Sunday, December 13, 2015

Shamanism & the Malang of The Oxus/Hindu Kush Region

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Notes on the Article: .........."Malang, Sufis, and Mystics: An Ethnographic and Historical Study of Shamanism in Afghanistan.......Muhammad Humayun Sidky......Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 49, No. 2 (1990)"

"OTUKAN........in Afghanistan, as elsewhere in Muslim Central Asia, Islam has had to come to terms with shamanistic elements derived from earlier beliefs and practices.....By the sixth century the Turks had invaded the Central Asian steppes, bringing with them their shamanistic beliefs along with cults of ancestors, stones, mountains, and the earth goddess Otukan. Such beliefs seem to have been shared by the Uzbeks of the Oxus delta.......Otukan (Ötüken) is also one of the names given to Mother Earth......

"BAQSHI........ the Uzbeks and Kazakhs, up until the nineteenth century, had religious specialists who beat sacred drums and were adept at divination and healing. Among the Kazakhs these specialists were known as baqshi. They were said to have been able to communicate with jinn (spirits, from Arabic), who acted as their familiars, helping them to cure illness, foretell the future, and combat the malicious influence of evil spirits. Following the Kazakhs' acceptance of Islam in the nineteenth century, such shamanic practices were taken up by the mullah, or Muslim religious guides (KRADER 1963, 132; CAR 1957, 16-17)."......

"JINN........There is a considerable variety in the forms attributed to the jinn in the Iranian lore. They may be beautiful or hideous, black or white, and large or small (Ṭūsī, pp. 497, 501, 506, 511; Fozūnī, pp. 525, 527). Generally, the Muslim jinn are described as beautiful, while the pagan ones are portrayed as hideous monsters with a long head, a single eye in the middle of the forehead, and big protruding fangs (Loeffler, p. 141, cf. Solṭān-Moḥammad, pp. 45-46, 62-64; cf. Rīāḥī, p. 24). Some of the jinn are described as composite beings that may have a human body, a lion’s head, and limbs which resemble those of various animals (Ṭūsī, p. 486)".....http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/genie-

"BAKHSI........The Turkmen also had many shamanistic beliefs, several of which persist in Afghan Turkestan. Among the Kirghiz and Uighur, shamans were known as bakhsi. While curing illness and foretelling the future, they used to beat drums, enter into trances, and invoke Allah, Adam, Noah, and other members of the " Biblical-Koranic pantheon " (KRADER 1963, 132). Ecstatic shamanism was also present among the Kafirs of the Hindu Kush (ROBERTSON 1970 [1896], 402). Further east, in the region of the Karakoram, shamans were known as bitan, daiyal, or dinyal (CRANE et al. 1956, 469; LORIMER 1979, 263). They too beat drums; they also manipulated sacred juniper leaves, entered into violent trances, and communed with spirits believed to reside in stones and in certain trees."......

"...there has been very little research on the shamanic configuration in Afghanistan. There are a few brief remarks in the book of the British author, Pennell: Among the Wild Tribes of the Afghan Frontier (1909, 38-40; 237-239). A useful source on Afghan shamanism is Afghanistan of the Afghans (1928, 78-109) by the Afghan author, Ikbal Ali Shah. But Shah does not make any distinction between mullah and shaman. DUPREE's general ethnography, Afghanistan, contains a few brief remarks on Afghan shamanism (1973, 106). The only work devoted entirely to shamanism in Afghanistan is the article "A Muslim Shaman of Afghan Turkestan," by CENTLIVRES, CENTLIVRES, and SLOBIN (1971)."......

"....shamanic beliefs in Central Asia have shown a remarkable ability to persist alongside major religious traditions, not only Islamic, but also Buddhist (HEISSIG 1980, 7).....

"...The term " shaman " is derived from the Tungusian word saman or vaman (LAUFER 1917)......

