Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/43

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Midsummer Customs in Morocco. 31

this purpose the Beni Mgild burn on Midsummer Eve three sheaves of unthreshed wheat or barley, " one for the children, one for the crops, and one for the animals." On the same occasion they burn the tent of a widow who has never given birth to a child ; and by so doing they think they rid the village of misfortune. A very similar custom seems to prevail among another tribe belonging to the same Berber group, the Zemmur. According to one in- formant, a native of Mequinez, they drive off the misfortune from their place by burning the tent of some widow whose family have died in fighting ; whilst in the neighbouring tribe, Beni Ah'sen, I was told that the Zemmur at mid- summer burn a tent which has belonged to somebody killed in warfare during a feast, or, if there be no such person in the village, the tent of \\v& fki, or schoolmaster. Both among the Beni Mgild and among the Zemmur the burned tent is replaced by a new one. Among the Arabic- speaking Beni Ah'sen it is the custom for those who live near the river Sbu to make a little hut of straw at midsummer, set light to it, and let it float down the river. The people of Salli burn a straw hut on the river Bu Ragrag, which flows outside the town ; ^ whilst in the neighbouring town Rabat the same ceremony is sometimes performed in the tanks of the gardens.

Beside smoke and fire customs, water ceremonies are very commonly practised at midsummer. On l-dnsdra day the people of the Andjra bathe in the sea or in the rivers ; for on that day all water is endowed with baraka, which removes sickness and misfortune. They also bathe their animals : horses, mules, and donkeys,

^Chenier wrote at the end of the eighteenth century {The Present State of the Empii-e of Morocco, 1788, i. 293 sq.): — "At Sallee, when the harvest is gathered before the feast of St. John, which among the Moors corresponds with the fifth of July, I have seen young people collect reeds and straw into a heap, set them on float down the river, light them in a blaze as they swam, and sport round."