The Tuareg live in one of the most inhospitable areas of the planet: the central part of the Sahara Desert. Their whole existence, difficult and precarious, is dominated by an overriding concern to protect and defend themselves from hostile supernatural forces that inhabit the surrounding environment – the ” Jinn ” (evil spirits, from the terrible Ghul to the Ifrit, no less cruel in tending traps to travelers) – and gain the protection of beneficial genies.
The same typical turban – the litham – that completely covers the face of the Tuareg except the eyes, has the primary function of protecting the “gates of the soul” (mouth and nostrils ) from the Jinn. But the main instruments of protection are the amulets and talismans. Every Tuareg, man or woman, old or young child , has an amulet or a talisman: leather ( the gri-gri ) or silver (the khomissar , the tcherot , the herz), often contain magic formulas, powders of animal and / or vegetable or verses from the Koran. Very often one stands out among these talismans: the upper part is a ring and the lower part is a lozenge-shaped with small tips: this is the Tuareg Cross.
What is the history of the Tuareg Cross? What is its origin? What is its significance? It’s impossible to give definitive and unambiguous answers: we are in Africa, where everything is always true and possible. According to the “official collection” of the Cooperative of Artisans of Agades, the Tuareg Crosses are 21 , each of which indicates a location of origin. The only exception is the Karaga Cross which is inspired by the typical Tuareg bed. There are only 4 certainties:
- the word ” Cross” is a term attributed by Europeans and is totally unrelated to the Tuareg language;
- the Cross must be strictly in silver or silver alloy. Silver is the metal of Allah, as opposed to gold , which is considered a demonic metal. Mohammed has formally disapproved all metals except silver. Rings , seals, amulets made of gold, copper or iron are prohibited in the Muslim tradition;
- the archetype, the first, the true, the progenitor of all Tuareg Crosses is the Cross of Agades, but also those of Iférouane , Tahoua , Zinder and In Gall are considered “anciennes”, that means truly, real, authentic, original. All other crosses derived from these five;
- Tuareg crosses were passed down from father to son with the words, “I give you the four corners of the world, because one cannot know where one will die”.
About the meaning of the Tuareg Crosses there are several theories:
- they derived from the Egyptian Ankh symbol from which would be derived the carteginese symbol of the Goddess Tanit and, finally, the Tuareg Crosses;
- they are a sex symbol: especially in Agades , Zinder and In Gall crosses is evident the presence of two elements, which can be linked to a stylized depiction of the two sex symbols: the tip, male symbol, and the ring, the symbol of women;
- they are talismans that protect from the evil eye: in the form of several types of crosses and in the decoration of almost all types appears the presence of triangular elements that constitute the representation more stylized of apotropaic eye;
- they derived from the Southern Cross : there is an undeniable resemblance between the position of the four stars of the Southern Cross (three of the first magnitude and a forth ) and the bottom part of the diamond-shaped Agades Cross.