Everything about Kabylia

The older women: The Crone

Makilam is a Kabyle, a historian and a PhD. She was raised in a village of the Djurdjura ,in Kabylia ,until she was seventeen, and has since lived in Europe. She has always remained very close to her roots, and her testimony, interspersed with personal experiences, sheds completely new light on the rituals and myths of this vanishing society.


Birth of the grandchildren

 In the eyes of the Kabyles, the woman is the foundation of the house and the family, but her role as woman and mother is only completely fulfilled when she becomes a grandmother. One of the most important tasks a mother can have, is the search for the wife for her sons, for it ensures the continuation of the family line through her descendants. From early childhood onwards traditional upbringing of the Kabyle boy is geared toward keeping him close by his mother’s house. It is not desirable for the young married man to cut the ties to his mother. Traditionally the daughters also stay in close proximity to their mother, in order to marry a cousin from a neighbouring house. Only at the beginning of the 20th century did marriages between different villages become more common. By marrying outside the original family kinship-group the women followed the men to settle far away from their mothers close to their mothers-in-law, who coordinated all economic affairs of the local family group.
The search for a “bride” has become much more difficult these days. As long as the task is still under female guidance, I can attest to the fact that they still concentrate on the same family group and that the descendants of the mother are favoured.

When the first child gets married, the mother calls herself grandmother according to her new role, tamghart or the Crone. In Kabyle language this word expresses her very honourable position. At the same time her role as mother to her grown up children lasts to her death. In old Kabylia the mother cares for the children of her son turned father and at the same time assists her daughter-in-law in her mother role. This is carried out to such a degree that gifts at the birth of a child are handed to the grandmother, not to the mother or the father of the child. The relationship between a mother and a daughter is of utmost importance. The mother hands down all her knowledge to the daughter, the heiress of all the mother’s wisdom. She is endowed with a “special love”.

At the end of her life the grandmother is viewed as magic. In her womb she created human beings, who have been recipients of her nourishment and care. She turns into a weaver who is able to weave together the threads of life of the ancestors with those of the descendants. The crone was present at every fertility rite and directed all ritualistic-magical work. Based on her experience she often became a midwife and every evening recounted the myth and fairytales she had heard from her mother and passed them on along with her mother’s wisdom to her grandchildren.

Return to the earth

In Kabyle mythology, i.e. the narrative of The first parents of the world, human beings were born from the earth. In this way the Kabyles believe the dead return to the belly of the earth, where they came from. The funeral customs clearly show up, the return to the earth follows the same rituals, which leads by progressive stages to the birth of an infant. Any remains of the dead person have to be removed before the third day after the death occurred. Within those days the straying soul of the deceased is hovering over the threshold of the door of the house and will return after 40 days. The visit to the cemetery has to be conducted on the 3rd and the 40th day after the death. We find the observance of these magical 40 days after delivery and also after the funeral. In this way life takes on an eternal cyclical character, which is continually carried forward in the womb of the mothers. The funeral rituals make clear that death is not perceived as the end of life, but as the cyclical renewal, serving the renewal of all of life of nature, the earth and the heavens.

“In the perception of everybody, death is but a changeover in existence, a kind of transit time, and belief in a life after death is all encompassing. One does not say a person is “gone”, but that she or he is “heading for another world”, (teruh di-laxert), for the life down here and the future life is, we are assured, two sisters amazingly alike, whom we will get to know one after the other.” (Laoust-Chantréaux, p. 241)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on 15/10/2013 by in Freedom of speech, Kultur.
Follow Kabylia on WordPress.com


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,823 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 122,433 hits
%d bloggers like this: