The Prophet Muhammad has sanctioned certain types of treatment that later spread with the spread of Islam. The following is a brief description of the treatment of a mental case in a typical northern Sudanese faki’s clinic. However, this description should be taken critically, for it is neither universal nor typical. But since it illustrates many methods of treatment, it forms a useful starting point for this discussion.
The mentally-ill patient is confined to a separate compartment within the faki’s compound, and put in chains if aggressive. His diet is a very light one mostly kisra (dura bread) with water and oil. It is also salt-free. The faki starts treatment by thrashing the patient with a date palm frond on which are inscribed some Quranic verses, and, possibly, mystical words and letters too. When the patient is apparently subdued, the faki applies a nasal douche called tas’it. These regimens, erasure and ‘azima to be mentioned presently, are mainly directed towards exorcising the evil spirits. During treatment, the faki gives mihaya, holy erasure, to the patient to drink, and performs ‘azima from time to time. When the patient is said to be cured, he or she is given a hijab to wear for protection.
In 1933, Hussey gave the following analysis of the faki’s method of treatment:
“We find that the first stage is the subordination of the sufferer’s will to that of the master, and this is effected by theological magic and the orgumentum ad baculum. His mind begins to function normally in the presence of the Feki and he generally yields to the influence of suggestion. The patient knows that he is being treated by a celebrated curer and the whole process is for him full of unspoken suggestion. The nasal douche, the daily draughts and sprays of liquid gospel all suggest to him that the evil thing is being driven out. He believes he is possessed by a ginn and the knowledge that the Feki, reinforced with applications of Koran, is mightier than the ginn, all help to strengthen the suggestion of eventual cure; and when the Feki begins to ask him questions and he finds he can reply to the obvious pleasure of his doctor, he feels that the evil spirit is being overcome. He is in fact able to recognize his mind and readjust the balance.”
The spitting cure or al-‘azima is a popular procedure practised by Muslim healers in the Sudan, but by no means confined to them alone; non-Muslim healers practise a similar form. The non-Muslim Dinka tribe of the southern Sudan has a similar version of the spitting cure. Doll, a healer who is generally recognized by a big bundle of finger rings (the gifts of grateful mothers), spits on infants to cure sickness. Grove reporting on the customs of the Acholi, contended that among these people spitting is regarded as a form of blessing and most ceremonies freeing people from curses, evil spirits, etc., include a spit in the face at some point or other.
Al-‘azima is the mumbling of selected Quranic verses, incantations, or some awrad (litanies) by the faki. While doing so, he lays his hand on the patient’s head and spits at the patient after each verse to transfer baraka. If the faki is unable to visit his patient, his spittle is mixed with water and taken to the patient. As a modification of this method, the faki chews a certain type of root until he converts it into a pulp, adds spittle to it, and applies the mixture to the patient’s nostrils. The patient usually sneezes violently, and is therefore considered relieved or even cured. Sneezing in many cultures, the Sudanese included, is believed to be the expulsion of harm from the body. One should, thus, be grateful when one sneezes; hence, the different formulas for blessing the sneezer. Tas'it, alluded to underneath, takes advantage of this belief.
Tas’it, a similar procedure to induce sneezing, is used in treating the mentally-ill. In this procedure the faki chews cumin seeds, adds some of his spittle to it, and then forces the mixture up the patient’s nose. Alternatively, a mixture of herbs including rab’a and cumin is mixed with liquid butter and then poured up the patient’s nostrils. Later, the faki assesses his patient before continuing with other types of treatment.
Incantations and rituals that accompany medicinal prescriptions, have been constant elements in treatment regimens of most healers. Neither the nature of the recipe, nor the wording of the incantations, nor the different rites performed, are advocated as a cure per se. All make up the total treatment regime, and the omission of any element may abort the whole procedure and render it useless. The Azande tribe of the southern Sudan provides an excellent example of this concept in a non-Muslim community.
The Azande is the only tribe we know of who practice divination by the poison ordeal. We noted earlier (page 95) that though the Azande know that the benge is poisonous to humans (and fowl), their practitioners never use the herbal poison for evil. To them, this substance works only if it completes a ritual process involving theft or sin.
