Aicha Kandicha

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Aicha Kandicha (Moroccan Arabic: عيشة قنديشة‎, romanized: ʿayša qəndiša, referred to in some works as Qandisa) is a female mythological figure in northern Moroccan folklore. One of a number of folkloric characters who are similar to jinn, but have distinct personalities, she is typically depicted as a beautiful young woman who has the legs of a hoofed animal such as a goat or camel. Although descriptions of Aicha Kandicha vary from region to region within Morocco, she is generally thought to live near water sources, and is said to use her beauty to seduce local men and then madden or kill them.

Nearly all accounts of Aicha Kandicha identify her home as a nearby body of water. In Tangier, this is thought to be the sea; in Tetouan it is the Martil river, in Fes it is a drainage canal, and among the Beni Ahsen it is the Sebou river. There is also general agreement that she primarily preys upon young men, whom she entices with her beauty or by posing as their wives. More localized beliefs about Aicha Kandicha, such as those of the Beni Ahsen, include that she is afraid of steel knives and needles and that she has a husband (or male associate) known as Hammu Qayyu. In more southern regions of Morocco, including Doukkala, she is instead called “Kharaja.”

In the traditions of the Buffi Sufi order, Aicha Kandicha is only one of a number of female jinn with the given name Aicha, each of whom have different personalities. The Buffis believe her to wear black garments, have camel-like feet, cause pregnant women who see her to miscarry, and cause people she possesses to bray or bark like animals. Names that may be synonymous with Aicha Kandicha elsewhere—including “Sudanese Aicha” (ʿayša s-sudaniya) and “Aicha of the Sea” (ʿayša l-bəḥriya) — are seen by the Buffis as unique entities.

Edvard Westermarck claimed that Aicha Kandicha’s name is “distinctly of Eastern origin,” co-identifying her with the temple harlot Qetesh in ancient Canaanite religion and tying her to the cult of the fertility goddess Astarte. Westermarck suggests that Phoenician colonies in North Africa first introduced Kandicha, who was later folded into Islamic traditions while maintaining her licentious nature and association with aquatic environments. He also proposes that her associate Hammu Qayyu may be inspired by the Carthaginian fertility god Hammon.

An alternate proposal is that Kandicha was derived from a real historical figure, namely a Moroccan “countess” (contessa) from el Jadida who helped resist the Portuguese by seducing soldiers, who were then killed by Moroccan fighters lying in wait.

In popular culture
Aicha Kandicha has been referenced in a number of Moroccan cultural works, including books, films, and songs. One example is the Gnawa tune Lalla Aicha.

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