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Shamanism in Afghanistan

Malang, Sufis, and Mystics

An Ethnographic and Historical Study of Shamanism in Afghanistan

Muhammad Humayun Sidky

Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 49, No. 2 (1990), 275-301


Homayun Sidky is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. He holds a Ph.D in Cultural Anthropology and his areas of inerest/expertise are Ecological Anthropology, History, Theory of Anthropology, Anthropology of Religion, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Easter Island.

Contact Details:

64 B Upham Hall
(513) 529-1591
sidkyh@muohio.edu

 

Demographic and historical factors in Central Asia have produced an ethnic and cultural homogeneity, which overrides ecological diversity and artificial political boundaries imposed by nineteenth-century Western imperialism (KRADER 1963, 2). Ethnographically, Afghanistan belongs to the Central Asian region (Map 1), an area extending southward from the Siberian forest belt to the Iranian plateau, and south-eastward to the Pamir mountains of northern Afghanistan, the Tien Shan range, and the Hindu Kush. The last mountain range constitutes the ” Great Divide ” between Central and South Asia (FRASERTYTLER 1950, 3).1 From west to east, Central Asia includes all the territory from the Caspian Sea to the Mongolian steppes, including the Altai mountains (KRADER 1963, 1-4; OSHANIN 1964, 1-2).

The population of Afghanistan[2] is overwhelmingly Muslim: 80% Sunni and 19% Shi’ite.[3] But in Afghanistan, as elsewhere in Muslim Central Asia, Islam has had to come to terms with shamanistic elements derived from earlier beliefs and practices. Read More »

Posted in Haunted Places | 1 Response

Interview with an Afghan Elder Regarding Jinns/Jinnd

Islam is a religion with a complex cosmos that shares much with older forms of Judaism and Catholic-Orthodox Christianity.  In many parts of the Islamic world, Muslims believe in a universe with daily events full of saints, demons, angels, and miracles.  This is a much different cosmos than what more reformist branches of Judaism and Protestanized Christianity believe in (though many Pentecostal-type Christians are starting to migrate to traditions and beliefs of the Catholic-Orthodox cosmos).

One of the most common otherworldly creatures in Islam are the Djinn (aka Jinn aka Genies).  These are more than the magical people who live in lamps according to Dinseyifed Americanization of Arab tales.  These are beings created out of smokeless fire (as compared to clay/mud for humans and light for angels).  According to the Qu’ran’sSurat al-Jinn, Djinn are creatures which have free will.  While in Islam, Satan is a Djinn, Djinn can be hostile, neutral, or even friendly.

From reading parts of the Qu’ran, Hadiths (stories of Mohammad), Islamic fairy tales, and books on Islam I knew that Djinn are suppose to live in another dimension.  However, it was not until my recent conversation with a Kuchi Pashtun tribal elder that I realized how strong belief in Djinn were and where Djinn fit in our world.

Below is a recalling of my conversation I had with an elder through a Pashtun interpreter.

Me:  Let’s go take a walk up those hills and survey the area.
Elder:  We cannot go there.
Me:  Why not?
Elder:  Because the Djinn live there.
Me:  The fire beings?
Elder:  Yes!  The smokeless fire spirits.  You, a Christian, know and believe of the Djinn?
Me:  I have read about them.  As a Catholic my faith is open to the possibility of other creatures.  How do you know the Djinn live there?
Elder:  They use to live where our tribe settled (over a hundred years ago) and built the village.
Me:  So why did the Djinn move?
Elder:  There were too many encounters between people and Djinn.
Me:  I thought the Djinn live in another dimension (this took the interpreter a minute or two to convey)
Elder:  They do.  But our worlds are so close together that it is possible for cross over.
Me:  Were there any bad incidents?
Elder:  Most Djinn were kind or neutral to us.  Some were mean though.  Many Djinn left because they were afraid of our ancestors because our ancestors were all warriors.  Others left because we would accidently step on their children.
Me:  Stepping on smokeless fire babies is not good for Kuchi-Djinn relations.
Elder:  Yes, yes.  Very true.
Me:  So do the Djinn leave you people alone?
Elder:  Most do.  We consider them our neighbors and friends.  Some are mean, just like how some people are mean, but we respect them and they respect us.
Me:  So you never go to the Djinn place?
Elder:  No.  When a baby is born we take some gold, bones, and some of the child’s hair if possible and put it in a bag.  We take the bag and leave it on the Djinn’s hills.
Me:  Why?
Elder:  So they can celebrate the child’s birth with us.  The gold is a gift, we give them the child’s hair so they can see part of the child, and bones because in the Hadiths the Prophet Mohammad once visited a tribe of Djinn and brought them a bag of bones.  When the Prophet’s followers asked why he had a bag of bones the Prophet replied, “Because Djinn eat bones.”
Me:  Sounds like you have some good neighbors.  So why can’t we go up the hill together?  Would not the Djinn think I am your friend because I am with you?
Elder:  The Djinn do not travel much.  They may think you are Soviet or British.  I do not want to put you at risk, my friend.
Me:  Thank you.  I tend to prefer distance between me and other worldly beings anyways.

http://www.geographictravels.com/2011/04/afghan-diary-where-djinn-live.html

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Afghan or Afghani. What is the correct term?

There is a misconception among foreigners who refer to the people of Afghanistan as “Afghanis” instead of “Afghans”. This is wrong and i will explain as to why it is wrong.

Here are definitions for both terms from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Afghan – : a person born, raised, or living in Afghanistan

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/afghan?show=0&t=1379348182

Afghani –  the basic monetary unit of Afghanistan

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/afghan

An Afghan is any person who was born, raised or has been living in Afghanistan which is very different from the term “Afghani” which is the currency of Afghanistan. Therefore, when someone says “That man is an Afghani” is wrong and it is pretty much the same as saying “That man is a dollar” which is the currency of America.

Further examples.

1. I have 20 Afghani.

2. I’m Afghan.

 

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New Building For Vocational High School constructed

Saturday, June 01, 2013
Kabul (BNA) Education head of Badghis reported from starting of new building construction work for agriculture vocational high school in center of Baghis province.
Syeed Ziaudding Wasiqi education head of Badghis said BNA; the agriculture vocational high school will be constructed from budget of anti-narcotic ministry at the cost of 40 million Afghanis in Qala-e-Naw center of that province. Read More »

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