The mihaya is a drink the Muslim healers prepare by writing certain Quranic verses in ‘amar ink using a dura-cane pen on a lohe (wooden tablet). The writing is then washed, and the erased ‘holy’ fluid is given to the client to drink. Sometimes, the writing is made in honey on a clean china plate. Alternatively, the writing is made on a medicinal root that is then boiled. Its decoction is either taken as a drink, or burnt as an incense.
The erasure is prescribed to treat or protect against all types of diseases, or to increase the chances of success in some venture. Alternatively, it is dispensed as a general tonic whenever a healer is available to prepare it. Unlike the hijabs, the mihaya is thought to have limited potency, and its effects to be short-lived.
Al-Tom has described the practice of drinking the Quran among the Berti tribes of the northern Darfur region, and has reported on the communal consumption of erasure, performed during epidemics to eradicate the disease from the whole community. The erasure is believed to save not only those who have caught the disease in question, but also the healthy members.
This type of communal erasure was organized in the Broosh village in 1976. It was called wazn al-kitab (the Book’s weight). It involved copying the whole text of the Quran on one day, to be erased and drunk by the whole village. All those who are capable of writing—fakis, students, merchants, and school teachers, participated. Some more fakis were invited from the neighbourhood villages. More than fifty ‘writers’ were soon in action. A large quantity of water was collected in huge pots. The writing took several hours, starting from the early morning until sunset; then the slates were washed and the task declared accomplished. During this time, several goats were killed and food was served several times to feed the task force. Finally, after washing all the writings from the slates into the pots, the erasure was distributed to all the families in the villagers.
Incensing with bakhra is performed for the treatment of a variety of ailments and for protection against the evil eye. There are two popular methods of incensing in the Muslim Sudan—the bakhra and the takhriga.
The bakhra is a sheet of white paper on which the faki writes some astrological formulas, magical seals and numerical squares, with holy verses from the Quran. The paper is then folded; a few such papers are made and given to the patient. One bakhra at a time is burnt in a mubkhar (incense burner), alone or with frankincense and ambergris. The patient bends over the incense burner, enveloped in a tobe (cloth). He then inhales the fumes. The process is usually accompanied by incantations, a spitting cure, or other forms of treatment. The takhriga, on the other hand, is an assortment of herbs called bakhur al-taiman (the twin’s incense), and is burnt mainly to expel the evil eye and subsequently protect against its influence. The assortment includes various minerals and aromatic herbs such as shebb, ‘irq al-‘alali, qarad (sunt pods) ‘ain al-‘arus (Abrus precatorius), kasbara (coriander), cumin, luban (Commiphora pedunculata), ghasoul (Salicornia sp.), and fakook. A well-known incantation is loudly recited while dusting the ingredients over the fire.
Other special incense mixtures are burnt to undo magical spells; one such is the combination of fakouk, ghasoul alluded to above, and harmal (wild rue, Peganum harmala). This assortment is said to reverse magic over an area of seven neighbouring houses. The bewitched, however, has to wash his or her feet in rigla (purslane) water before undergoing the incense therapy.
Bakhur al-haza (haza incense) is yet another assortment claimed to be as effective as bakhur al-taiman. The ingredients of this incense are haza (Haplophyllum tuberculatum), shebb (alum), harjal (Solenostema argel), um ghilaila or um gheleghla (Astrochlaena lachnosperma), ganzabil (ginger), mahareb (Cymbopogon nercitus), and sugar.
Michael Howes, in his book Amulets, defines an amulet as an “article made of wood, stone, metal or other substance upon which magical characters or figures have been inscribed or engraved.” Objects with magical properties that bring luck are sometimes referred to as talismans; animated ones may be called mascots. It appears, however, that there is no clear distinction between amulets and talismans; whatever brings luck protects, and whatever protects is lucky. They are all charms, and as such may be termed amulets. A fetish, on the other hand, is an object that is the seat of magic power. It may be the abode of a spirit or may have been charged by the medicine man with the mystic power, mana, or manitou, or whatever it may have been called. It may be an object of worship, and may be used for good or evil.
Amulets, categorically known as huruz, are known and used all over the Sudan, especially among the Muslims. They are mainly protective in nature and as such are worn by those members undergoing initiation rites in the northern Sudan. They are also prescribed following the successful treatment of any disease to prevent it from recurring and to protect against others afflictions.