"TARIQAT....the Sufi orders, or tariqat, found in many parts of Central Asia, including Afghanistan, use a number of techniques for inducing hal, " ecstasy," and fana-fil-haq, " mystical union with the divine." These techniques include music, rhythmic dancing, seclusion, and, most frequently, zikir, the repetition of mystical formulae (BURKE 1973). Sufi mystical states, however, cannot be equated with shamanic ecstasy, which necessarily involves contact with particular spiritual entities rather than with an all-enveloping Godhead...Where Sufi hal-evoking techniques do appear in connection with shamanic rituals, as is frequently the case in Afghanistan, their purpose is to gain control of particular spirits rather than to obtain mystical union with the divine."

"Muraqaba (مراقبة, an originally Arabic word meaning "to watch over", "to take care of", or "to keep an eye") is the Sufi word for meditation.
.....A tariqa (or tariqah; Arabic: طريقة‎ ṭarīqah) is the term for a school or order of Sufism, or especially for the mystical teaching and spiritual practices of such an order with the
aim of seeking ḥaqīqah, which translates as "ultimate truth".....
For example, the Qalandariyya has roots in Malamatiyya (with Buddhism and Hinduism influence) a mystic group active in 9th century Greater Khorasan." .....

"....beliefs in the presence of helpful and harmful supernatural entities, supernatural causes and cures for illnesses, spirit or soul loss, and the belief that some people, through the practice of ecstatic techniques, are able to interact with and so establish control over, particular supernatural beings (GILBERG 1984, 21-27)."

"CULT of ZHUN........Before Islam reached Afghanistan the population followed several religious traditions, some imported (including Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, and Buddhism), others indigenous. Of the indigenous religions we know most about the cult of Zhun (Zun), because it was described in some detail by a Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Xuan Zang, who visited Afghanistan shortly before the Arab invasion (BOSWORTH 1984, 4-7). Based on the worship of a golden idol with ruby eyes, the cult of Zhun (widespread throughout Zamindawar and Zabulistan) survived for two centuries after the arrival of Islam. The idol was housed in a temple, in front of which stood the vertebra of a giant reptile, locally believed to be that of a dragon. The priests of Zhun seem to have possessed shaman-like abilities, for Xuan Zang describes them as having powers to control demons and other supernatural forces and being able to both heal and harm people (BoswoRTH 1984, 6).

"Zunbils ruled Zamindawar before Islamization of the area. The title Zunbil can be traced back to the Middle-Persian original Zūn-dātbar, 'Zun the Justice-giver'. The geographical name Zamindawar would also reflect this, from Middle-Persian 'Zamin-i dātbar' (Land of the Justice-giver).....Zamindawar is a historical district of Afghanistan, situated on the right bank of the Helmand River to the northwest of Kandahar.... André Wink: In southern and eastern Afghanistan, the regions of Zamindawar and Zabulistan or Zabul (Jabala, Kapisha, Kia pi shi) and Kabul, the Arabs were effectively opposed for more than two centuries, from 643 to 870 AD, by the indigenous rulers the Zunbils and the related Kabul-Shahs of the dynasty which became known as the Buddhist-Shahi...... The Zunbil kings worshipped a sun god by the name of Zun from which they derived their name. For example, André Wink writes that "the cult of Zun was primarily Hindu, not Buddhist or Zoroastrian... the shrine of Zun in Zamindawar, which was believed to be located about three miles south of Musa Qala in today's Helmand Province of Afghanistan."

"TIBETAN BON.........Scholars have noted several similarities between the religion of Zhun, the shamanic religions of Central Asia, and the pre-Buddhist, dragon-god religion of Tibet (Bosworth 1984, 7)......Following Afghanistan's conversion to Islam during the seventh century AD., many of the pre-existing shamanistic beliefs and practices were incorporated into the framework of Muslim cosmology (SMITH et al. 1973, 170). The ecstatic techniques associated with Islam's mystical Sufi tradition must have lent themselves particularly well to the assimilation of indigenous shamanistic practices (KAPELRUD 1967, 90).

