"And whosoever turns away from remembering and mentioning the Most Beneficent, we appoint for him Shayatin to be a Qareen to him." ~ Surat Az-Zukhruf, الزخرف, Holy Quran, 43
In Sufism and the folk-medicine of the Islamic world we find many references to the treatment of new mothers, and how important their wellbeing is for the health of the community. In Morroco the old traditions guide healers that new mothers need to be cared for intensively to avoid post-natal depression, psychosis and the entrance of the "Qarina" demon into the women.
The Qarin (Arabic: قرين , Plural: Qarana) is explained as "companion" in Arabic, Qarana means also to connect, associate, be together. This underscores the ambigious spirit within the "Qarin" and "Qarina". Every human has a Qarin, a dark mirror image of one's self, but we also have an angel, a bright companion. In the Quran the Qarin is explained as a tempting spirit which is directed by God to test us. In Islamic prayers both spirits, the bright angel and the dark demon are greeted respectfully.
The Qarana are associated with the pre-islamic times and specifically with the fortune tellers (Kuhhan) - the Holy Quran warns of those explicitly.
Qarina – the Post-Natal Demon
The female Form of the Qarin is the Qarina – it can be interpreted as a post natal demon (aka “Post-Natale Psychosis”). The Ethnographer Kornelius Henschel describes in his book "Geister, Magier und Muslime. Dämonenwelt und Geisteraustreibung im Islam" (Diederichs Gelbe Reihe 134; München), the Qarina as follows:
“The female form of the Qarin has a central place in folk beliefs. She is commonly described as post-natal demon and is associated with Lilith (see also the legend of the Lilith). The Qarina (like Lilith) swor to take revenge on humans (men in particular) and tries since then to get control over the unborns, babies and toddlers."
Lilith's dark origins lie in Babylonian demonology, where amulets and incantations were used to counter the sinister powers of this winged spirit who preyed on pregnant women and infants. Lilith next migrated to the world of the ancient Hittites, Egyptians, Israelites and Greeks. She makes a solitary appearance in the Bible, as a wilderness demon shunned by the prophet Isaiah. In the Middle Ages she reappears in Jewish sources as the shunned first wife of Adam. The Irish novelist James Joyce casts her as the “patron of abortions".
The ancient name “Lilith” derives from a Sumerian word for female demons or wind spirits—the lilītu and the related ardat lilǐ. The lilītu dwells in desert lands and open country spaces and is especially dangerous to pregnant women and infants.
As such Lilith and her twin, the Qarina, are much more then folkish myths. The Qarina is a revengeful and angry spirit that arises in response to systems of misogynist abuse and the neglect of women. She embedds herself in the psyche and body of a woman during pregnancy and in particular after birth. The Qarina's wild and desperate desire is to take revenge against men and tempts a woman to destroy what she loves the most - her own children. Because it is through her children and because of her ability to conceive children that a woman is held in bondage by men. The Qarina wants to destroy this system but can not to so without destroying herself. While the Qarina has a rightous claim for her anger, she is in fact also a slave to the very system she revolts against. As such she is a menace, a killer and does not "crack" the misogynist system. Worse so, the Qarina enhances the claim of men over women, because she demonstrates that "women are mad". One can also interpret the Qarina as a child snatcher and women destroyer and a mad ghost possessing mad governmental agencies, abusive men and other sinister agents of misogynist powers that prey on children and vulnerable mothers.
Healing Qarina - the traditional 40 day post-natal treatment
Over the last years a couple of small business lead by women have sprung up to offer private post-natal healing services to women. The entrepeneur and healer Layla B has launched a campaign to reclaim traditional Morrocan Islamic post-partum medicine.
Her 40 day treatment for new mothers includes to:
Welcome The New Mother
Honour The New Mother
Nourish The New Mother
Nurture The New Mother
Close The New Mother
and Celebrate The New Mother.
The treatment to "Close the Mothers" includes closing the bone, which is a ritual traditional to the Middle-East and Northern-Africa.
"The woman is 'swaddled' into a cloth from head to toe. Starting from the head and going down, all parts of the body are closed, aiming to aid the bones, muscles, organs and everything to slowly go back to the pre-pregnancy state. After the full closing, the women lays on her side and her legs are massaged and rubbed strongly, her hips are squeezed down, her pubic bone is slightly pushed and then a belly binding is done using the same cloth. There is also another variation where the woman is also closed on her side and also massaged with olive oil on her legs, arms and stomach.
It is a sacred ritual and ceremony, which heals the new mother but also helps to close the pregnancy and birth phase which has ended. It is a physical, emotional and spiritual experience; usually prayers are made before starting. It is combined with other nourishing, nurturing and celebrative rituals, rather than a stand-alone affair.
It is commonly known to be used for postpartum women, however in Morocco, it was also previously used during the wars when Moroccan men would come back after a rigorous day and need to be 'closed' to recover and heal and go back to war again."
After a woman has gone through labour and birth, a woman has lost a lot of energy, and is in a state of natural 'trauma'. The pelvis has enlarged and the body and psyche of the woman are "open". The woman needs to be closed to prevent trauma from becoming permanent, for the body to recover and for the woman to be protected from Post-Natal Depression and Psychosis.
The entire post-natal treatment process takes 40 days, which underlines that the tradition of "closing women" is rooted in Sufism (see also my article on Spiritual Transmission and Fatima).
Despite all scientific medicine in Western cultures, only few countries offer any actual postpartum healing support to new mothers. Many public services are designed to surveillance her rather then mending and supporting her. It is in old traditions that we find remedies how to heal wounded mothers and how to protect and ensure survival and well being for all people, mothers, fathers and children. To help and heal mothers who are haunted and wounded by forced adoption, wrongful child removal and abuse we need to heal social and psychic wounds that are often older then they are.