Some amulets acquire their special attributes from the special inscriptions they contain, from the nature of their material, their colour, or their shape. Others, such as the ‘ushar fruit (Calotropis procera) are used for their symbolic value. Its seeds are noted for dispersing widely and growing apparently without need for water; it is not difficult to see why they are used as an amulet to promote fertility.
An amulet can be a substance chosen for its intrinsic properties, a written one like a phylactery, or a verbal one making use of the power of words. There are general amulets that anyone can use, and more special ones prescribed only for women, men, grooms, bridegrooms, infants, children, the circumcised boy or girl, livestock, and property.
Amulets are prescribed mainly to avert the evil eye, evil spirits and other malicious powers. They also confer protection against the jealousy and anger of others, or unforeseen setbacks in general. They may be used to attain success in the different fields of life, to get a job, to attract the affection of a desired man or woman, to retain someone’s love, and to obtain children.
Although it is the substance of the amulet that frequently endows it with special properties, written words, numbers, or figures may also be credited with mystical power. Amulets usually contain a variety of special inscriptions, magical numbers, symbols, seals and names, verses from the Quran, prayers, and invocations.
The late Professor Tigani Al-Mahi carried out an investigation on a sample of amulets and charms in use in the Sudan. He published his conclusions in 1958 in An Introduction to the History of Arabian Medicine. He found:
“That after subtracting the local factors, the origin of the amulets, charms and incantations investigated, can be traced back to Babylon. The symbols used resemble those of the Mesmeric language, while the efficacious names invoked or averted are mere corruptions of the names of the Babylonian gods. The numerical squares, especially the ones whose numbers added transversely, vertically or diagonally to 15, are Syrian in origin. Also, the frequently used number ‘60’ and its derivatives (the sexagesimal system of numbers), is Babylonian in origin.”
He also found that two books of early Arab writings are particularly popular in the Sudan; these are Shumus Al-Anwar by Al-Tilmisani and Shams Al-Ma’arif Al-Kubra by Al-Boni (see Bibliography). Magic seals drawn from the first book are thought responsible for sporadic cases of psychological disturbance among the population.
The huruz (singular hirz) are a variety of items believed to charm, or protect against harm and disease. The items that are regarded as huruz include printed awrad (litanies), bones of animals or fish, dried chameleon or crocodile heads or skin, rhinoceros tusks, a pig’s or a dog’s canine teeth, a wolf’s teeth or skin, the skin of a waral (iguana lizard), a giraffe hair, wad’ (cowrie shell), pieces of a holy man’s clothing, his hair-clipping, nail-pairing or a zwara, a pinch of earth taken from his burial-place. The clays from Abu Haraz’ shrine and that of Al-Mikashfi are proverbially effective in curing some diseases and protecting against many others.
The hafidha (the protector)
The hafida is a protective amulet specially made for children, and is usually worn on a pendant around the neck. It is a silver disk on which is inscribed the invocation “Protector, Protect our little Ahmad” or whatever the name of the child is.
The tamima is a string of beads with a tassel tied to the hair of the nafasa (a woman who has recently given birth) to protect her against her own baby, whose constant gaze is believed to be a cause of a maternal hair loss. Later, when the child is older, the tamima is tied to his or her hair to avert the evil eye.
The hijabs (phylacteries)
The hijab (plural hijbat) is a sheet of white paper on which selected Quranic verses are written, supplemented with one or more of the 99 names of God, names of Archangels, Angels, jinns, some astrological formulas, magical numbers, and seals. All items in the hijab are purported to work through mystical, magical or religious attributes. The content of each hijab differs with the function it is intended to perform.
In Kordofan, the harrasa (the guard), is a type of hijab specially prescribed for children. Al-Tom, however, reported on a different function for the harrasa among the Berti, where it is hung, unfolded and uncovered, over the entrance to a hut, presumably to protect it and its occupants.
The paper of the hijab is folded in a special way, wrapped or cased in metal and hung by a pendant around the neck, worn across the trunk, or around the arm or waist. The wrapping material is usually cloth or leather, while the casing is usually forged out of silver or tin, and always elaborately decorated. They are usually worn under the garments of their owners, although young men and women frequently wear hijbat for everybody to see. They then play an obvious role in their adornment.
