Algeria is a north-African country situated on the Mediterranean Sea, just below Tunisia and relies primarily on its oil sector for revenue. Algerian superstitions are rich, diverse and old – the many different pieces of amulets play an important role in people’s beliefs. The country which is almost 80% Muslim has a robust tradition of using amulets and talismans crafted by sheikhs.
Talisman is a word used for a number of objects that have been used to protect or bestow notions of spiritual enlightened properties on one. It is also known as taweez. Taweez has been popularised amongst Algerian people over centuries to charm luck, ward off curses, protect oneself from unholy enchanters, confer protection against enemies, attract success in love and career, and induce good dreams and inspirations as well as purify locations/persons from demonic influences.
In rural areas called Berber regions or Zemma, here we find a vast network of traditional craftsmen specialising in talismans -taweez. Their use goes back centuries. A taweez gives the owner peace of mind and protection from the evil eye, a phenomenon that has had an important place in Islamic culture. Some believe it takes its origin in Biblical times when the evil eye is mentioned in the Bible.
The practice of making taweez came about as a response to a belief that some people were more powerful than others and could exert an evil eye, inflicting harm on objects or people without even touching them. In order to counteract this power, one could simply acquire a taweez which would then protect him from the evil eye. The talisman has always been an integral part of what it means to live life as a Muslim in Algeria – particularly when dealing with rituals specific to Islam such as pilgrimages. Talismans are inseparable from one`s spiritual beliefs even if they are not declared Muslims.
Local vendors sell these goods to be popular with tourists, make a living, and satisfy their superstitions. Families also make quick profits by marketing such goods through their mothers, who oftentimes use them for prayer purposes and try to gather more powerful ones for sale on the market. Around 20% of Algerians now use Taweez to protect them and their families from evil and harm.
This is because they follow Islamic traditions that stress the importance of taweez in carrying one towards paradise. The belief is so embedded into this culture that over 100 boutiques in just three cities offer these talismans to customers with varied benefit claims that may include: healing, defence from bad things, blessing newborn babies and curing people attacked by different spells or harmful djinns.
The talisman-taweez tradition was founded after the prophet’s Khadija (may her Soul be filled with peace) passed on away. Legend has it that three women of great cleverness and even greater beauty gathered a few items of clothing that belonged to Sahaba (the companions of the prophet Muhammad) and developed the taweez. These talismans are believed to offer protection from sorcery in some instances and bear resemblance to crosses known as Atalim.
However, the first official case oftaweezin Algeria was recorded in the late 16th century. From then, it became popular among the local women and in other Arab countries, who believed that they held mystical powers for protection. Additionally, it is believed that these talismans also have the power to cause harm to those who are considered enemies. In Islam, taweez are only believed to work if they are written by a Muslim scribe with the intention of helping or harming others. These amulets or charms are not intended to replace normal prayers as protection from the evil eye and similar issues, but rather provide additional protection.