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17

Without Bounds: Wazana the Symbolic Type

As tempting as it may be to try to comprehend the psychological bases for Wazana’s personality, this approach is seriously problematic. Its attraction can be partially ascribed to the contemporary tendency to focus on the individual’s inner reality with its contributory psychological forces and to regard these as the determinants of behavior. This tendency to “psychologize” however cannot obscure the fact that the figure we contemplate here belongs to another place and time and therefore cannot possibly be studied directly. Our impressions of Wazana are mediated by the informants, and rest exclusively on their evaluations and interpretations. In a way, the attempt to plumb the inner reality that forged Wazana’s behavior is more than a little presumptuous, insofar as it overlooks past dialogue between Wazana and the informants, and ongoing present-time dialogue with the figure in their memories. Given the lack of complementary sources of information, we cannot be sure that the explication presented here reflects either Wazana’s inner world or that of the informants.

This fundamental problem directs us down a different avenue—one that does not entail a psychological, but rather a cultural-symbolic, analysis. This avenue does not disregard the numerous layers separating Wazana from the researcher: on the contrary, it shifts the focus away from Wazana’s psychological reality and onto the social reality of Wazana’s interaction with the Jews of the Western Atlas. The suggestion is that the informants’ portrayal of Wazana is replete with evaluations and interpretations no less than with facts; and that, moreover, these evaluations and interpretations are shaped by shared cultural assumptions and moral standpoints to no less an extent than by the matrix of a particular informant’s unique psychological background and life circumstances. Viewed from this position, the collective-cultural portrait of Wazana appears to be molded to a significant degree by those quintessential aspects of his lifestyle that provoked in his acquaintances an ambivalent response of attraction and repulsion, admiration and fear, esteem and condemnation. The informants’ perception of Wazana is of someone whose position on the edge of the social order stems from his exhaustive exploitation of his society’s cardinal cultural resources, and from his persistent defiance of their constraints. Such antinomian behavior, I wish to show now, while it generates a tremendously liberating and healing power, is at one and the same time sinister as well as terrifying to others.

This ambivalent attitude toward Wazana hardly emerges in the stories of his life. We did encounter, here and there, a note of condemnation for his strange ways and his tendency to overstep the bounds of acceptable behavior. However, this tone, which was evident, for example, in the rather disparaging opinion of Wazana held by his blind cousin Ya’aqov Wazana, and in Rabbi Yosef Abu-Ḥatsera’s overt aversion toward him, was almost totally dwarfed by the swell of adoration and gratitude displayed by the vast majority of informants. The only set of narrated events reflecting a plainly negative moral stance toward Wazana is the story of his death. The negative attitude, enfolded in the different versions of this story, is all the more acute if we juxtapose the plot of his death with that of his father’s death. The two death stories are totally antithetical, and it would be understating the disparity to say that Rabbi Ya’aqov suffers by comparison. We now turn to an in-depth examination of the two death narratives.

First, Wazana’s father, Rabbi Avraham, dies in holiness and purity, having prayed in synagogue and recited the Shema. Rabbi Ya’aqov’s death, on the other hand, is the consequence of over-intimacy with the demonic world, and follows a demonic assault adjacent to a Muslim cemetery. Antithetical elements of sanctity and impurity that are defined in space (synagogue, place of Jewish worship, versus Muslim graveyard, favored habitation of demons), are further reinforced by the different time lapses between death and burial for each protagonist. Rabbi Avraham died on Thursday night, and despite the great distance between Amassine where he died and Tamzersht where he was buried, he is given the honor of burial on Friday, immediately before the commencement of the Sabbath. Wazana, on the other hand, was attacked by demons on Friday afternoon, died on Friday night, and was buried on Sunday. In temporal terms, the father’s death corresponds to a recurring pattern found in the death legends of saints—ability to miraculously change the normal passage of time to avoid profaning the Sabbath; whereas Wazana’s death occurred on the Sabbath itself, thereby “desecrating” the holy day.1 What is more, Rabbi Avraham serenely accepts his imminent death, whereas Wazana is overwhelmed by terror, has difficulty accepting his fate, and tries in vain to forestall it. The father’s body felt as light as a feather, and was carried, quickly and easily, over many miles, whereas his son’s body weighed so much that a supreme effort was needed to carry it even the short distance to the local cemetery. Rabbi Avraham’s body did not decay even in his tomb, while the stench from Wazana’s corpse still hung in the air a month after his death. Contrasting the honey, symbol of bliss and abundance, that flowed from Rabbi Avraham’s mouth, Wazana’s mouth gushed with the blood relished by demons.2 The role of the Muslim in the death stories also changes and is reversed: the Arab’s attitude is transformed in Rabbi Avraham’s story from contemptuousness and hostility to respectful deference, while the Arab sheikh who appreciated Wazana’s powers and is helped by Wazana, indirectly causes his death by persuading him to perform a forbidden act.