Hijbat are prescribed on request to grant safe passage through all the changes and chances of life. They are sought to protect against health-threatening situations involving the evil eye, evil spirits, sorcery, and other mishaps. They are procured to shield the wearer against injury from weapons, to frighten or stupefy enemies, or generally to ensure success in this or that sphere of activity. They are also obtained to achieve more sinister objectives, to facilitate acts of robbery or adultery, for instance.
The efficacy of a hijab depends on many factors. Its price should be consonant with the prescriber’s reputation; it should be worn by the person for whom it is prescribed if its purpose is protective, and hidden or destroyed, if it is required to bewitch someone. These are important precautions, because a hijab is personal, and for a specified function. Indeed, while making the hijab, the faki notes the tabi’a (humour) of his client or that of the person to be charmed.
Amulets that are made to protect their wearer against injury by sharp weapons, are usually wrapped in a chameleon or a barada (electric fish) skin. If so this wrapping must remain in place. Amulets that are intended to protect property, are attached to the items themselves, and will lose their efficacy if they come adrift.
It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of all the types of hijabs. Amulets that are made to protect against injury by a weapon are the easiest to test. Many people claim to have seen men whose skin had become almost impenetrable to the sharpest of daggers, and others who had deflected bullets as if they were cereal grains. However, a hijab may fail and wearing it then becomes useless or even dangerous. This has happened in several situations with fatal results.
Belief in the prescriber of an amulet, especially a written one like a hijab, is a prerequisite for its efficacy. Also, a person for whom a hijab is prescribed must not look into its contents. Indeed, clients are instructed and warned to take this precaution seriously; neither they nor the saddler who binds the hijabs should do so. If for any reason this requirement is breached, the amulet is rendered ineffective. This is what happened to the special amulet that was written for Mahioba, a concubine in the Funj era, which we alluded to elsewhwere in this site.
The ‘uqda is an amulet made of seven knots tied on a cloth ribbon and blown upon by the faki, who utters incantations while tying each knot. The ‘uqda is obtained for the protection of pregnant women, and for the prevention and cure of fever. The notable sidi Al-Hasan of Tokar town, has an effective ‘uqda that is sought by women from all over the Sudan. However, the ‘uqda is not always protective or curative; some of them are obtained to do harm.
‘Tying cures’ especially al-‘aqqad, habl al-‘azima, al-haqu, are popular in the Sudan. In this type of treatment, a ‘tie’ is applied to any diseased part to affect a cure through magical religious attributes. Al-‘aqqad, for example, is a cord obtained from a wali’s shrine, and habl al-‘azima is a cord or a robe to which the faki has transferred some of his spittle and has read some incantations.
The ‘ties’ are often associated with other forms of treatment, including the wearing of charms, the scarring of the affected part or the ingestion of medicines. The most popular sites for applying a ‘tie’ are around the head for headache, around the chest for all types of chest pain and cough, and around the belly to ensure safe pregnancy, and to alleviate a variety of abdominal diseases and disturbances.
A bead called al-hasara is sometimes added to a ‘tie’, and is applied to a sick child’s waist. When more than one bead is added to a ‘tie’, they usually alternate with silver balls, and the amulet is then called al-haqu.
Certain rare stones are believed to possess curative and protective properties when mounted on rings, bracelets, or worn on necklaces or a ‘tie’. A rare stone called al-hajar al-akhdar, a hard green stone resembling spar, is believed to have styptic properties.
Hajar al-hirra (the cat’s stone) or ‘ain al-hirra (the cat’s eye) is a polished pure white stone worn by men on the finger or around the wrist to safeguard the owner against having children by women other than his legitimate wife. A careful husband, Anderson reported in 1908 in Kordofan, before leaving an untrustworthy wife for any period, soaks this stone in sour milk, which he then gives the woman to drink; should she commit adultery, then she would not have illegitimate offspring.
This, an opalescent whitish stone, which literally means the hail, is said to be worn by the man to protect his horse against disease. Conversely, the charm may be hung on the horse to protect its master.