"ZIARAT.......When a famous ascetic dies, his grave may become a ziarat, or shrine, believed to be endowed with mystical potency, as were the ancient cult-centers of the past. Frequently such shrines become centers of pilgrimage. Ziarat-worship in Afghanistan is clearly part of the inheritance of a wider Central Asiatic ritual complex associated with shamanism (CAR 1957, 16-17; CAR 1958, 6-8; CAR 1959, 110-111; CZAPLICKA 1914, 201; HEISSIG 1980, 8-10, 103-104)....Ziarat consist of a stone cairn, decorated with togh, or cloth flags hung from long poles (Fig. 3).... The town of Istalif, to the northwest of Kabul, is built entirely around a hilltop ziarat ".....

"TESHIK-TASH....The discovery at Teshik-Tash of a Neanderthal burial site on the banks of the Oxus River.....Teshik-Tash is located on the Soviet side of the Afghan-U.S.S.R. border.

"SACRED STONES.......Related to ziarat worship is the " cult of stones." In Afghanistan, certain sacred stones traditionally have been believed to be the dwelling of div, a category of indigenous spirits. In Nuristan, where the people were not converted to Islam until the nineteenth century, the worship of sacred stones was an integral part of their shamanistic religion (ROBERTSON 1971 [1896], 376, 380, 399-402). Outside Afghanistan, in nearby Hunza (now part of northwest Pakistan), spirits called boyo have traditionally been associated with upright " ancestor stones," which some scholars interpret as pre-Islamic altars (JETTMAR 1961, 81). In fact, the association of such sacred stones with shamanism is found among peoples living all over Central Asia, from the Turkmen of the Oxus delta and the Kazakhs of Soviet Central Asia, to the Kafirs of the Hindu Kush and the inhabitants of the Karakorum mountains (CAR 1958, 6-8).....

"MALANG.........The Muslim mystics and mendicants of modern Afghanistan, some of whom are referred to as malang, others as dervish and sufi, practice, as we have already noted, a variety of ecstatic techniques which have clear affiliations with shamanism......Afghan shamans occasionally claim to be Sufis; indeed some may even belong to one of the many organized Sufi tariqat, or orders of mysticism. (In Afghanistan, several of these, according to DUPREE [1973, 103], have sprung up around indigenous customs and traditions.) But the majority of these practitioners belong to the category of malang, and constitute an ill-defined and heterogeneous collection of people, adhering to no specific silsila, or " common tradition.".....In Afghanistan, malang can be used variously for stage-magicians to sorcerers to beggars to sufi saints to holy men."

"DIVANA MADMEN......The term malang has different meanings from one region of Afghanistan to the next. At times the word is used to refer to madaree (stage-magicians), fakir (either beggars or holy-men), qalandar (wandering Sufis), jadoogar (sorcerers who, in some instances, are indistinguishable from shamans), charsi (hashish addicts), divana (possessed madmen, div/daiva), and, finally, palang dar libasi malang (literally, " tigers in malang clothing ": impostors and charlatans)..... DUPREE (1973, 107) describes the Afghan malang as follows: They are holy men thought to be touched by the hand of Allah. Some go about naked, moving with the seasons; others dress in women's clothes; still others wear elaborate, often outlandish, concoctions of their own design. Usually Afghan, Iranian, Pakistani, or Indian Sufi Muslims, malang travel from place to place, fed, honored, at times feared by local populations, or at least held in awe. Often, they spout unintelligible gibberish, words they claim to be from Allah or a local saint. At other times, they quote the Qor'an, usually inaccurately.......Some malang are immediately recognizable by their distinctive dress and accoutrements: a long robe, chains and bead necklaces, a wooden or metal bowl called kaj kol that they hang over their shoulder, and a staff called asah. Malang sometimes carry an ornamental metal ax, both to signify victory over supernatural beings, and for personal protection.".....