The seasons themselves, constituting the temporal backdrop for the death accounts, completely contrast one another. Rabbi Avraham dies in the month of Tevet, in mid-winter, “in the coldest place in the world,” as one informant hyperbolically put it. The deep drifts of snow and the freezing cold temperature fulfilled, it will be recalled, an important role in underscoring the miraculous nature of the death event, since they did not interfere with the miraculous transportation of the body “in a flash.” Wazana, on the other hand, dies at the height of summer, on a sizzling day in the month of Tammuz, and we find glinting among the details of his death and burial the burning sun, the sweat, and the stench of putrefaction that characterized the accounts of these moments. The sharp contrast between summer and winter in the mountain hinterlands of southern Morocco accentuates the divergences of cleanliness and purity (cold and snow) in the one story and filth and defilement (heat and sweat) in the other. Another layer of contrast with respect to time is embedded in the meaning ascribed to the dates of the two deaths within the Jewish calendar: Rabbi Avraham died during Ḥanukka, a festival of Jewish redemption and rejoicing, crowded with miracles. His son, however, as many informants stressed, died during the inauspicious Three Weeks (Bein Hametsarim) period, a time of mourning associated with catastrophe and destruction.3 Indeed, in their descriptions of Rabbi Ya’aqov’s death, informants referred to the customs of mourning observed during this period such as abstention from eating meat.4

To summarize: the death story concerning Rabbi Avraham, the mystic who dedicated his life to study but who was not very active during his lifetime, is replete with miracles, while in Rabbi Ya’aqov’s story they are completely absent, despite the fact that acts of wonder were a matter of course in his lifetime. The atmosphere surrounding his father’s death denotes power and self-realization, whereas the messages emanating from the son’s death convey weakness and non-fulfillment.

There is a transparent moral embedded in these stories: he who lives an upright life, within the limits of the social order, and does not abuse his zekhut avot (ancestral privileges), will die at a ripe old age, preserving and even adding to the aura of saintliness associated with his image. The profligate son, however, who abuses his inherited powers and violates the boundaries of social order, will die a sudden, premature, and violent death.

The discrepancy between the messages embedded in the death stories of Wazana and his father becomes even clearer when these stories are compared with those of the earlier Wazana family tsaddiqim. The description of Rabbi Avraham’s death legend appears to be a later version of the death legend of the greatest of the family tsaddiqim, Rabbi Avraham “The Great” [el-Kebir]. As we know, the dynasty founder died in the midst of a festive meal attended by learned men, after reciting the afternoon and evening prayers. Foreknowledge of the time of his own death, a typical element of the death stories of tsaddiqim, made it possible for Rabbi Avraham to instruct his followers to say the Shema and recite passages from Psalms until midnight came. Wazana’s father died in a similar way, although in his story, the scholars are exchanged for a synagogue congregation. Besides foreknowledge and acceptance of imminent death allowing for proper arrangements to be made, both stories entail the appearance of the tsaddiq in a dream, his burial somewhere other than the location of his death, the miracle of traveling great distances in “a flash,” and the involvement of an Arab horseman in the funeral. The clear correspondence between the death descriptions of the founder of the dynasty and his descendant, Wazana’s father, is hardly surprising given that both originate in the recurring narrative matrix of saints’ deaths appearing in the corpus of Jewish Moroccan saint legends (Ben-Ami 1984: 61–63). The narrated plot of Rabbi Avraham “The Great” ’s death was presumably a venerated family model, duplicated in the stories of the deaths of other tsaddiqim in the family. The family model further accentuates the deviation from the norm of Rabbi Ya’aqov’s death narrative.