Fass al-damm, hajar al-damm (the blood stone)
Fass al-damm or hajar al-damm is an amber-coloured stone, usually attached to a red silk band and worn on a cord around the neck or in a ring. It is believed to have styptic properties. It is, thus, used to stop various types of bleeding including postpartum haemorrhage and epistaxis. Also, it is used as a cure for sunstroke and headache. The water in which it is boiled is applied to the skin or drunk as a general medicine for various ailments.
Sibhat al-yasur is a jet string of beads that contains a ferous (turquoise) bead and is an indispensable part of the jartiq (ritual decoration) of a child prepared for circumcision, brides, and bridegrooms. This string of beads is worn around the patient’s loins to prevent urinary retention. Sometimes, the water in which it is soaked is taken as internal medicine. The stone also brings luck for the day if looked at by the wearer first thing in the morning. It is also recognized as a mascot.
Al-sibha or al-subha, prayer rosary, is a popular item used in reciting certain phrases of worship, especially after the Muslim prayers. The Wahhabis consider this use of the prayer beads as a bid’a (an innovation), that should be discouraged. The common prayer rosary is made of 99 beads, believed to be equivalent in number to the names of God; every 33 beads are separated by a rectangular one called shahid (witness). The piece in which the two ends of the prayer beads are joined is alif (alpha in the Arabic alphabet) representing the name of Allah.
Some Sufi shaikhs in the Sudan use prayer strings of 1000 beads of lalobe (fruits of hijlij tree) called al-alfiyya. These prayer beads are used as amulets to confer protection on the wearer, and because of the divine purpose they are used for, they are thought to have a blessed nature of their own. A set of prayer beads is frequently seen hung in cars around the rear-mirror, its function apparently decorative, but possibly also amuletic—to ensure safe travel and perhaps to protect the car from robbery. Some Sufi shaikhs and elderly women used to wear the sibha around their necks, probably as a show of piety and rejection of worldly pursuits.
In northern Sudan, the scarab beetle is an amulet that protects against witchcraft, and it is also a talisman that brings luck. It is cut in stone and worn in a ring or in a red silk band as a bracelet.
The ju’rana, Scarab beetle (Scarabaeus sacer) is a famous relic of ancient Egypt; its use as an amulet in Riverain Sudan is thus not unexpected. In the exhibits of the National Museum in Khartoum, several specimens of scarab beetles cut in various types of stones can be seen; they were collected in archaeological surveys of ancient Sudan. In 1920, Mac Diarmid wrote to Sudan Notes and Records commenting on the frequent use of the scarab beetle among the Nuba of western Sudan:
“What importance, if any, can be attached to the fact that one often sees Nuba people, men and women, wearing beetles very similar to scarabs, hung round their necks or from their belts? There seems to be only one kind of beetle thus worn and it is not by any means the most highly-coloured one they could find in this region, so it does not seem to be worn merely for ornamental reasons. Has this any connection with the wearing of scarabs among the ancient Egyptians and the Hamitic elements in the origin of many of the Sudanese people?”
Some metal implements and weapons have amuletic functions because of the type of metal they are made of and possibly because of their shape. Kohl pins and long needles feature prominently in the mushahara cult (see page 192), both their shape and the type of metal being credited with protective properties. Sharp weapons such as spears, swords, axes or knives are constant companions of the pregnant woman and the newly-wed. Almost all metals—brass, copper, bronze, silver, and iron—appear to have amuletic attributes.
A double spiral amulet was discovered in the rain-eroded graves near the ruined town of Uri, in northern Darfur (probably founded circa 13th C.). Arkel reports on this amulet saying:
“In Darfur it is not worn to-day by any of the indigenous peoples. It is, however, worn occasionally by women of the Aulad Suliman, Magharba, Urfilla, Bedur and other “Arab Kanem” who form part of the “Fezzan” community at El Fasher and who all came from Tripoli via Kanem a generation or two ago. By these people it is called indiscriminately fusa, khusa, or kusa, which (?) means “metal charm.” It is worn by the women of these tribes on the threads which form a long artificial lock, which hangs over the shoulder in front and inside the outer garment ….”
This amulet is also found in Egypt, Kenya, Tanganyika, Nigeria, Sumatra and other sites in Asia, and is made of either copper, iron, brass, or bronze. It is usually worn in most of these places in relation to prenatal or postnatal periods, and, therefore by women and young children rather than men.
