For the Kabylian, agriculture, like any other essential activity, is not a simple profane technique having to do with life. Agriculture is above all a ritual …
The plowman penetrates and integrates into a sacred area. His actions, his work are responsible for serious consequences because they are accomplished within a cosmic cycle and that the year, the seasons, the summer, the winter, the time of sowing and the harvest, strengthen their own structures and each take an autonomous value. ”
After long and patient research carried out in various regions of Kabylia, we observe, in the gestures and practices of the farmer, a remarkable continuity.
Continuity in time: it has been perpetuated in past centuries, without any notable changes.
Continuity in space as well: it is found throughout all of North Africa. This continuity, this stagnation, is not explained by the fact that agricultural activity in this country is not primarily a technique, but a way of integrating with the rhythm of nature, whose forces unfold throughout the closed and immutable cycle of the seasons. In other words; it is a ritual.
This statement is further reinforced by a second finding. Frequently, in invocations, we attribute to the farmer the sacred role of intermediary with the invisible. Here is an example from the Azenzi lḥenni, a long ritual incantation designed to preserve the effectiveness of the henna that will be applied to the fiancé’s hands the day before his wedding.
Year after year ifellaḥen, at imegran yeḥman,
ar d aɣ-d-ijab tisura, ard aɣ-d-iserreḥ i waman.
We ask through the intercession of fellahs, people with burning sickles, that He (God / Anzar) brings us the keys and allows the water to flow.
It is therefore, because of his work that the farmer is considered one of the intermediaries with the sacred. No doubt, because this very painful work (at imegran yeḥman) is particularly meritorious, but above all because it is a ritual. “Not only is it accomplished on the body of the Earth and unleashes the sacred forces of vegetation, but it also implies the integration of the plowman in certain periods of benign or harmful time …”
Naturally, the farmer does not ignore the Invisible powers of all kinds who populate our world and direct it, showing their turn to be benevolent or evil towards humans according to the way they behave with them. By beginning his plowing, by gathering his harvests, the peasant does not fail to invoke God (Agellid ameqran), sovereign dispenser of the goods of subsistence (lerzaq), which grants abundance to those who use these gifts with wisdom and moderation. He will also keep himself from forgetting the Guardians (iɛessasen) of his land and the holy guardians of his tribe, his village and even his family, bringing broad offerings to their sanctuaries.
Do the dead have their place in agrarian rites destined to obtain fertility for fields and crops? J. SERVIER claims it and makes it one of the main elements of his interpretation of collective or individual immolations and oblations. “It is impossible to study just one aspect of the peasant’s life … without referring to this world of the dead always present in their thoughts …”. And further on: “The peasants demand the fertility of their fields, stables, and houses, because it is their share, because it is their part in the harmony of the universe; the dead give this fertility because they owe it to the living. ”
According to H. GENEVOIS, The Agrarian Ritual, FDB N ° 127, 1975.