We turn now to a comparison between the narrative logic found in the death story of Wazana and some of the miracles concerning Rabbi David, son of Rabbi Avraham “The Great.” The first miracle, as noted, occurred just prior to his marriage, and involved the transformation of the kaid’s daughter into a hen as a punishment for stealing a pet chick belonging to a young Jewish girl. At the end of the story, the kaid’s daughter is restored to human form by the tsaddiq, but at the cost of her mother’s life.

We can view this story and the death of Rabbi Ya’aqov as contrasting versions of the same deep structure. While we find in the death legends pertaining to Rabbi Ya’aqov and his father numerous antithetical elements, the “chicken miracle” legend and the account of Wazana’s death in fact share a recognized narrative pattern entailing disruption and subsequent restoration of the natural order. The pattern is composed of a series of five analogous steps. The contrast is embedded in the specific content of each step, steps that will now be examined in detail.

At the heart of these stories lies the traditional belief that order and harmony between the world’s inhabitants—Jews and Muslims, humans and demons—is a desirable goal which it is imperative to maintain.5 In terms of the narrative, the first step described below is that which destroys the status quo:

High status Muslim girl kills living creature

The significant difference between the story of Rabbi David and that of Rabbi Ya’aqov relates to the identity of the creature killed. In the case of Rabbi David, the kaid’s daughter causes the death of a chicken, a kosher animal, raised by a Jewish child. In contrast, in the story of Rabbi Ya’aqov’s death, the sheikh’s daughter is responsible for the death of impure snakes, moreover, demons in disguise. Both times the natural order needs to be reestablished, and indeed, the second stage of the narrative pattern entails restoring the order.

The victim’s representative strikes the perpetrator

The “restitution” principle is brought into play. Rabbi David, representing the Jewish girl, transforms the covetous Muslim child into a hen, whereas in the story involving Rabbi Ya’aqov, the demonic kin of the dead snakes strike the perpetrator (the sheikh’s daughter) intending to slay her. The individual who first disrupted the order pays a high price. The suffering of these people and their families acts as the catalyst for the next stage.

Jewish healer brought to heal the perpetrator-cum-victim

This stage, if completed, upsets the newly restored equilibrium. This plot juncture suspends the action, heightening the tension. The options available to both Wazana healers are: not to intervene, thereby preserving the newly restored balance, or help the Arab girl, reintroduce disorder, and then pay the price. Both choose the second option.

Jewish healer cures Muslim girl

Rabbi David transforms the kaid’s daughter back into human form, and Rabbi Ya’aqov brings the condemned daughter of the sheikh back to life. In both stories, the punishment for disrupting the reestablished order is heavier than the punishment for the wrongdoing that set the sequence of events in motion.

The accessory to the perpetrator pays with his or her life

The victims of the disruption of order, or to be more precise, those sacrificed to achieve its final restoration, are, on the one hand, the kaid’s wife, who pays for slaughtering the pet chicken, and Rabbi Ya’aqov on the other, for healing the sheikh’s daughter. In stark contrast to Rabbi Ya’aqov’s story, not only does Rabbi David emerge unscathed from the affair, but weds the girl he championed.

