Un rituale sincretico e polisemico: la lila degli Gnawa marocchini

This paper analyzes a complex ritual called lila (“night”) performed by the Gnawa, descendants of West African slaves brought to Morocco through the Trans-Saharan trade. The lila is an example of religious and cultural syncretism between Sufi Islam and African rituals of possession trance. The all-night ceremony begins with an animal sacrifice (dbiha), followed by a procession (aada) and a dance performance (kouyou). Later the maalem (master musician) consecrates and “opens” the space (ftouh er-rahba) and he calls seven families of spirits (mlouk). The ceremony evokes the first sacrifice of God and the creation of the universe. Yet the ritual takes place mostly for therapeutic purposes. The lila is the expression of the dynamic interplay of different meanings and multiple dimensions such as religion, politics, medicine and aesthetics.