arabs.  Interestingly enough, Berbers were originally Christian, and 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.  It’s 14 or so chapters so far.   I do hope to finish this book this spring, 2012.

Lady Nyo

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





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 a 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 stain 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.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009-2012


Ghazal for d’

August 12, 2011

Sort of.  I wrote this for a dear friend in India three years ago, but had no real idea of the structure, form of Ghazals.  But~!  I can learn…tomorrow.

The reference to “liver” comes from the Berbers.  They believe (still do) that the soul resides in the liver.  Works for me.

Lady Nyo



What are those lights?

They shine into the heart and even

As I cast down eyes,

Pierce my soul with exquisite pain!

Ah! It is the blessing of the Universe

Who has come to claim my heart, my soul.

Who has come to claim my liver.

Who am I to argue with such wisdom?

Is there not a web, gossamer as a spider’s

Silver wire that crosses from bush to bush,

Shining with prisms of light falling from

The morning dew?

Does not this silver thread, so fragile but eternal

Bond us together as Humanity?

The ways of the heart are mysterious.

They triumph over cold logic.

If we would just listen to the music,

Would let the stirrings of a grateful heart

We would dance in rebirth each day!

Ah! Pride destroyed

The soul made new

Resurrected each day

To meet heart with heart

To dissolve law into love –

Paradise enough for You.

Paradise enough for  Me.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008

“The Zar Tales”

October 30, 2009
The Zar Tales

Book cover for "The Zar Tales"


Ali and Baba...running out of names for cute kittens

New book cover, since there were complaints  about the old one.  I bet this one will also change before the end.

I have an alternate  ending for “The Zar Tale”,….that story of Ali (Zar) and Shakira..I want to pursue.  A wedding, and who doesn’t like a wedding???  Especially one with sheep/goats/baking in pits, and Turkish line dances, tray dances,  Camel races, and Berber/Turkish polo with a head of a goat.

I wasn’t going to do this, but met  a  women who had henna designs on her hands.  She was working in a Dairy Queen and we had stopped there  for lunch.  She was from India and had just attended a wedding. Henna can last for a while, and you don’t wash the designs  because it’s good luck for the wearer.

We got to talking, and I asked her about the henna and the wedding.  She was one of the bridesmaids and described the outfit she wore; pink, purple, gold and silver, very colorful, and the party the day before to paint the henna on her hands.  I asked if the bride wore a sari, but apparently she wore an Indian bridal outfit that didn’t sound at all like a sari.  She was covered in much jewelry and a golden, sheer veil and she must have been very beautiful.

This woman knew about the Zar ritual and I thought how universal this ritual must be.  It is called something different  in India, but I think how deep and ancient these traditions must be to be so ‘shared’ by different cultures.

She inspired me to look again  at the parts of “The Zar Tale” where Ali and Shakira get married.  I had no  intention of doing so, but thought…what the hell.  It takes the story into a different realm and sometimes that’s a good place to go.  It means more work on something I thought finished, but that is the natural process of writing I think.  If it develops a story into something that gives more life and color and interest….why not?  It’s only a delay of a matter of weeks, but I’m really not on any time line.

Update on kittens….we decided    “Ali”  and  “Baba”  were good names for the babies.

But they come to ‘kitty’.

Lady Nyo


October 20, 2009
A collection of short stories and a novella

A collection of short stories and a novella

“Ali Baba and His Four Thieves”

October 12, 2009
neolithic dancers on a cave wall in Morocco

neolithic dancers on a cave wall in Morocco

While Ali Baba and his four thieves were drumming last night to wild North African rhythms, I ran to them, giggling, hot and sweaty, fresh from the dance.

Grabbing my dumbek, I wiggled in between two drummers, propped my right foot on a chair and tucked the drum beneath my breast. I tried to catch their rhythms already swirling like looming, stomping ghosts.

They are tolerant, my Berber friends, of the silly belly dancer who would rather drum than dance.  They are like my brothers, but that fades when the dumbeks gets serious.  Then the primal rhythms heat our blood and strong, dusky hands gallop over the skins.

I am transported to a desert of their making, where they are no longer just waiters in a restaurant, but dangerous blue-skinned veiled men on Arabian steeds and fast camels.

I am thrown over a saddle in front of one.

I see Ali’s eyes narrow and Hassim’s close, and my nipples harden.  The Berbers before me are fierce men, and I am a woman.  The drums draw us together in this ancient dance of lust.

I feel sand in my shoes.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008

“Tin Hinan”, Chapter 7, Part 2

October 1, 2009
Falconry with Goldens (Berguts), but in China. Huge Goldens.

Falconry with Goldens (Berguts), but in China. Huge Goldens.

The sun had just begun to mount the sky when ten men collected in the courtyard. Horses shook their bridles and pranced, while the smoke of breaths, beasts and men, rose in the morning chill.  The men had their hunting birds on their wrists or in cages made of thin branches.

I was dressed in my woolen robes, with good, stout leather sandals and knitted socks and except for my hands, I was warm enough.  Standing apart from the men, as was only proper, I wondered where Immel was.

I watched the birds sitting quietly on thick carpet- covered wrists, mostly falcons and a few larger hawks amongst them. They all had tiny metal bells around their ankles.

I went to sit down and await Immel.  He appeared on his large horse holding the reins of a smaller mare.  My eyes widened with surprise when I saw what was on the back of that mare.  It was the biggest eagle I had ever seen!  A Golden, but much bigger than I could have imagined.  Immel and another mounted man took a long tree limb and stretching it between them, perched the eagle upon it, tying the bird securely to the limb with thick thongs.   He motioned for me to come and mount the smaller horse, and swung me up.  We left the ksar and wound around a mountain trail, higher up on the mountain than I had ever gone.  They were going after mountain dove and pigeon, and by the size of the eagle, probably bigger game.

