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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Kalasha
When the Wights Are Angry, Everyone Suffers: Mythologizing Climate Change

Imagine that we were to discover an ancient Keltic tribe living in three isolated valleys up in the Alps.

Imagine that, through all the intervening centuries of the Great Interruption, they had, nonetheless, somehow managed to hold on to their Old Religion.

Amazingly enough—specifics aside—this not an imaginary scenario.

As the Indo-European-speaking peoples first entered the Indian subcontinent, groups broke off the main migration and settled along the way.

That's how the Kalasha, the last surviving pagans of the Hindu Kush, came to live in three isolated mountain valleys in what is now NW Pakistan.

Their religion, practiced continuously since antiquity, strongly resembles the religion of the Rig Veda, modern Hinduism's oldest scripture; some of the gods are even the same.

Alone among the Indo-European peoples, the religion of the Kalasha has never been subsumed by one of the Big Name religions. This small tribe of 4000-some people is as close as we will ever come to touching the old paganisms of the European ancestors.

As such, they have much to teach us.

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Why Did We Lose in the First Place?

Once everyone was pagan.

Today we're not.

So: if paganism was so great in the first place, why did we lose out?

It's a question that every thoughtful contemporary pagan wrestles with. Most often, our answers present us as having been victims, of coercion or of out-maneuvering.

These are stories of agency from without.

The Kalasha—the last remaining pagans of the Hindu Kush—tell a different story.

A story of broken taboos and failed leadership.

A story from within.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, You are totally correct about the sweeping generalizations and oversimplification. I was very tired. I still believe
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks, Jamie. We've both made some pretty big generalizations here, and vastly oversimplified a complex situation. Realistically,
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, Honestly, I think that most people generally give less thought to spiritual matters than they give to more pressing da

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Pagans Are Pagans Everywhere

The Two Arrows

When the Kalasha people first entered Rumbur Valley, their greatest shaman, Naga Dehár, stood at the pass with his back to Afghanistan. He fired two arrows, one red and one black. Where the black arrow landed, they built the altar to Sájigor, still the most sacred place in the Kalasha valleys.

Where the red arrow landed, they built the first bashali—the women's moon-house (Maggi 47).

 

It's as if one were to discover an ancient Celtic tribe living up in the mountains, still practicing their old religion.

The Kalasha are a people some 4000-strong who live in three remote valleys in the Hindu Kush mountains of what is now Pakistan. They are known far and wide for their wine-drinking, for the beauty (and social freedom) of their women, and for their proudly polytheist religion, which in many ways more closely resembles pre-Hindu Vedic religion than anything else.

With their pantheon of gods and goddesses, animal sacrifices, and sacred dances, the Kalasha are probably as close as we will ever come to the Indo-European ancestors.

The more that I learn more about the Kalasha, the more struck I am by just how familiar they seem.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Wisdom from the First Pagans

American anthropologist Wynne Maggi had gone to Pakistan to study the bashali, the Moon-House, of the women of the Kalasha, the last remaining pagans of the Hindu Kush.

She kept trying to get the Kalasha women to generalize about Kalasha men.

They wouldn't do it.

“Some men are one way, some another,” the women kept telling her. “Can't you see that for yourself?"

“A fools around, B doesn't. C takes care of the kids, D doesn't. Men are all different, just like everyone else” (Maggi 152).

In this election season, we've heard much about categories of people.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Kalasha society is a deeply traditional society, with clearly-defined sex-roles, and maleness and femaleness define much of the cu
  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    It's nice that their men (as a whole) don't mistreat them.
Can a Pagan Woman, in Good Conscience, Go to Uluru?

Uluru: the Great Red Rock, Australia's most iconic holy place.

Held sacred by local First Nations peoples, it is considered by them to be a men's shrine, and hence forbidden to women.

So, can a pagan woman, in good conscience, go there?

Well, different peoples, different ways. I can't rightly expect you to act in accordance with my people's ways, nor you me.

Still, it's always best practice to be respectful of other people's stuff, especially their religious stuff. In the old Witch language, there are two words for "peace." Frith is peace within a community. Grith is peace between communities, and maintaining grith is a cultural value of great (although not overriding) importance.

And when it comes to religious rules, peoples vary. So what to do when your people do things one way, and mine another?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jön Upsal's Gardener
    Jön Upsal's Gardener says #
    Frith and grith come from Old Norse, not some "old witch language."
  • Anne Forrester
    Anne Forrester says #
    The response of Bekah Evie Bel did not strike me as extreme at all, but very respectful. This is obviously a topic that needs car
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks for the link, Anne; it's a thoughtful piece, well worth the read. The conversation about the proper relation between "immig
  • Bekah Evie Bel
    Bekah Evie Bel says #
    If that was my conclusion then I have to agree, it would indeed be extreme and absurd. It wasn't my intent to give that conclusio
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks for the clarification, Bekah; as I spent more time thinking about your post, it became clear to me that I had far overgener

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Witches and Fairies

In 1632, Erik Johan Prytz, vicar of Linköping, Sweden, wrote that people would frequently strike deals with nature spirits such as forest nymphs and water spirits in order to learn sorcery, for success in hunting and fishing, and for luck generally (Hall 28).

The evidence, not just from Sweden, but from all over Europe, bears him out.

Swedish sorcerer Matts Larsson was accused in 1685 of having intimate relations with a bergrået, a mountain nymph (Hall 30).

In 1697, the infamous sorcerer Jon of Hallebo confessed that he had received a book of magic from “the man in the stream,” a water spirit known in Swedish as strömkarlen (Hall 32).

The notorious outlaw Tidemann Hemmingsson was also accused of having concluded a pact with a “forest maiden,” a skogsrået, which reportedly granted him good luck in hunting (Hall 35).

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    In "Power Within the Land" R. J. Stewart lists a three step process for listening to folk and fairy tales. He recommends taking t
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Asked what books one should read to get started in paganism, my teacher Tony Kelly once said: Well, you could read these books on
  • Tony Lima
    Tony Lima says #
    ...win the lottery!!!!
  • Tony Lima
    Tony Lima says #
    Interesting! I have but one thing sometimes against spirits attending to humans, and that's this - on occasion, spirit influence c
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Eyes and ears open is the best way to enter into any relationship.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Holly Seeketh Ivy

At this time of year in the English-speaking world, one hears a lot about Holly and Ivy. As usual, the songs preserve the old lore.

In medieval England—and possibly earlier—Holly and Ivy were shorthand for "Male" and "Female." It used to be that when there was a birth in a household, you'd announce the newborn by hanging at the door a branch of holly for a boy or a wreath of ivy for a girl.

So what all those songs about the Holly wearing the crown are really about is male dominance.

But don't go grinding that double ax just yet. As usual, that's just the beginning of the tale.

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