In West African, there exists a group of Islamic holy men and women known as “Marabouts” who specialize in teaching, counseling, scholarship, healing, divination, magic, and the manipulation of spirits. These holy men and women are seen as embodying Baraka, which is defined as divine blessing. This is witnessed in qualities such as spiritual grace, personal force, unique power, charisma and luck. With this divine blessing, Marabouts are viewed as being closer to God than normal humans and therefore act as facilitators between God, the spirits and ordinary people. Most Marabouts split their time between work and religious specializations such as dream interpretation, clairvoyance, divination and meditation. It is through these different mediums that Marabouts are able to act as healers and uncover diagnoses and ultimately treatments. Marabouts may meditate or partake in any of these specializations on behalf of someone if they need healing or protection by summoning spirits and communicating with them about the problems present in the individual. Marabouts also assume different leadership roles and help the community in group recitation, which is used during religious holidays, to combat natural disasters or end social troubles. Furthermore, Marabouts are in charge of the manufacture and manipulation of various talismans that are believed to have special powers. They also direct people on how they should wear and carry their talismans to receive the most divine power and protection from them. Along with this they help educate people on when talismans must be removed such as during bathing or premarital sex. Through these various positions and responsibilities, Marabouts act as leaders and wise men in their communities to help people when needed or provide sources of healing when illness strikes. Unfortunately, the author finds that Marabouts have recently come under fire by radical Islamic groups who believe their traditions are more related to witchcraft than Muslim teachings.
*The picture on this page depicts a Marabout holy man