"JINN.......All Afghan shamans, irrespective of affiliation or title, acquire their powers through the control they exercise over supernatural entities called jinnd (from the Arabic jinn, a demon [LANGTON 1949, 4]). In Afghanistan there is a near-universal belief in jinnd, malevolent spirits that haunt buildings, graveyards, and lonely highways, and attack humans. These spirits, despite their Arabic-derived name, include among their numbers such pre-Islamic Afghan supernatural entities as al and div (SCHURMANN 1962, 253-254)........There are two categories of jinnd: white and black. The white jinnd are seen as benevolent, the black as violent, wrathful, and cruel (SHAH 1928, 89). They are said to be able to cause humans to suffer in many different ways. Taking the form of snakes and scorpions, it is said that they bite and sting people. They are believed capable of frightening people so badly that their victims' souls flee from their bodies. Reportedly they can seize people, causing them to suffocate. They are believed to be able to enter a victim's body and so make him or her insane. They are said to haunt houses, and to play all kinds of mischievous tricks on people. Finally, many natural diseases, which fail to respond to normal medication, are attributed to the actions of such jinnd.....In 1979, in the town of Charkar, I attended the ritual healing of a young man who had been stung by a scorpion.....

"SOUL RETRIEVAL......... jinnd are thought to have frightened peoples' souls from their bodies, Afghans say demons have made " their souls depart " (arwa koch kardan). Victims experience severe melancholia, weight loss, and a yellow complexion. If untreated, it is said, they may eventually die. The remedy for such soul-loss includes taking the patient to a particularly potent shrine, or else seeking charms and incantations from a powerful malang...... The remedy for such spirit invasion is to take the victim to Ziarat-i-Meally-Sahib in Jalalabad, famed throughout Afghanistan for its power to expel demons and cure insanity......

"DATHURA...........To contact the " other-world," one malang told me, you have to use datura. Widely used among shamans in many different cultures (FURST 1976, 134-145), Datura metel (a member of the Solanaceae family), is a powerful hallucinogen containing anticholinergic alkaloids which block the action of acetylcholine on the peripheral cholinergic receptor of the brain, as well as affecting the central nervous system (SHADER and GREENBLATT 1972, 103-105, 113). Malang who achieve their shamanic powers through the use of datura first take this drug during an initiatory rite. This involves the repeated chanting of du'a, ritual formulae (in Persian or Arabic), believed to be imbued with magical power. Mixing the datura with tobacco, the initiates inhale the drug through a chilam, or water pipe, at the conclusion of their several-hours-long recitation. Thereafter the malang uses the drug whenever he wishes to converse with his jinnd familiars....Datura belongs to the classic "witches' weeds", along with deadly nightshade, henbane, and mandrake. Most parts of the plants are toxic, and datura has a long history of use for causing delirious states and death. It was well known as an essential ingredient of potions and witches' brews......In India it has been referred to as "Poisonous" and as an aphrodisiac. In little measures it was used in Ayurveda as a medicine from the ancient times. It is used in rituals and prayers to Shiva......

"40 DAY RETREAT........... These powers are obtained after a period of initiation called chilla neshastan, " the forty-days recitation," or more commonly, qasida pukhtan, meaning " the completion of the formulae.".......Initiation involves a combination of physical seclusion (khilwat), the recitation of ritual formulae (zikir), and fasting (ruza). Although the initiation is known as " the forty-days recitation," the number of days required for its completion, referred to as wazeefa, varies from twelve to forty, depending upon the powers the initiate hopes to achieve (SHAH 1928, 87). Initiation takes place in a cell in a mosque, in a cave, or else on a mountainside far from human settlement. Of all these places, a cave is regarded as the most suitable because, it is said, it was while meditating in a cave that the Prophet Muhammad received the divine revelations of the Koran.....

"SACRED CIRCLES............When the initiate and his master have chosen the appropriate site for the initiation, the master instructs his pupil to draw seven circles on the ground, one within the other. When he performs the zikir, the initiate must sit at the center of the innermost circle. Such circles are believed to be barriers against spirit invasion; for each one of the seven the initiate has been taught special formulae which, when recited correctly, simultaneously force particular jinnd into submission and protect the initiate himself from supernatural harm.......

"ZIKIR.........During zikir the initiate recites, a stipulated number of times without interruption, passages from the Koran, magical formulae, or simply the name of Allah. Such recitation, it is said, compels the jinnd to materialize before the initiate, who is instructed to look down, but also to focus his peripheral vision on the boundaries of the outer-most circle. Here, it is said, the spirits first appear.......The jinnd manifest themselves to the initiate, beyond the outer-most circle, in the form of animals, dwarfs, and giants. Some of these horrifying apparitions simply sit and stare at him, others taunt him, trying, by means of tricks and illusions, to have him leave the safety of his circles. To repulse these spirit hordes clambering to cross his magic circles, the initiate must continue unwaveringly to chant the appropriate formulae. It is said that even a momentary pause may allow the spirits to breach the magical barriers, and so to kill him......As the initiate continues his recitation, he passes through various mental states, during which he may feel himself to be dying, to be burning up in flames, or to be wasting away. These are all illusions said to be created by the malicious jinnd........Each time the initiate encounters a particular rank of jinnd and is able to withstand its supernatural assaults, it is said that he has succeeded in enslaving that particular spirit. Subsequently, he will be able to use the powers of this jinnd in his shamanic practices. Enslaving the more powerful jinnd entails for the initiate a longer period of recitation and a greater psychological ordeal (see SHAH 1928, 87-89, where he also reports that a malang who has managed to control such spirits can use them either to help a client or to harm an enemy, in the latter case " by causing his house to be burned, or bringing some severe or fatal disease or even insanity upon him ").....Dhikr (also Zikr, Zekr, and variants; (Arabic: ذِکْر ḏikr‎; plural Arabic: أذكار aḏkār‎, meaning "remembrance") is the name of devotional acts in Islam in which short phrases or prayers are repeatedly recited silently within the mind or aloud. Rarely, it is counted on a string of beads (سلسلة صلوات)or a set of prayer beads (Misbaha مِسْبَحَة), comparable to the rosary of Catholic tradition."

"QALA (FORT).........Abdul Wali, one of our townsmen, decided to achieve mystical powers by performing the qasida ritual. He shut himself in the burj [tower] of his father's qala [fort] and began to recite verses from the Koran. He did this for three days....Malang who successfully complete the more dangerous phases of the initiation rite, and so are able to command exceptionally powerful jinnd, are said to have the ability to appear in people's dreams, to fly, and to be present in two places at the same time (SIDKY 1989)...... Afghan shamans with such great supernatural powers no longer bother with social affairs, nor do they work for clients. Their concern now, it is said, is only for the spiritual welfare and equilibrium of society as a whole. Such men live in seclusion, or else move about the countryside as if " in another world." These most powerful malang are known as qudp, a word which roughly translates as " axis " or " pole." In Sufi circles this term is used to designate a spiritual leader. But in reference to an Afghan malang the term implies an individual with immense occult powers, a potent human link to the supernatural realm. (Here in the United States, I have heard Afghan refugees attribute the invasion of their country by " Godless conquerors " to the failed powers of the qudp.).......

Footnote......."The data presented here were gathered from four informants (Sufis and malang claiming to have undergone initiation), and were cross-checked against details given to me by Bacha-i-Khalifa Sahib, the renowned khalifa (spiritual leader) and mystic of the town of Charkar.....Muhammad Humayun Sidky.......Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Ohio State University......http://www.khyber.org/publications/041-045/afghanshaman.shtml

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Email....okarresearch@gmail.com

December 2015

John Hopkins....Northern New Mexico

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