The “Arab Kanem’, says Arkel:
“Look on this charm as connected with fertility or birth, or more generally as a protection against the evil eye. It may be put on small male infants so that the evil eye may not harm them. It is worn by both married and unmarried women; the married women say that it will make them fruitful or preserve the children they already have, and unmarried women say that it will preserve their beauty from the evil eye. Women are also said to drink as a medicine the water in which it has been standing, and also to hang it on a cord over their children’s stomachs as a cure for internal pains.”
The amulet as such, reports Arkel, has disappeared from the western regions of the Sudan where this relic was found, but kohl pins with double spiral heads are still known. In Al-Fashir in Darfur, for seven days after a woman has given birth, it is usual for her to wear a muruad (kohl pin), with a double spiral head in her hair whenever she leaves her house. The protection conferred is sometimes attributed to the iron out of which it is carved, and which is thought to drive the jinns away. The kohl pin features regularly in the mushahara in all of the Muslim Sudan, as a protective device.
The design, however, seems to tell a different story. There is no doubt that the double spiral is a very old magic symbol; the idea behind the pin with a double spiral head and the amulet is the same. In prehistoric times, the simple spiral must have been regarded as possessing magic virtues, owing to its appearance as a line without an end; by association of ideas, since like produces like, it must have been hoped that the endless line would confer long life, if not immortality. Arkel believed that the spiral, through developments of its basic shape, later acquired its explicit association with birth and the organs of sex. The charm may now, be looked upon as a representative of the organs of either sex.
Throughout the Sudan, and mainly in Riverain and eastern regions, some relics of Christianity can be traced in the health practices of the Muslim and animist population of the country. One such relic is the sign of the cross, a sign of power among Christians.
People use the sign of the cross as an amulet for protective and curative purposes, and sometimes as a ritual element of no obvious significance. The sign is drawn in soot or in black antimony on the forehead of a newborn child, or a child running a fever, to avert the evil eye or to cure the fever, respectively.
Among the Nuba of Heiban of the western Sudan, an identical sign is made with dung on the body of a very sick person, and before the Heiban Nuba girls begin to dance they put some dust on their chests in a manner that, if seen in an eastern Church, would be called “making the sign of the Cross.” Also, a little Nuba boy accused of stealing makes this cross on his chest when he denies the charge.
The practice of this custom in the central Sudan can be attributed to the belief that unbelievers or Christians are immune to the evil eye. Alternatively, it may be a modified form of the ancient Arabian practice of keeping some antimony on the face of the newborn child until it is past the first 40 days of life. When the antimony is applied to the dimple in its chin it is called tadsim.
In the Red Sea region, a Dongonab child is marked with a cross on the forehead with antimony as a guard against the evil eye. In the zar ceremonies, the cross is sometimes made in blood on the forehead of adults if the possessing spirit should so direct.
In the Wadi Halfa region, the sign is drawn on the palm of the hand, and the doorways are adorned with plates arranged in the sign of the cross. This is thought to drive the evil eye away. In the same region the Muslimized Nubians rejoice in their own way celebrating the occasion of ‘ashura. They light fires and spread decorations on both banks of the Nile. They fill their fishing nets with date palm fronds, and all, men, women and children, go into the river to swim. They bring back silt from which each family makes three crosses that they fix to the threshold of their houses; they believe that this averts the evil eye.
Among the Sakkoat, as part of ritual celebration of a newborn, crosses are painted outside the house where the child has been born and also on the bins in which grain and dates are stored: these crosses are made with the blood of any animals which are killed for the various feasts in connection with the birth, naming and so forth.
In Donqola Province, Crowfoot adds, crosses are also made with the infant’s meconium and again afterwards at feasts with the blood of animals. Similar practices are reported from Al-Fashir where blood of the ‘aqiqa (naming ceremony), is used to paint crosses on the doors of the house, the foreheads of the child and its mother, and of any women present who care to mark themselves so.
Colours play an important role as amulets as well as providing cures in their own right. The colours most popularly used in the Sudan are red, white, green, and black. The colour red holds an especial place in social rituals, as well as in healing ceremonies and procedures, where it recurs frequently.
