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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Kalasha
How the Idol-Maker Saved the World

 A Kalasha Tale

 

One year Dezáu—Heaven—decreed that, in honor of the winter solstice, all of humanity should keep all-night vigil.

Yes, yes, they all said. But one by one, they all, nonetheless, fell asleep.

Finally, out of all humanity, only one man remained awake.

This man was a Kalasha, a wood-carver. The reason why he stayed awake when everyone else fell asleep is that he was busy carving a statue: a statue of Dezáu himself, as it happens.

When Dezáu saw this, he was pleased, and so he blessed the man and his craft, and also his entire people.

So it is that, of all the Indo-European-speaking peoples, only the Kalasha, a small tribe of some 4000 people, who live in three valleys in what is now NW Pakistan, have continuously and uninterruptedly practiced their ancient religion since antiquity: the Great Blessing of Dezáu.

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If Pagans Had a Food Taboo, What Would It Be?

By and large, the pagan religions are not known for their food taboos.

Oh, we may have our dietary preferences, but it's worth noting that, when food taboos are present among pagans, they tend to apply only to the priesthood, or to be observed only for a certain period of time. Otherwise, generally speaking, the default food setting for pagans is Omnivore.

But if, say, Indo-European-speaking pagans did have a food taboo, what might it be?

Please note that what follows is neither prescription nor suggestion. It is, merely, three points of historic data.

West

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Who Are the New Pagan Heroes?

Some people have saints. Pagans have heroes.

But you don't have to slay dragons to become one.

To the ancestors, heroes (the term is gender-neutral) were those who had done such outstanding things that they deserved to be remembered for them.

You found a city, you're a hero. You teach the People something important that makes their life better, you're a hero.

Who are our modern pagan heroes? Well, they differ from group to group. Some would number Gerald Gardner among them. Doreen Valiente, Robert Graves, Robert Cochrane: they weren't perfect people, they weren't gods.

But they each did something remarkable, something that we, their inheritors, have benefited from, and therefore they deserve to be remembered.

The Kalasha of NW Pakistan are the only surviving Indo-European people who have practiced their ancient religion uninterruptedly since antiquity. In their valleys, there's an altar to the hero who taught the People to make cheese.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    [Chortles.] So, how's about a libation, already?!
  • Keith Ward
    Keith Ward says #
    Always! ‘Ave Maestro!’
  • Keith Ward
    Keith Ward says #
    You’re my hero!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I love this story. I happen to be one of those people who enjoy cheese. I think a festival in honor of the cheese hero is a grea

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Great Remembering

The Khazí is the guardian of the legends. With his songs and his stories he reminds us all who we are and where we come from.” (Saifullah Jan, of Khazi Khoshnawaz)

 

Paganism is a matter of remembering.

We are pagan because we remember.

For a long, long time we forgot who we are. We forgot who our people are. We forgot what our people do. We forgot our stories, our songs, our rituals. We even forgot our gods.

It was a time of forgetting, the time between the Old Paganisms and the New. You could call it the Great Interruption. You could call it the Great Forgetting.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Golden Bough

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.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Why Are You Pagan?

I'll be speaking to the local Theosophists this coming January on Why I Am a Pagan.

So let me ask: why are you pagan?

Why are so many of us pagans?

You might think that in the Marketplace of Religions the paganisms lost out long ago.

Yet today, world Pagandom is estimated to number somewhere between 7 and 10 million people.

That's a lot of pagans.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Lisa Jean Fleming Philpot
    Lisa Jean Fleming Philpot says #
    Why am I pagan? Because as a child in a world where woman are (even in this day) told to sit down shut up and just listen while "t
  • Lisa Jean Fleming Philpot
    Lisa Jean Fleming Philpot says #
    take the you out of "church service you up leaves"... i hate being dyslexic
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    I am currently pondering my attraction to pagan beliefs with intensity. Why is it making sense to me at this point in my life? Fo
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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