The Agadez (Tuareg) Cross

THE LEGEND OF THE AGADEZ CROSS

March 20, 2014

"Once upon a time, there was a noble Tuareg young man who fell wildly in love with a princess whose father, the fierce Amenokal of his confederation, prevented all suitors from entering his palace through a system of complicated locks. This noble young man was not only valorous, but also very smart. He decided to use a strategem that would allow him to come into the presence of his beloved. She, lonely and tired of waiting for her lover, gave her agreement and between the two lovers was forged a pact that would forever resist time and obstacles.

The young Tuareg noble man went to see a smith, his trusted friend from childhood. He explained his grief to him and asked for his counsel. The metalworker, after giving the princely tale ample thought, proposed the following solution: he offered to combine the two syllables of the Kel Tamasheq word for love 'Ta-rah', melting them to fashion an object of silver metal that would serve as a token of recognition between the noble man and the princess. The two syllables of that word are + and O.

He promptly fashioned this object in the noble metal of silver. The young man asked what name to give such an object. The metalworker immediately replied: 'Taneghelt' which means 'melted liquid' or 'poured liquid.' He explained to the young noble man that to make sacred his union with the young princess, he had melted together the two characters and symbols + and O, and that, with the help of this object, his love would come to a happy ending without a doubt. The young man, convinced that the smith had hidden some mysterious magical powers in the metal object, gave it to his beloved's servant, explaining its value to her.

Each evening as she brought dinner to the young princess, the serveant placed the mysterious object on the lid of her bowl, and thus, the princess would know that her prince was waiting for her. Each time, she found some way to meet him. At last, in the face of such love, ingenuity and perseverance, the father agrees to their union.

Over time, the Taneghelt became a jewel asked by all young betrothed women from their servants. There is no magical power in it other than the sincerity and the power of love, which gave birth to it. The artisans who fashion the Taneghelt have transmitted this legend from generation to generation... Foreign travelers who saw this object on the neck of all the young Tuareg women described it in their travel notebooks, and its fame spread throughout."

-Helene E. Hagan and Lucile C. Myers from Tuareg Jewelry Traditional Patterns and Symbols

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