The shared narrative pattern and identical sequence of steps serves to emphasize the differences between Rabbi David and Rabbi Ya’aqov. In the story of Rabbi David, the tension originates in Jewish-Muslim relations, whereas in the story of Rabbi Ya’aqov’s death, the axis of conflict flows between humans and demons, though the Muslims play a vital role in the plot. Rabbi David dispenses retribution on the Muslims, further entrenching the boundary between the two communities. Rabbi Ya’aqov, in antagonism with the demons, demolishes that boundary by executing the forbidden act of healing the sheikh’s daughter. The former is successful since his actions are in keeping with Jewish social traditions; the latter fails by deviating from them. It is particularly interesting to contrast the victims in the last stage, in which Wazana emerges as the counterpart to the kaid’s wife—a Muslim woman. Could the purpose of this be to draw attention to the issue of Wazana’s “Muslimness” and “femininity”?

Before we examine another legend about Rabbi David, it is important to note that the story of Rabbi Ya’aqov’s death bears a strong resemblance to that of his mother Esther. Here, the shared narrative structure is not antithetical in content but strikingly similar. The mother’s death almost seems to presage some of the themes that reverberate through Wazana’s death story. As we know, his mother’s story opens with a summons to Wazana to heal the son of a local sheikh at the time his mother lay dying. Both the opening, and the predicament it establishes, remind us of the phases in the run up to Rabbi Ya’aqov’s death. Furthermore, in both cases, Wazana adopts a similar approach to settling the dilemma—he heals the patient. In both stories, the sheikhs “bribe” him generously, motivating him to press on, ignoring the inherent risk. In the first case, the price is his mother’s life, which is exchanged for that of the child; in the second, however, his own life is forfeit for the life he gives. The only significant discrepancy between the two stories is the role of the demons. In the first story, they are Wazana’s loyal and obedient servants, who help him to disinter his mother, in the second, they turn against him and slay him.

We return now to Rabbi David to examine another legend in which he appears, the story of saving the Jewish girl snatched by the river demon who took her for his wife. The comparison begged here is not with the story of Wazana’s death, but with the story of his marriage. In both cases, the basic pattern is a human-demon marriage. However, in each of the stories, the common structure is overlaid with such differing elements that total antithesis is produced. The first point of comparison is the human’s gender—a young girl in the first case, and a man (Wazana), in the second. Again, this may be an allusion to Wazana’s latent “femininity.” The complementary point of comparison is the gender of the demon, that is, a male demon counterpart to the she-demon. In both cases, the union is sought by the male partner, but the eagerness to enter the marriage on the part of the human is altogether different. In the river demon legend, the Jewish girl is abducted and forced into a union by her captor. This contrasts with Wazana’s deliberate effort to find a demonic spouse and his voluntary marriage. In terms of similarity of action, in initiating the marriage, Wazana in fact mirrors the male river demon’s position. Ultimately, however, the resolution of each plot is wholly antithetical: the demonic marriage is annulled, and the human bride’s marriage fulfilled in the legend of Rabbi David. Wazana, on the other hand, never marries a bride of his own kind “above the ground,” preferring instead union with a she-demon.

In this legend too, Rabbi David appears as an enforcer of boundaries: in the story of the kidnapped bride, the climax clearly conveys a redefinition of the dissolved boundary between the human and demonic worlds. Rabbi Ya’aqov’s actions, as we have seen, are conducive to eliminating these boundaries. Thus the one preserves the social order while the other repeatedly disrupts it.

The divergence between Rabbi Ya’aqov’s death legend and the legends of his sainted ancestors, from dynasty founder Rabbi Avraham el-Kebir, through his son Rabbi David, to Rabbi Avraham, Wazana’s father, reinforces the sense of Wazana’s deviancy. The narrative structures underlying the stories of his marriage and death present an aberrant pattern of binary opposition and tension with the normative saint legends. As indicated, while these oppositions may assume different guises, their recurrence is impressively systematic.6 The divergent patterns of structural inversion bear a clear moral message: censure for Wazana compared with his forebears, an implicit condemnation for a man with no respect for boundaries, a man who unhesitatingly violated the social order, who willfully misused the privilege he inherited from his saintly ancestors. However, the reproof of Wazana inherent in his death legend, and which the comparison with the family tsaddiqim heavily underscores, was almost entirely absent from the informants’ personal evaluations. The emotions that colored their memories were nostalgic and affectionate. Like the legends, their personal stories related primarily to Wazana’s uniqueness and remarkability: the assertion that “there was no one like Wazana anywhere in Morocco,” was heard more often than any other, but the tone of voice in which it was spoken expressed wonder and esteem rather than disapprobation.

