One of the most interesting things that we did while in Morocco was go to the Grotto of Lala Aisha. At the time, I didn’t quite realize the significance of the place for the people who believe in her. Yes, I understood that while there we needed to be respectful, just as one should be respectful when visiting any place of religious or spiritual significance. At the time, there were things that I noticed, but which I didn’t realize the meaning of until I read Crapanzano’s book Tuhami.
Before entering the grotto you have to pass through a sort of “atrium” like area where there is a small venue to buy candles and rosewater among other things. Within this atrium space, there were several men from the local village sitting and talking. Women were absent from the entire area, besides the women in our group there were no local women there. I now realize that this is because Lala Aisha is specifically a demon that interacts with men. Capranzano notes that there are several of types of relationships she has with men including marriage, being “struck by her” and enslavement (Capranzano 15).
While in the Grotto as a gesture of respect we lit candles and sprinkled rose water as well as passing candles over various parts of our bodies. In my view, these acts seemed almost superficial or superstitious, but this is because I was not raised in a religious or spiritual tradition that emphasized acts such as these. Or so I thought. Thinking about it, I remembered a time when I was in London and visited Westminster Abbey. While there I lit a candle for one of my friends. The concept is the same, that a small gesture represents a greater wish. As we have studied this issue I can better appreciate what Capranzano succinctly notes, that Lala Aisha, for those who believe in her “[is] simply real in a different way” (Capranzano 15).