George Scott Robertson.

The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; online

. (page 25 of 38)
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spirits. In discussing Yush with some of my K;ifir
friends one day, it seemed to me that they had some
reluctance in describing his appearance. As the thought
occurred to me I inquired, "Is he like me?" " Oh, no,"
was the diplomatic reply, "he is not like you; he is like
the private English soldiers Shermalik saw in India."
From this I discovered that Yush is red in colour. He
loves to seize travellers at night and destroy them, but if
a man is wearing his dagger he is never molested. In
most of the stories in which Yush is introduced he is
made to appear as a foil to Imni. So witli the other
devils. The end of such narratives generally is that the
devils are cut to pieces. In Presungul we passed several
ruins which looked like deserted villages, the inhabitants


of which had been content with very small houses. My
companion explained that those places were the remains
of Yush villages, formerly built and inhabited by devils.
On a block of stone in Shtevgrom village, there is what
is said to be the impression of Yush's hand. It is of col-
ossal size, and has five fingers besides the thumb. Towers
and tunnels are also pointed out as having been con-
structed by Yush. The devils are often connected in
narrative with iron or iron structures, as already men-
tioned. Iron bridges are made out of devil's bodies, and
so forth. By the side of a track leading to the upper
village at Kamdesh there is a small rough altar, always
covered w^ith the ashes of a recent fire. They are the
remains of sacrifices made to Yush to propitiate him
and induce him not to do mischief. When offerings are
made to Dizane or to the fairies, so that the fields may
yield good crops of wdieat and millet, Yush has at the
same time to be propitiated, as before stated. Yush
seems to be always mischievous, never benevolent.
His machinations must be guarded against, or he must
be propitiated by sacrifices. He is probably never
danced to.

There are distinct traces of ancestor-worship in Kafiri-
stan, although it is strenuously denied by the people.
The eflngies erected to the memory of the dead are some-
times sacrificed to, and have their pedestals sprinkled
over with blood by descendants sutiering from sickness.
Long fragments of stone are set on end in many places.
These, no doubt, are partly intended as a kind of ceno-
taph, but a goat is always killed when they are erected.
The Marnma festival is in honour of the illustrious dead.
The tw'o last days of the Duban are also devoted to danc-


ing, feasting, and singing for dead and gone heroes. In
Presiingul there are no effigies erected to deceased rehi-
tions, as is so popular a custom with the Sijih-Posh Kiifirs,
and it is almost certain that the same thing is true in
Waigul. In Presungul there was no evidence of ances-

Concerning the existence of fire-worship in Katiristiin,
the evidence is not so convincing. Indeed, the only fact
in support of it is that at all the Agars (Kafir sabbaths)
a sacred fire to Imra is lit by the Urir Jast, and must on
no account be forgotten, even when, owing to sickness
or other tribal calamity, dancing is pretermitted.

The functionaries of religion are the Utah or higli-
priest, the Debilala, who chants the praises of the gods,
and the Pshur, the individual who is supposed to become
temporarily inspired during religious ceremonies and on
other occasions.

The high-priest, the Utah, is a very important per-
sonage. The Kam priest, my " brother," has been already
described. There is another Utah for the village of Pit-
tigul, but he is not the tribal priest, and is of small
importance. The Katirs of the 15ashgul Valley have as
their Utah Kan Mara of Bragamatjil, who is far above
every one else of his tribe in wealth and importance. All
the Utahs are greatly respected. In Presungul there is
one to each village, and some of the elders among them
are considered men of great sanctity. They are all rich
men. In the Bashgul Valley the priest takes two shares
of every animal sacrificed, and has other perquisites. On
the march and elsewhere he takes precedence of every
one. Even before he is a Jast he is allowed the privilege
of seating himself on a stool outside a dwelling, which


no one under the rank of Mir may do. Certain places
are considered impure for him. He may not traverse
certain paths wliich go near the receptacles for the dead,
nor may he visit the cemeteries. He may not go into
the actual room where a death has occurred until after
an effigy has been erected to the deceased. Slaves may
cross his threshold, but must not approach the hearth.
The high-priest is present at all the principal religious
ceremonies, and, whenever possible, officiates at the sacri-
fices at the different shrines.

The Debilala is also a man held in high respect, par-
ticularly amongst the Kam tribe. He recites the praises
of the god in whose honour a sacrifice is being made,
and at the great religious dances in the spring has a
special place assigned to him in the centre of the per-
formers and by the side of the priest, where he sings
and dances. He also is debarred from using certain
pathways supposed to be impure. The Kd,m Debilala,
Arakon, was in the habit of closing one ear with a finger
while singing. As the sound of his voice was in that
way intensified to his own hearing, he imagined that its
volume was actually increased.

The Pshur is the individual who is supposed to be the
subject of temporary inspiration. He has already been
referred to frequently. At times he behaves with the
utmost violence, but there seems to be no rule on this
point. The Kam Pshur's antics were extraordinary. He
was a very muscular man, furnished by nature with a
magnificent voice. Occasionally he would rush about and
shout like a maniac. One of the Katir Pshurs, a Kti
Kafir, was a wonderful athlete, and when "possessed"
performed remarkable feats of activity and strength ; but


another Kti Pshur adopted other methods. He used to
stare fixedly with his light blue eyes on some object
invisible to all but himself, while his right arm and right
leg shook violently. The Presungul Pshurs were in the
habit of falling on one knee and invoking an invisible
object with a trembling tongue. On the whole, the
Bashgul Pshurs are despised by their fellows. The
latter believe they are sometimes really inspired, but
that generally they are merely liars, as the Kafirs put it
in their direct way of speaking. The Presungul Pshurs
are held in much higher esteem by that tribe.

The majority of the Pshurs believe in themselves to a
certain doubtful extent. I imagine the Kam Pshur knew
himself to be an impostor, but believed in other Pshurs,
and expected some day or other to be really inspired
himself One of these individuals was really a madman,
while others had practised their vocation for so long a
time that they were not quite sane. The effect of a very
small quantity of brandy on this Kam Pshur has already
been related. Once a Pshur received from me some
opium pills for a cough. The result was that he was
greatly possessed all day ; he jumped and shouted, and
played all manner of antics. Me were on the march at
the time. This Pshur was known as a terrible homicide,
and was certainly half a madman. All the Kafirs we
met gave us a wide berth, looking at my companion
with dislike and mistrust. The Kam Pshur was turned
out of Kamdesh and sent back to his own tribe, the
Madugal, because two young Kam Kafirs were killed on
a raiding expedition. Possibly he had given a wrong
prediction, or he should have foretold this calamity, for
all the village, and particularly tlie fathers of the slain,

41 8 Till-: kAfiks of the hindu-kush

were extremely an

Online LibraryGeorge Scott RobertsonThe Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; → online text (page 25 of 38)