Tea and talismans

suleiman bedouin jordan
Suleiman, Jordan desert (photo © Carol Isaacs 2017)

On a hike through the desert mountains of Jordan last month I met some Bedouins. Over a cup of tooth-curling sweet tea we discussed, amongst other things, wolves. Suleiman, a local tribesman, told me that they also have the wolf myth in their culture. A wolf’s tooth, sin-el-ḏheeb, is tied to a piece of coloured thread and used to protect against evil. They also believed that the fur taken from between the eyes of a wolf and worn around the neck of a hunter would keep him awake all night. I asked if there had been any sightings in the local area. The Bedouin are generally very respectful of the wolf and admire its hunting abilities but Suleiman told me regretfully that last month his cousins had to kill a couple of them as they had attacked their goats, leaving 14 dead. Some of the older women of the tribe would use parts of the wolf to make medicine for women about to give birth.

This is the amulet I found amongst my late mother’s belongings and there is a similar one on display at the Babylonian Heritage Museum in Israel. Generally they would have a gold Hamsa attached and a small turquoise stone. They would be pinned to a baby’s crib as protection against malevolent spirits.

THE_SURREAL_McCOY_WOB_18

Does anyone else have memories of this amulet? I’d be very interested to hear from non-Jewish Iraqis as well.

3 thoughts on “Tea and talismans

  1. Memories of Sin Aldheeb ( The Wolf tooth)

    Although I don’t remember much about the amulet, but excavating deep in old memories and here what I remember:
    I remember seeing it placed around the arm of babies, literally as a band on the babies’ upper part of the arm. I also remember seeing it attached to little braided bunch of baby’s hair dangling on foreheads or at times attached to babies’ sleeve or on the breast and I am pretty sure on the heart side. As you know they are for protection from evil eye, people used to believe. The silver palm was called “The hand of Abbas” (Eed Al Abbas), also people used to put a short text referring to it which says “A stick in the envious eye” (عين الحسود بيها عود). Abbas is one of the martyrs of the Shi’a sect who was portrayed as the bravest fighter accompanied his cousin Imam Hussein. It was said that he was known for his swordsmanship. I also remember seeing it pinned on the baby’s breast clothing of the woman who used to deliver her delicious buffalo thick cream my mother used to order from her few times a week for our breakfast. The woman used to sell the buffalo cream in different plates sizes made of aluminium, so my mother used to order different sizes for adults and children and the older you get the bigger the size of your buffalo cream dish would be. Few days in the week the breakfast before going to school would be: buffalo thick cream, dates’ syrup, freshly baked flat bread and sweet tea. Best wishes……….Al Atar

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  2. Charming indeed…I’ve heard of these curses and it depends on the region.

    Slight correction Abbas is Hussein’s brother, just checked it. Sorry

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