The firka, a well known female sari dress in the Sudan, which is worn by the bride, the circumcised child and the nafasa (the woman who has recently given birth), is made of red silk. The birishs (straw mats) that cover their beds, are made of date palm fronds and dyed red. It is also firmly believed that red covers and curtains are necessary to enhance the treatment of patients suffering from damm al-tayyir or urticaria. Black things are thought to repel evil spirits; for this reason, egg plant, black cumin seeds, and pieces of charcoal are kept constantly under the pregnant woman’s bed.
The name of the Prophet Noah is invoked to effect a rescue from all situations of stress or need. In Sudanese folklore, the story of this Prophet and his ark has degenerated into a common verbal amulet that women use in petitioning. The most common formula is ya al-nabi Noah, min gal Noah najahu Allah (Oh! Prophet Noah, he who invokes Noah, Allah saves him).
Jawharat al-kamal, a litany of the Kamaliyya Sufi order, is recited three times to protect travellers while they are away and ensures their safe return. The word ‘bondage’ is believed to bind just as tightly as a physical bond does. When, for example, two people are bidding each other farewell, one utters half of the Muslim shihada: la ilaha illa Allah; the other completes the statement: Muhammad rasoulul Allah. This act symbolizes that the two persons will undoubtedly join again since the shihada, in both its wording and meaning, is an indivisible unit.
W.T. Clark described the manners, customs and beliefs of the northern Bega tribe of eastern Sudan. He said that, when a member of the Bisharin tribe gets married for the first time, the crowning ornament of the marriage house is the sank-wahakur:
“This is made of the young leaves from the heart of the dom palm tied with black, white and brown wool, somewhat after the fashion of a fly-whisk. To it are attached miniature tethering ropes for camels and boy’s sandals. This is prepared by the women and placed over the entrance of the house where it remains for 2 years or more, until it has completely disintegrated. The sankwab is a valuable charm—it brings luck, and the small ropes and sandals are to ensure that the camels increase and that men-children bless the union . . . etc.”
In these tribes also, Clark adds, an elderly man wears a za’af (dom palm frond) bracelet around his wrist at ‘id al-adhiya (the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice), and renews it at each subsequent occasion. This the Bisharin tribesmen regard as a talisman that prolongs life. In eastern as well as in Riverain Sudan, the green date palm leaves are used to splash milk or river water over brides and bridegrooms. Other popular lucky charms, include the lion’s claw, and bracelets made of ostrich feathers and elephant hair.
Oyler, studying the medical practices of the Shilluk, reported that the fetish plays a very large part in the work of a witch-doctor. He issues the little charms for many different purposes. They are supposed to give protection on a journey, to ensure success in courtship, to protect from wild animals, to ensure a favourable judgment, and to protect cattle in crossing a river. Many other powers are ascribed to them. However, a fetish is only effective for the one purpose for which it was obtained.
 Hussey, Eric R.J. A Feki's Clinic, Sudan Notes and Records; 1923; 6: 35.
 Grove, Captain E. T. N. Customs of the Acholi. Sudan Notes and Records. 2(2): 157-182.
 ‘Amar ink is a mixture of soot, gum arabic, and water containing a tuft of hair soaked in a dawaya or an ink-pot; it is prepared by the fakis for writing in khalwas (Quranic schools), and for general purpose writing, as well as in making the different types of hijbat.
 Al-Tom holds a different view. He argues, and logically, that 'the commitment of the Quran to memory is regarded [in Berti society] as superior to the other two methods of retaining the Qur'an, its superiority lying in its potential for instant reproduction through recitation. Although the drinking of the Qur'an is seen as inferior to its commitment to memory, this is regarded as superior to retaining it in the form of amulets. The latter stands at a disadvantage as the amulet can be lost, left behind or spoilt by ritual dirt.' (Al-Tom 1987, Op. Cit.). However, logic does not always hold true in real life; erasure is always prescribed for a particular occasion limited in time and place, and it is not all the Holy Book that is contained in the writing but a few verses or short chapters. That is why in Berti society erasure is taken only a few times in a year, and why in the northern Sudan it is taken just prior to the intended venture or at the onset of a disease, for example.