It seems that Wazana’s unusual marginality and dismissiveness of the regulations of the social order were responsible for the plainly ambivalent attitude toward him (as reflected in the tension between the affectionate personal recollections and the harsh tone of his death legend). On the one hand he was perceived as alarming and dangerous; on the other, the unlimited healing powers ascribed to him made him into a vital communal resource. To appreciate Wazana’s special place within the Jewish community, we must examine the meaning of that dangerous but therapeutic marginality.

Wazana’s exceptionality owed to the fact that cohabiting in his persona were different, mutually exclusive social elements normally perceived by traditional Moroccan society as fundamentally antagonistic. In his uncompromising push toward extremes, the roots of which we have attempted to analyze in the previous chapter, Wazana did away with the strict demarcations that normally separated these categories, providing a bridge between them. The alchemic nature of his activities and his very essence was manifest on many levels: Within a cosmology that allocates humans and jnun clearly distinct (though juxtaposed) worlds, Wazana crossed the ontological border by marrying a demonic wife who produced demonic offspring. In a society in which Jew and Muslim belonged to sharply differentiated social categories, he shattered religious-ethnic lines by adopting a mixed Muslim-Jewish identity. In a world that placed, as all religions do, the sacred and the profane at conflicting ends of the social order, he destroyed the moral-theosophical divide, in that he was (by virtue of his role as rabbi-healer) empowered both by the piety and sanctity of his ancestors as well as by impure agents (the demons).

Furthermore, basic social roles were left unoccupied by Wazana. Without family, he never assumed the roles of “husband” or “father”—at least not “above the ground.” He never cared for material wealth and was free of most mundane concerns, having amassed no possessions—not even his own home. In a society highly segregated by age and sex, he befriended women, children, and layabouts in a reckless manner, unconcerned with his own status and prestige as a healer. Even age categories were inapplicable to Wazana in the usual sense. His acquaintances contend that his age was a mystery to them, since his appearance seemed unmarked by time until the day he died.

What is the significance of this formless, slippery alchemic quality that dissolved boundaries, defied norms, and challenged the social order? And why does it gather, story by story, in an increasingly thick cloud around the figure of Wazana? The answers apparently lie in the tremendous stores of energy released by discarding the oppressive impositions of social constraints, allowing flexibility and creativity to surge from beneath the rubble of the social order, and in the fertile power of the forbidden coupling of normally sharply differentiated fundaments and categories.

Anthropologist Mary Douglas (1966) offers some excellent insights into the sources of the power and inherent dangers of blurring boundaries and mixing the contents of social concepts and categories. Douglas emphasizes that the wish to apprehend the world represents a primal, pan-human drive expressed through the imposition of order on natural and social phenomena, and by their organization into divisions and taxonomies. This drive to gain understanding by means of structuring, which is conceptualized differently depending on the culture, offers society members a cognitive map with which to interpret their reality. The map however can never be complete and there will inevitably remain a residue of deviant phenomena that refuses to be classified since its components belong to categories perceived by the cultural order as incompatible, irreconcilable, and contradictory. Such phenomena are indefinable since they cross the conceptual boundaries recognized by the culture. From this inability to conceptualize, certain phenomena evoke feelings of puzzlement, disquiet, and revulsion. Thus we find in both tribal and complex societies a distinct tendency to steer clear of aberrant phenomena, which the society views as dangerously powerful. This may be seen, for example, in the Jewish dietary laws (kashrut), and in the myths and rituals of the Lele group in Zaire (Douglas 1957). The former forbid the eating of certain “deviant” animals, such as those that do not chew the cud and do not have cloven hooves, or fish that lack fins and scales. The latter see the pangolin—an anteater resembling a fish with its tail and scales, other mammals in its limbs and habitat, and humans in certain aspects of its behavior (for example, it does not flee from hunters like other animals, but rolls into an armored ball and freezes)—as an object of fear and veneration purported to possess tremendous fertility powers. With a stretch of the imagination, can we find a resemblance between Wazana and the pangolin?

