The Kalasha are the last remaining pagans of the Hindu Kush. Numbering about 4000, in three adjoining valleys in northwest Pakistan, they are known for their proud polytheism, the freedom (and beauty) of their women, and their wine-drinking.
The Kalasha are a transhumant society. In the spring, the young men take the herds of sheep and goats up to the high mountain pastures, where they spend the entire summer and autumn. In late autumn, they return, just in time for the Prun, the three-day harvest that marks the end of the growing season, the return of the flocks, and the first drinking of the New Wine, led by a mysterious figure called the Budálak, the Goat-Man.
The Budalak wears horns and goat-skins, and on the third and final night of the festival, as the drums throb around the bonfires and the wine flows freely, the women garland him and he dances wildly among them and with them. He is the embodiment of the purity, fertility, and rampant maleness of the high mountains, the realm of the peri (“fairies”), and his role is to bear this fruitfulness to the entire community.