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History between truth and legend
In all the regions of Morocco, numerous saints, whose origin has been effaced, still inhabit and haunt the collective memory; only legends or speculations remain. Essaouira is no exception to the rule.
Sidi Mogdul, whose name has a Punic or Hebraic origin, is a somewhat of a mystery. The shrine dedicated to him is located at the end of the town in the direction of Marrakech, a white building behind the lighthouse and close to the camping site.
“Amogdul”, the old name of Mogador, would have given its name to the saint patron of fishermen, who is supposed to have been a local marabout, descending from one of the seven Regraga saints, descending from the Prophet. One of the rumours that some maintain is that “Mogdul” is a distortion of “Mac Donald”, a Scottish doctor shipwrecked on the beach after his boat was wrecked at sea. He is meant to have helped the population so much that after his death and in order to show their gratitude, they would have made him a saint. But all this is pure speculation.
Often, even if one does not know the legend, one does not question the sanctity of the person because the great great grandmother told the great grandmother who told the grandmother who told the mother… The notion of sanctity is part of a way of thinking, of an education based on ritual ceremonies. Any event that does not have a rational explanation is automatically labelled holy, cursed or a consequence of the evil eye. To each situation is assigned an explanation, and it becomes a reflex. The majority of saints who are known today come from legends or events going back a long time.
The theory of the vox populi or the voice of the people, is of course worthy of credibility. It often happens that the person in charge of the sanctuary will initiate, narrate and so perpetuate the legend. When this key character dies, the saint loses a bit of his fame, his mausoleum falls into ruins and may vanish: there again, stories change.
A legend is born, and then others replace it. Populations need to have their own landmarks; they make their own a story in order to explain what is beyond their understanding, or to set themselves apart from others. Then, we are confronted with another realm, even more irrational, the realm of the chorfas, descendants of the Prophet, and guardians of the Divine faith. Every village or town has it or its chorfas: Marrakech and its seven saints, Essaouira its Sidi Mogdoul etc.. One has to look for the hidden piece of History behind each legend.