Currently I host three English clubs a week; Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Last Monday the English club subject was the different holidays celebrated in Kyrgyzstan, this includes Christian holidays, Muslim holidays and non-religious holidays. Over the last nine months I have come to discover that the Kyrgyz love to celebrate and they will beg, borrow and steal holidays from other cultures just to have a good time! They even celebrated April fool’s day this month!!! Included in this hodgepodge of Kyrgyz holidays are some shamanistic celebrations.
Since I have been in Jalal Abad, I have witnessed many forms of a shamanistic lifestyle including fortune telling, superstitions and even sacrifices! I’ve only seen a sacrifice once, and it just happened to be right outside my kitchen window! The day I witnessed the sacrifice was a quiet Sunday afternoon, I was cleaning up the kitchen after several volunteers had left and I happened to glance out the window. Right at that moment two men, who were standing right outside my window, slit the throat of a tied-up goat! Believe me that was the very last thing I was expecting to see! I had never seen an animal killed before, given that whenever my former host family was killing an animal I made a point of being on the opposite side of the city!
The killing of the animal and the cleaning its carcass was actually very fast! There were four people working on the one animal; two women and two men. As soon as all the blood was drained into a large basin, the carcass was hung from its ankles and skinned. The intestines and stomach were the first things removed. They were handed over to the two women who immediately started rinsing out all the undigested and half digested food. Typical, the women were left cleaning up the shit! ; )
Anyway, as the women were running water and cleaning out the guts, the two men were standing over the carcass, which is still hanging from a nearby tree, and cutting the flesh off of the animal. As they cut off a piece of meat they would throw it into a kazan, a huge pot, where they would cook the meat and make besh barmak- directly translated besh barmak means Five Fingers. This is a traditional Kyrgyz dish which consists of noodles and meat which you eat with your hands, thus its name.
That afternoon I stood at my kitchen window for over 20 minutes and just watched this family strip this animal until it was nothing but bare bones. It was so methodical, I just couldn’t pull my eyes away. They must have thought I was a complete nut!!! As soon as the process was done, I went along my way- not quite as merrily as I had been prior to the killing but none the less I went about my day. For the rest of the evening I assumed that my neighbors had just wanted some fresh meat and so killed their own sheep but was corrected the next day by another neighbor who informed me that it was actually a sacrifice to god. That was fun to get across as sacrifice and ritual are not a part of my daily language.
So with the chosen topic as Kyrgyz holidays this week, I tried to ask the students if there were any shamanistic holidays which they celebrated, all I got was blank looks. I guess shamanism is slightly above their English ability, I know that it is several leagues beyond my Russian level!!!
9 years ago