Traditional Medicine Against Oral Thrush
Traditional Medicine Against Oral ThrushTherapies used in traditional societies are obviously remote from modern biomedical beliefs and standards. In Kabylia, for instance, traditional medicine is holistic and illness is regarded as the result of magical, divine, and natural forces. Therefore, the performance of highly symbolic rituals, which follow the duality principle (sun/moon, right/left, etc.) and the power of numbers (four and seven for instance), among other archetypical concepts, is the key to getting rid of the disease. To illustrate these rituals, two examples of traditional medicine against thrush from Tagemmunt Azuz, At Mahmud, are described in this article.
Thrush is a fungus disease of the face and mouth area commonly affecting children. In Tamazight (Kabyle) it is called tagdit (pl. tigedidin) if the upper jaw is affected, and tawremt (pl. tiwermin) if the lower jaw is affected. When early symptoms occur, the infant is partially shaved on the temporal areas by his mother, who, speaking to the causative fungus, says:
Ksegh tigedidin, ksegh tiwermin Limer matctci t-tajembbit n-tsed’ila tili ghed’legh at tmira
I took off tigedidin, I took off tiwermin Without the shaving razor I could have knocked down the bearded
In the evening, a bowl of water is prepared. While the child is inside the house, the mother, or a “sorceress’’ winds the pot seven times around the child’s head from right (R) to left (L), counting up to seven. Then she does it again, from left to right. While doing so, she says:
R: Ta n cfa L: Ta n ddwa R: Ta l-lmerfa< l-lebla L: Cqa d lebla ikka berra R: Naaleq-ak-ts, a R’ebbi di le L: Cfa d ddwa R: Di le
This is for the cure This is for the medicine This is for the bad to vanish Misfortune and bad, stay out I leave this request to you, I beg you God Cure and medicine With the protection of God and the saints
Then she takes the bowl outside and, invoking the stars, she repeats three times the following:
Tif tagdurt yensan i yetran Wala seb Aqli t-taghribt garawen Annagh a R’ebbi d sidna Djebrayen Ad iyi-teddmem lebla n mmi At teksem yiwen yiwen At teksem tigdidin, tiwermin, tafukt, tiziri Ad as-d-errem tizewghi, timelli, tasusmi, t-tguni S lfed’l-ik a R’ebbi a
Better have a pot sleeping out under the stars than the writings of seven religious scholars(1) I am a stranger among you O God, O Gabriel Take the illness away from my son Take it away one by one Take away tigedidin, tiwermin, sunshine, moonlight Bring him back rosy white skin, tranquil, and rested With your kindness, O God the highest
The mother then leaves the bowl out and goes to sleep. The next morning, she walks to a male fig tree (a fig tree producing black figs called “ajenjal’’) or a pomegranate tree. She takes the child and the bowl with her and walks around the tree with them. Then she washes the feet, hands, and face of the child, saying each time:
Ksegh tagdit tawremt
I cured tagdit and tawremt
After that, she washes her nipples and removes four pieces from the bark of the fig tree (or pomegranate tree) using a knife, and attaches them to the wrists and feet of the child. Then she throws away the bowl and its contents, saying:
Djdjigh tigedidin, tiwermin, tafukt, tiziri Bwigh cfa, bwigh ddwa
I left tigedidin, tiwermin, sunshine, moonlight I took the cure with me, I took the medicine with me
while making a gesture above her head every time she mentions the disease. Finally, she returns home and takes off the bark she put on her child.
BY NADIA AT MENSUR
1. This particular saying clearly shows how strong pre-Islamic religious beliefs are. The stars are here described as more powerful than the Moslem saints.
2. Special thanks to Father Jacques Lanfry from Tagemmunt Azuz for providing me with the precious original documents from Fichier de Documentation Berbere, Paris. Father Lanfry is the author of a French-Tamazight dictionary (dialect of Ghadames, Libya) and a number of articles in Fichier de Documentation Berbere which he directed after the death of Father Jean Marie Dallet.