Insofar as we are discussing borders, it seems that the resemblance indeed exists. The illimitable Wazana, like his comrades the demons, was able to assume and discard disguises. Like demons, he could become formless and invisible—in this way he evaded capture in Casablanca—and in his healing activities, he could break down the constraints of time and space. By being both human and close to demons, a Jew and a Muslim, young and old, holy and profane, masculine and feminine, he commanded forces totally unavailable to normal mortals trapped within their rigid boundaries of age and sex, position and status, religion and ethnicity, and harnessed those powers for the benefit of others.

The above analysis captures Wazana as a mediated figure, with a non-static, but fluid and flexible place in the world. He is not classifiable or definable in terms of definitive social categories, being usually located on the threshold between them, wandering their edges, drawn to the brink of the social order, defying and challenging its constraints. In fact, he appears as the quintessence of liminality (Lat. Limten, meaning “threshold”). Anthropologist Victor Turner (1967, 1969, 1974)7 has explained liminality as an elementary though latent social process, primarily typified by absence of order, elimination of structural divisions, ambiguity, and openness. It manifests itself for circumscribed periods of time, in highly ceremonial social events, when differentiations of extraction and socioeconomic status melt away. Consequently participants in such events—for example, adolescent participants in a tribal initiation ceremony, or pilgrims flocking to a shrine—meld into a single, homogeneous, egalitarian grouping sharing a sense of fraternity and common destiny. When structure is eliminated through the temporary suspension of the social arrangements that regulate daily existence, a unique opportunity arises for social change and cultural regeneration. While the resultant anti-structure acts to threaten and endanger the existence of the social order, it also furnishes fertile ground for the emergence of a new kind of order.

How can we apply the concept of liminality, which actually refers to the social process of dissolving structural demarcations, to a human figure such as Wazana? Among all the various efforts to define as “liminal figures” such social actors as beggars, clowns, saints, and other types of “strangers” whose lives actualize emancipation from the constraints of social order, the suggestion put forward by Don Handelman (1985,1991) seems the most apt. According to Handelman, certain cultural figures (human or mythological) are believed to possess extraordinary charismatic powers that carry the liminal process into the fabric of social life. These figures, which he labels “symbolic types,” have such undeviating fidelity to their inner truth that they are unwilling to compromise whatsoever with social order constraints. Furthermore, their emancipation from social and cultural frameworks empowers them to mold these contexts in their own image. Symbolic types often embody the basic social dilemmas, contradictions, and paradoxes perceived and articulated by their cultures. This gives them an inner complexity that licenses them as agents of social change but also vests in them the power to restabilize the social structure. As such they appear as intermediaries between different levels of order and disorder embedded in social life. Can we view Wazana as a symbolic type?

If it is possible to apply the term “symbolic type” to certain healers, including Wazana, this is mainly because they harness the cultural contradictions and paradoxes they personify, the disorder that lies at the very heart of their natures, in order to restore order. Sickness, like many other human afflictions, is perceived, in the broadest sense, as deviation from equilibrium and harmony—an assault on the normal course of the social order. This perception is most evident in such traditional societies as the Jewish community of southern Morocco. According to the penetrating analysis advanced by anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff (1976), healers in such societies, particularly those we recognize as shamans,8 derive their healing powers from their ability to seize the edges of the universe and provide a bridge between different worlds. The main challenge of their role is to preserve the state of balance between the opposites they have bridged.

Myerhoff recounts her utter amazement at the daring acrobatics performed by the Indian shamans she met. She describes the way Domenico, a healer of the Luiseno tribe in southern California, performed hair-raising balancing feats every Friday afternoon on the roof of his house. Elsewhere, she recalls her amazement at Ramon, of the Huichol tribe in northern Mexico, who executed similar feats on a towering cliff high above a plunging waterfall. It took a while for the researcher to realize that through these acrobatics, the Indian shamans were demonstrating their skills in balancing and mediating between worlds. Their expertise allowed them to correct and heal distortion, in other words, to restore order to the world. Can we then compare Wazana to Domenico and Ramon, the Indian shamans?

