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Kerrew and Abulafia
a legend of two hermits

A long time ago there lived in Mosta a hermit in Wied il-Ghasel - Honey Valley - who went by the name of Kerrew. He dedicated his time by praying, fasting and praising the Lord. He was a considered a holy man. We do know that he was an able, industrious and courageous fellow. He always sought righteousness and did not think twice to scold anyone heard blaspheming. His spirituality did not go down quite well with the villagers. Soon he would have to escape from Mosta to go and live in Qala, on Gozo. Let me tell you what happened.

Kerrew lived in a cave within the valley, not far from some animal breeders, who chose to lead a very loose life. Being the man he was, Kerrew repeatedly reprimanded them, to the extent that they saw him being intrusive and fastidious. They decided to get rid of him. So they brewed up a plot.

A voluptuous woman was sent hanging her washing close to the hermit’s cave. She was told to drop her bundle near the cave’s entrance on her way home. This was where the trap was. If Kerrew did not go out to help the woman pick up her clothes, then they would accuse him of being unkind. On the other, should he go out to her assistance, he would be charged with molesting her. Quite simply, Kerrew had no way out.

The sinuous woman acted her part to perfection. As soon as she approached Kerrew’s cave she chose to pretend to lose balance, to stumble. Her bundle hit the ground, the clothes flying all over. On seeing this, Kerrew rushed out of his cave to give her a hand. As he bent himself towards the ground, a group of neighbours began jeering and calling him names, others pelted him with stones.

Kerrew realized that he had been set up. Despite the rain of stones being pelted in his direction, he still found courage to scold the villagers. Then, having spelled doom on their village, he ran away from the place, the villagers giving chase until he reached the coast. Here, he unleashed his mantel, threw it on the water and jumped on it.

The mantel, with the hermit on it, did not sink but stayed afloat. Having seen this, the villagers withdrew in awe, and begged Kerrew to return. He however scolded them again and warned them of the tragedy that would soon befall on their village and island. He also announced the nobility’s departure from Malta and the building of a new city. They would feel the wrath of God.

Then, Kerrew crossed the sea between Malta and Comino, where he went to meet Abulafia, a mystic who lived in solitude there. We can only imagine how much solace they found in each other’s company. He then continued with his journey towards Gozo, where he arrived at Hondoq ir-Rummien - Pomegranate Valley. Just up the hill, on the outskirts of Qala, he found a cave, where he chose to lay down his belongings. And it was here that the hermit passed his years until he passed away.

You may wonder what happened of Kerrew’s predictions? Well, we all know that in 1523 plague hit the island of Malta, the worst hit being the city of Birgu. Only two years later, Muslim corsairs disembarked at Saint Paul’s Bay, from where they proceeded to Mosta, ransacking the village, laying waste to all they saw and carrying four hundred villagers away into slavery.

With the arrival of the Knights of St. John in 1530, the Maltese nobility decided to leave the islands, rather than live under the warrior monks’ despotic rule. In 1565 a massive Turkish force landed in Malta and laid siege on the island. The Maltese did survive the siege, but not without very heavy casualties. The legend of Kerrew still lives in the village of Qala. Perhaps you may even see his resurrected body crossing over to Comino on his mantel, just to have a chat with Abulafia. No one has as yet found out where they hang around.

Steve Borg

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