 Abdullahi Osman El-Tom. Drinking the Koran: The meaning of Koranic verses in Berti erasure. Africa; 1985; 55, 4.
 El-Tom. Op. Cit. Page 22.
 For more information on the taxonomic names, English equivalents when available, and other uses of these items, please see the appropriate entries in the appended Materia Medica.
 Abd Allah Al-Tayib reported on a riverain version of this incantation (1958).
 Howes, Michael. Amulets. London: Robert Hale & Company, 1.9-15:12.
 Sigerist, Henry E. Primitive and Archaic Medicine. New York: Oxford University Press; 1967. 564 pages.
 Tigani Al-Mahi. An Introduction to the History of Arabian Medicine. (in Arabic) Khartoum: Misr Printing Press, 1959: 18.
 The word huruz is also used to denote the category of protective amulets in general.
 In Arabic a tamima is an amulet worn on the body.
 Abdullahi Osman Al-Tom. Berti Qur'anic Amulets. Journal of religion in Africa; 1987; 17(3): 224-244.
 Ready-made hijbat are sometimes sold by street peddlers. They are exhibited with medicinal herbs, roots, and small items, in the streets of most Sudanese towns. Al-Tom reported on a similar tendency of impersonalization of hijbat among the Berti tribe in Darfur. This trend to commercialize and display hijbat for sale, he added, is abhorred by many fakis in the Berti area. Al-Tom 1987: 226.
 The price of a hijab ranges from few piastres to few hundred pounds in the currency few decades ago.
 Reference here is to the medieval four humours theory alluded to in page Error! Bookmark not defined..
 Muhammad Al-Nur Ibn Dayf Allah ( -1809). Kitab Al-tabaqat fi khusus alawliya wa 1-salihin wa 1-ulama wa I-shw’ara (1805!) ed. Yusuf Fadl Hasan, Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1985. page 146.
 Naom Shuqair, early this century, identified this stone as ‘aqiq.
 A mineral bead that is bluish-green or greenish-blue in colour.
 Abu Huraira, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad, and a narrator of Hadith, was said to be the first to use the rosary in Islam, and his was made of 1000 glistening beads.
 In ancient Egypt the "Scarab beetle … was the emblem of Khepera or Kheperi, the self-begetting, self-creating sun god, .. holding the solar disk as the beetle holds his dung ball" Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (scarab beetle); see also Wallis Budge, E.A. Amulets and Superstition, pages 135-37.
 Mac Diarmid, DN. The Sign of the Cross. Sudan Notes and Records. 1920: 3: 171.
 Arkel, AJ. The Double Spiral Amulet. Sudan Notes and Records. 1939, 20: 151-55.
 See Arkel, A.J. Op. Cit. for further discussion on the different views relating this spiral to sex, and to the hieroglyphic emblem of the same design.
 Mac Diarmid, DN. Op. Cit.
 Abd Allah Abd Al-Rahman in Al-'Arablya fi Al-Sudan (page 13) reported on this Arab custom. He quoted a saying for Osman the fourth successor (Caliph) of the Prophet Muhammad, who said when he saw a handsome healthy child, and was afraid that the child would be bewitched, 'dassimu nunatuhu’ (antimonize his chin dimple).
 In addition to its religious symbolism, the Coptic Christians in Egypt tattooed or drew the sign of the cross on their arms as an amulet to ward off the evil eye. This was done both for its aesthetic value, and to identify them as an ethnic minority among Muslims.
 The 10th day of Rajab, the seventh month of the Hijra calendar.
 Crowfoot, J. W. Angels of the Nile (Banat al-hur). Sudan Notes and Records. 1919; 2(3): 183-194.
 See footnote: Crowfoot, J. W. Angels of the Nile (Banat al-hur). Sudan Notes and Records. 1919; 2(3): 189.
 The bride's and bridegroom's birishs are made of white mat.
 This is the first and most important of the five pillars of Islamic faith.
 Clark, WT. Manners, Customs and Beliefs of the Northern Beja. Sudan Notes and Records, 1938: 21 (1); 1-29.
 Oyler, Rev. D.S. The Shilluk's Beliefs in the Good Medicine Men. Sudan Notes and Records; 1920; 3: 110-116.