The fact that Wazana was the quintessential embodiment of his culture’s contradictions afforded him the tools for “bridging between worlds.” His activities involved dissolving boundaries, best reflected in the act of summoning the demons to assist him in this world. He served to rectify divergence and restore the equilibrium when it was disturbed. As a symbolic, liminal type, Wazana enjoyed emancipation from social order constraints, “he could turn the country upside down,” while contrastingly this very freedom enabled him to uphold the order of the world. This dialectic tension can be seen plainly in the types of problems Wazana treated: he enabled young girls to find spouses, while never marrying himself (that is, never “above the ground”); he helped the barren, while remaining childless “above the ground”; he restored sexual potency to other men, while his own sexual life was meager or nonexistent.

Indeed, many informants saw Wazana as a defender of order. One even remarked that all thefts and burglaries had ceased when Wazana came to Agouim: “no one dared steal anymore.” According to another, “in our town, you could leave your gold on the sidewalk and no one took it—they dared not touch it.” So deeply rooted was the image of Wazana as the guardian of order and harmony that some informants even connected Wazana’s death with the upsurge of terrorism in Morocco!9 It is an interesting note that even Rabbi Ya’aqov’s name embodies a reminder of his role as mediator and restorer of balance: in Arabic, wazana means to balance.

However, Wazana’s capacity to restore order was contingent upon his capacity to preserve the balance between the opposites he bridged. Here, it would appear, lay the seed of the disaster that eventually led to his downfall. It lay in his tendency to “go all the way,” to gaze into the forbidden, and to seek to retrieve the irretrievable. This disposition, which ultimately played havoc with his role as mediator and restorer of balance, may be explained on the psychological level as a reaction to the painful loss of both parents, and, on the cultural level, in terms of the inner logic of the symbolic type indifferent to external constraints running counter to his nature. Wazana balanced between worlds, but also ended up clashing with their various inhabitants. A part of him was Muslim, but the Arabs pursued him in Casablanca and threatened his life in Assarag, finally seducing him into using his powers on their behalf—at the cost of his life. He was partly demonic, but he transgressed the only prohibition imposed on him by the demons,10 trespassing on forbidden territory to become their quarry. He was part saint, but he affronted God by seeking to alter the order of the universe and by saving a life destined for death, and, moreover, by proclaiming to God’s emissaries, the demons, that: “Even if it [the affliction] comes from higher still, I must save her, I am not afraid.” All these factors resulted in his downfall.

The story of Wazana’s death, which is in itself an expression of the restoration of order between the human and demonic worlds, points to the dangers of a marginality that crosses accepted social boundaries, and to the heavy price paid when the bridging is excessive and far-reaching. In his tragic end, reinforced by the fact that “nothing of his remained,” it is almost as if a cultural verdict has been passed on this remarkable and restless individual, who defied every norm and broke every rule in pursuit of freedom from limitations.

In light of this analysis, we cannot avoid feeling a sense of poetic justice in the fact that Wazana, the symbolic type of traditional Jewish society of southern Morocco, died in the early 1950s, before the mass emigration of Moroccan Jews to Israel reached its height. He was spared the sight of the passing of the way of life he himself embodied, and worse still, the installment of a disenchanted new reality with which he, a symbolic type, loyal to himself, could never have compromised. Wazana’s absolute loyalty to the inner truth that drove him, whether driven by a unique mental constellation (“psychology”) or by virtue of his cultural construction as a symbolic model (“culture”), is reflected in the timing of his death, no less than in the events of his life. That power of loyalty to his own nature has determined that his figure remains untarnished by time, growing brighter over the years, its enduring power and vitality transforming him into the legend before us today.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814343258
MARC Record
OCLC
1056055376
Pages
136-147
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-08
Language
English
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC
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