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.

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Religious Conservatives Blame Pakistan's Indigenous Pagans for Recent Earthquake

 Earthquake was Allah's wrath for Kalash community's immoral ways'

Apparently, they don't teach plate tectonics at the local madrassas.

Some 4000-strong, the Kalasha people live in three remote valleys in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains of what is now Pakistan's northwest Chitral province. They are widely known—and, among some conservative Muslims, infamous—for their wine-drinking, the social freedom (and beauty) of their women, and their unabashedly polytheistic religion, complete with sacred dances, outdoor sanctuaries, and animal sacrifice. Of all the Indo-European-speaking peoples, only the Kalasha have continuously practiced their traditional religion since antiquity.

Although the magnitude 6.2 earthquake of June 22, which killed 43 in Pakistan and more than 1000 in Afghanistan, was felt in the Kalasha valleys—some 500 miles from the quake's epicenter—it did little damage there, and no injuries were reported.

This fact hasn't stopped some local Muslims from blaming the quake on the Kalasha. “The earthquake was Allah's wrath for the Kalasha community's evil ways,” one told Pakistan's Express Tribune after a similar quake in 2015.

(One might, of course, wonder why a supposedly omnipotent god wouldn't simply deal with said pagans directly, instead of killing Muslims, while leaving the infidels untouched. Truly, the ways of gods are mysterious.)

Kalasha, who experience pressure to convert to Islam on a practically daily basis, report an increased level of harassment since the earthquake. After a previous quake, Shira Bibi, a young Kalasha woman from the village of Brun in Bumburet Valley, while studying in Peshawar, was told by an old man in the street, “Look, daughter, don't walk around like that, can't you see that earthquakes are striking, floods are coming, because of you?”

She was wearing traditional Kalasha dress at the time.

(When asked if she intended to convert to Islam, Diana Bibi, also of Brun in Bumburet Valley—she was named for England's princess Diana—giggled “Yes! I will go to heaven and have 70 virgins!”)

Indigenous to this seismic region, Kalasha lore has its own explanation for earthquakes. It is said that long ago the land trembled almost continuously, until the gods sent mountains to hold the land still with their weight.

This, they say, was the origin of the Hindu Kush.



You can keep abreast of events in Kalashastan at Ishpatá News,

a Kalasha-run news site. (Ishpata means "welcome!" in Kalashamun.)




Shira Bibi, Brun (Bumburet Valley)






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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.


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