It's the season of the holidays and their legends right now, so it's a good time to write you this one:
One evening in a camp near Agadez, a Tuareg blacksmith told me a legend explaining the origins of the famous cross. I will try here to transcribe his words as well as possible…
The legend says that a man and a woman were very much in love since childhood but did not have the agreement of the family to marry. Their camps were close, they saw each other almost every day but could not live together. The years passed and the unhappy couple did not see how their situation could be improved. One day passed after a summer spent in the pasture, the man preferred to leave the camp as the presence of the loved one by his side became unbearable. His turmoil for this woman's heart was so great that it was better to abandon him.
He took his quick-running light mahogany mehari and his metal-trimmed sheathed sword, folded up his forehead veil, and walked away in the direction where the moon appeared at the beginning of the month.
All day long he walked with a slow and rhythmic step, resigned, thinking that the eye wants the sight of the loved one and that love is a rascal who neither lets die nor lets live.
The first evening as the sun was setting, he camped on a plain of fine sand.
In the following days he walked below large isolated trees, and reached mountainous regions. All day he thought: "Resign yourself, you have nothing to hope for, no doubt she has forgotten your temples and your cheeks".
Whenever he met a child tending a herd, he asked him for all the news of his encampment, and sought news of the fair-skinned young woman he had left there. Every landscape reminded him of this woman, nothing could erase her from his thoughts. He crossed plains and deserts, felt thirst and hunger tugging at his stomach and lips.
One day he discovered a valley where the grass was fresh and abundant, he settled there. Camps lived there, made-up women, children played near cool springs. He was well received, no one asked him any questions about the reasons for his visit. He worked all day with the men, a tent had been pitched for him apart, and every morning the women brought him milk. He followed the camp for a whole year. One morning he left, his heart was empty. He didn't know where to go.
As he crossed the valleys, skirting the sands he thought he heard a violin say to him: "The sadness of leaving the one from whom you have gone away, where is it? he said to her, "Don't increase my suffering, the sadness is still there." »
Every day his eyes shed tears, the love for the young woman burned his heart, and the distance had nothing to do with it.
He decided to go home.
It was then that the man drew in the sand a symbol of alliance between him and his beloved.
A cross united with a circle, the man and the woman linked.
The man came to town and had the best blacksmith make this cross. The jewel was fashioned in silver and hung on a few soft leather ties.
He took several months to find his camp.
Around his neck hung the cross, it gave him the courage to go on, and was his star to follow.
As he approached the camp, he stopped, put on his finest indigo turban over his white veil, put on his new shoes embroidered with turquoise stitches, and advanced at a faster pace.
His return was sung and the happiness of finding his family was great. He had stories to tell and everyone came to meet him to have a story of the regions he traveled.
Soon he learned that the woman was still living there, but she was going to be married. He went to find her behind the tree near the well one morning when she was going to fetch water for the day. The woman had not been able to forget him. Every day she had thought of him, and her heart wept at having seen him walk away.
She couldn't give up either.
They decided to love each other in secret.
He showed her the silver cross made for her, and invented a code: the days when she would find this jewel in the calabash intended for the milk that her servant came to bring her each morning, she would join him at sunset behind the tree near of Wells.
The maid was good and faithful, it was easy for them to ask her to keep the secret.
And so they did. Every morning the servant brought the calabash for the milk to her mistress. The latter, if she found the cross there, knew that she could go and join the man she loved in the evening.
They loved each other in secret all their lives and no one noticed anything.
Their happiness was great and the cross kept the secret well.
It was probably one day, an old servant who told this story to her daughter, no one knows if she had gone mad or if she was telling the truth. But the cross remained, it is carried now and retains its share of mystery. She may be hiding a love that could not be resigned between her two wise forgotten lovers.
photo: Jean Marc Durou