Immel gestured for me to fall behind his horse and there I had a chance to observe this eagle.  Most of the hawks and falcons had their eyes sewn shut with strong thread passed through the top and lower lids. They rode quietly on the wrist. This Golden rode like a king,  his head unhooded, nor did Immel blind him with the threads.  He looked from side to side as he occasionally called out with a barking laugh.   I could tell Immel was proud of his eagle, and as eager as the bird to have him flown. He was secured with braided thongs, almost as thick as a woman’s arm, and the bells around his scaled ankles were large silver ones of different tones. I could tell, for he raised his feet constantly and shook them.  He was quite a handful, and only a man the size of Immel could have commanded him.

We came through the forest, as it rounded up the mountain and came to a large plateau. The men carefully got off their horses with their birds. One hawk’s eyes were unstitched, and launched into the air.

“Hip-hip-hip-hip!”  The man’s voice was high pitched and excited.  This was the call for the bird to cast out into the sky, looking for prey on the ground.  The eyesight of a hawk can see up to a mile away, and find a rabbit hiding in the grasses. After a while, the man called him back, twirling his lure with a rabbit head on the end of it.  It must have been a young bird, newly trained but rebellious, for it took time to get his bird to earth.  Then the stubborn bird mantled over to within five camels’ distance, and the man had to chase the young bird over the ground.  The laughter of the men was tolerated, but I had seen men kill their hawks in a rage.

Next a peregrine’s thread was pulled from her eyes and she was sent aloft from the wrist of her master.  There is nothing so beautiful as a falcon soaring on the thermals far above in the heavens, and then to see her fold her wings and drop through the air. We saw her disappear above us, just a black speck in the blue. Then hurling to the earth, a sudden burst of feathers told us she had killed a bird on the wing.

This was all sport, for there was little expectation the hunting that day would bring food for the tribe at home.  It was the way men enjoyed themselves, with their hawks, kinfolk and out of the sight of women.

Each falcon or hawk was launched and tried in the air.  Each came back except one.  It was a black mark on the man who lost his hawk to the heavens.  Perhaps a child had thrown a stone at the bird while he was tied to his perch outside the door.  For whatever reason, this hawk decided that he could hunt for himself.  The trick was to starve them enough and to only feed them from the wrist.  If they got a sense they could hunt for themselves, they were lost to human commands and would reverted to the wild.

When all of the birds had flown, Immel dismounted and placed his bird on his forearm.   The eagle barked in excitement and lifting each foot in turn, rang his bells.  Immel talked softly to it and then with a strong upward thrust, threw him into the air.

Ah! His wings were as long as a camel was tall!  He flapped strongly until he had obtained the heavens and soared above us, circling and barking like a malevolent jinn. He was so vast when he soared low over us he cast a shadow and spooked the horses.

“Immel, my brother! This time your eagle might not come back!”

This made the others laugh and Immel shrug his shoulders.  “What can I do? Sigi has a mind of his own.  I can only implore the Gods he remembers where he is fed.”

I was still watching the sky, looking at the Golden circling higher on the thermals.  He was such a large bird he was easy to watch, as he gave a flap to lift himself as he floated effortlessly over the mountain.

“You have never seen a Bergut before?”  Immel’s voice cut into my scanning the heavens.

“I have never seen a such a bird!”  I glanced up at him, shading my eyes with my hand.

“I bought Sigi from an Arab as a fledgling.  He is the largest of the Golden Eagles.  I am told by this trader they are used in pairs with metal sheaths on their talons to hunt tigers.”

I started to laugh, until I saw his face.  He was serious, but considering the size of his eagle, perhaps it was possible.

“What game has he brought down?”

“The occasional lamb or goat from someone’s flock.”  He smiled and shrugged.  “Sigi has cost me for his appetite.”

I laughed.  Sigi could cause some trouble between tribes.  Wolves did harm, too, when they could.

“Of course, he has paid me back with the wolves he has killed. The skins make a nice barter.”

Wolves! A bird, even a bird as large as Sigi, killing wolves!  That was something to think about.

Today though, when Sigi reappeared over the mountain, Immel called his return cry and the eagle looked down at the rabbit offered on Immel’s wrist.  The hunting was short and Sigi must have been hungry, for he flew down and landed at a distance.  Immel whistled to him and twirled his lure, enticing the eagle closer.  The horses didn’t like this huge bird near them, and shied and snorted in fear.

Immel walked out to where he had thrown the rabbit to Sigi, and found him mantling over the prey.  Sigi knew the game and started to take off again, but Immel had strung long leather braids on his two legs, and with a dive to the ground, grabbed them before the eagle could regain his flight. For a matter of moments it was not clear who would win, as Immel fought to keep the eagle on the ground.  Sigi was strong enough to pull Immel over and only when he sat up, was Immel able to wrestle the bird closer.  Sigi barked and hissed and finally Immel pulled him in.  Picking him up, stuffed under his arm and holding his leathers firmly, Immel brought Sigi back to the men.  There was general laughter and comments aplenty about Immel’s sense in having such a bird, but Immel was used to this behavior, both from the bird and the men.

That was my introduction to Sigi and I was allowed to accompany Immel and the others again. I was told that the value of Sigi would be two camels, but I knew Immel would never sell him for a hundred.  Soon, I had my own falcon, a little sakir who was fast and brought down doves for the pot. It was a gift from Immel and she started our friendship.  Most women would want silver or a sweet oil from a man.  I got a bird.

Jane Kohut-Birdtells
Copyrighted, 2007, 2009

%d bloggers like this: