Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Golden Bough

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

In 2006, Italian anthropologist Augusto Cacopardo went to NW Pakistan to study the Winter Solstice festivities of the Kalasha, the last remaining polytheists of the Hindu Kush.

Of all the Indo-European-speaking peoples, the Kalasha are the only ones whose religion has never been either stamped out, or subsumed into one of the Big Name religions. They are as close as we will ever get to the living paganism of the European ancestors.

After the purifications, the sacrifices, the sacred dances, the torch-race, and the traditional (and well-omened) sexual banter ("Your scrotum is so hairy you could weave a pair of leggings from the wool!"), came the most sacred part of the entire month-long Winter Solstice celebration. Cacopardo was permitted to witness, but not to record, it. He could see, but not hear, what was happening.

This is what he saw. A very old man, the custodian of the ghach, the festival's secret and most sacred prayer, known only to a very few, covered his head and face with his mantle and recited the sacred formula. As he did so, he held in his hand a plant which, in the dark, Cacopardo could not see clearly.

"What's the plant that he's holding?" he asked the man standing next to him.

The man explained that it was zaróri, a very sacred and pure plant that had to be brought from another valley because it did not grow locally. It would also be used, he added, in the holiday's closing ceremony the next day.

At the ritual the following day, Cacopardo managed to get a good look at the zaróri.

It was mistletoe.

Some hold that, because of the break in continuity, there is an unbridgeable gap between the old pagans and ourselves.

Me, I'm not so sure.

 

Augusto S. Cacopardo (2010) Pagan Christmas: Winter Feasts of the Kalasha of the Hindu Kush. Gingko Library. p. 151.

 

 

 

 

 

Last modified on
Tagged in: Kalasha
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.

Comments

Additional information