News Single

22.09.09 23:07 Age: 9 yrs

Precious Metals

By: Roger and Megan

Islam with a metallic twist

Along the Abyezd road, between Batken and Osh (18/09) we realised we were running quite low on bread, so we decided to take the left off the barren road toward civilization, hoping that it wasn't Uzbekistan. Riding through the street toward the shop we were called in for tea by a middle-aged Kyrgyz lady sitting in her driveway. When we went in we found a small house, half under construction, and several children. She also had a large field alongside her house where the other townspeople brought their cows to feed during the day, and in exchange for the use of the land they gave her milk and cream.

After sitting and talking with her a while we discovered that her husband was now in Bishkek, having run off with numerous other wives. This was in fact best for the family anyway, since he was an alcoholic and abusive father. She had heard through the grapevine that he was now married to an older woman (which is an unspeakable disgrace in Central Asia), which reinforced to her what a useless man he was.

The children there at the house were her two sons and a daughter, plus a few of their friends, and she also had another older son who was now working in Russia. This eldest son was her pride, and he would periodically return to build more of the house for her.

This lady was also very religious - she would stop halfway through dinner to do Namaz right there next to us in the living room. Over the course of the evening however, we learned that her form of Islam was a type of "folk" Islam merged with other shamanic practices and nomadic traditions. At one point she called us in to the bedroom to sit, and then she pulled out what appeared to be a very special shoebox of collections. In there she had photos of all her loved ones, and she prayed for each person as she held their photo.

She told us that she was a doctor, but not one that had been to university or college. She wanted to see whether we were healthy, so she first took Megan's wrist and pressed her thumb into the artery to "read" her. After holding her wrist like that for about a minute she concluded that Megan ate her dinner too fast, and that she was very scared or anxious and often woke up in the night frightened. She then read Roger's wrist and told him he was OK. Next, she pulled out her collection of charms and trinkets, to bless them, give some of them to us (Megan got a ring, and Roger a bracelet of beads), and tell us about them.

Being her new found pride and joy (we were basically made her son and daughter), she was very concerned about our wellbeing during our travels. Thus she took great effort in creating some of these lucky charms for us (whilst chanting special words), melting down metal on her dung fire stove, and tipping the molten meltal into a bucket of water, cooling it rapidly to produce random shapes.

She repeated this exercise numerous times, actually getting upset and annoyed at times, until the shape/form/design she desired was achieved. The purpose of this was that each lucky charm would be extremely symbolic based on what shape it represented, and thus it had to be cast and recast until a suitable symbol was achieved.

The charm she gave us in the end (it took a few hours) looked like a bicycle, with a key, and a road, which she told us meant that during our travels, all the roads and avenues would also be open to us. She told us she would be constantly praying for us and that this would give strength to the charm/amulet she gave us.

If ever we were in a tight situation, we were to hold thee charm and pray, and the strength of our prayers, mixed with hers, and the strength of the charm mixed with Ullah, would help us. By the time we left the following day, she felt confident that her new children would be protected, but at the same time sad that they would be leaving, and we felt thrilled that she was happy to have two new children, and to have experienced and filmed all her traditions and beliefs.