Aicha La contessa with a Thousand stories
I start my saying with the name of The most gracious and
The most merciful,
The creator of everything.
(read The Pandora Box to understand the opening sentence here)
This is the story of Aicha, a warrior with a thousand stories.
Aicha was born to an Amazigh* father and Sudanese mother. She was born in an occupied village in the city of Mazighen or as the Portuguese named it Mazagan (today Al Jadida). Her description changes a lot and depends on how the teller perceives physical beauty or ugliness. Some describe her as a mesmerizingly beautiful woman and others as an ugly vicious creature with a human body and goat legs who killed thousands of men. Even though many storytellers are captivated by her legendary beauty, attractiveness was not Aicha’s main trait. Her body had played a role in the creation of the personage but this came late in her life!
A Fearless Leader
It is her courage and fearless behaviour against the occupier that have made her a legend. She was the leader of a fierce guerrilla and the daughter of an influential Tribal chef whose life was dedicated to the liberation of the country. She mastered the art of war and the forests were her home. She had led a number of attacks that destroyed tens of military bases and properties belonging to the occupier. After each attack she retired to the forest, which made it impossible for the enemy to lay hands on her. The foreign soldiers sarcastically called her “The Contessa” in reference to her social rank and her military skills.
She was indeed an awesome leader. Aicha was highly esteemed by everyone and the support of her people made her stronger. They would protect her and her soldiers if they were in trouble and when she had to hide for long periods of time, the people took turns to bring her food.
The Contessa’s influence was getting out of control. To break her, the colonizer killed her entire family and jailed tens of her soldiers.
She was now without any support but her will grew stronger. She was filled with rage. In addition to the liberation of her country, personal revenge fueled her anger.
On her father’s tomb she swore:“Father, I will not have rest until the last foreign soldier has left our territory! I will show them what The Contessa is capable of!”
So she took her military uniform off and replaced it with a long white dress. Aicha’s face was unknown to the foreign soldiers. Like all the women of her tribe, she had always covered her face and hair. Even when she was a war chief. They couldn’t suspect that the lady in white was Aicha La Contessa.
Her new strategy was to lure foreign soldiers into following her to the woods where she drowned them. She operated during the night and always took her victims near water. This is probably why her personage has always been associated with lakes and swamps. She is now recognised for being the Jinn of rivers.
Aicha seemed undefeatable! The villagers, who did not know she was back or even alive, were as intrigued as the occupier but their support for the mysterious hero was still unconditional!
People were writing encouraging tags on the walls! They offered their help and support!
One night, as Aicha was looking for a new victim, a villager saw and recognized her!
The man was so surprised that he screamed:“Aicha! Is that you?”
Aicha ran away to hide but it was too late.
Other soldiers had already heard him and ran to their chief:
“It is Aicha The Contessa! She is back! She is killing our men! Aicha The Contessa!”
The Power of Bad Rumours
Now that the identity of the mysterious heroine was uncovered, a different type of war had to be launched against her. The occupier decided that the most effective way to get rid of Aicha was by targeting people’s spirit and morale.
Instead of looking up to her, the occupier had to persuade people that they should fear her and either run from her or kill her themselves …Their next step was to sow the seeds of doubt and fear and harvest bitterness. And it worked well …
They started a rumour saying that Aicha had, in fact, been killed with her family and that it was not her but her spirit that came back to seek revenge. The spirit hated humans, men in particular. Once a man has approached her there is no escape.
Sadly, despite their love, support and respect for everything Aicha had done for them, the people of her village were also skeptical about her strength! Aicha was a better warrior than all the men of her village combined! This story sounded convincing! Aicha was only powerful because she was not human!
A few days later, the occupier kidnapped and killed 4 male villagers to justify their malefic plan! Aicha La Contessa was not a threat to the occupier only but to all men! She hated men and came back to earth to eliminate them all!
They said that Aicha was wearing a long gown to hide her hideous nature. To make her even scarier they told everyone that she had a human body and goat legs.
The villagers heard this story so many times that they started hearing the sound of goat hooves everywhere! Tac Tac Tac Tac … at night, every night … it was all the villagers heard. Fear took over and as Bertrand Russell once said:
“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty.”
The villagers were so scared that they wouldn’t leave their houses after sunset! Urban legends were circulated and nobody could tell anymore where the truth was! Aicha La Contessa’s horrible acts against men were on every set of lips!
People believed this story and now Aicha was not only persecuted by the occupier but her own people saw her as a threat and refused to help her.
La Contessa was on her own for the first time in her life!
And, before long, she was captured and executed.
But Aicha’s legend lived on. Everybody believed that Aicha’s spirit haunts rivers and that she would appear to anyone who ventured into isolated places during the night!
… Then a New Beginning
Aicha did not really die! The story of Aicha la Contessa was told over and over again until she became Aicha Qandisha! You will hear so many stories about her, this is why I call her the Warrior with a thousand stories, you will never know which one is the real story, or if there has ever been a real story. Even today people are so scared of Aicha that they will not say her name!
This version will always be my favourite. It is one of the many example of how active and fearless heroines in folktales have become witches, and maleficent spirits.