Topics in Vâsi Ethnography

by

Zamân Xân

recorded and translated by

Richard F. Strand


4. Clan Houses and Idols

[RS] strak de šo sta mün âmo_âsa â? âni. [RS] Does your mün house still exist now, here?
[ZX] ou˜. ou˜. âsa. [ZX] Yes, yes. It exists.
[RS] kâča ǰena â·ki. [RS] Who lives there?
[ZX] o˜ ǰenam. [ZX] I live there.
[RS] tü mi. [RS] Just you?
[ZX] ou˜. [laugh] [ZX] Yes. [laugh]
[RS] â·kiste vâre kâča ǰela nâ bunta? [RS] Then no one else lives there?
[ZX] nâi âa? vâre kâča ǰelâ sâip. ia˜ vâre pta bo de vâre ǰena, nâ pta bo, suara ... [ZX] Of course not. Who else would live there? If I give it to someone else, then someone else lives there; if not, then ...
[RS] toča di ǰenâsi â? [RS] Was your father living there, too?
[ZX] ou˜. [ZX] Yes.
[RS] voša di. toča sta totas. [RS] Your grandfather, too? Your father's father.
[ZX] ou˜. ou˜. silsilâ silsilâ sâip. qâdim qâdim sâip_â. egek iâar viri âšta. ev, kui iâar kui inâar vari âi nâi â? [laugh]. tir bi sta âi. [ZX] Yes, yes. All in a line. From ancient times. These are so many stories from that side [time]. They're stories sometimes from this side and sometimes from that side, right? [laugh] They're past.
[RS] âmgi but di pâta bunta â? [RS] Do those idols still remain?
[ZX] but di, âvǧånistån âćti âni i·slom kâři to â·ki bâřâ suanti. kobul bâřâ. oal oal but di bâřâ. suara sunti ćârti âṭleaâ sâip. eṭa gâati ṭâkeastâi kor gâati ṭâkeastâi bo, ṣâŋe sta. âmna de, kor bâbun pkula bi sta bula bi. pua [?] ea vâňi·so âni e mânša âmo kuto˜ to moben, ina čo to, u tea sta vâňio âni kuiu_âsala bo. âske nire hukumât to âska ea xoreǰâ, kâča âćanta bo, vře˜č kunam 'ti, so tařa·si ne, âni. so tařa to hukumât âska bo, xâbâr bo. â·kist☠čând nâfâr ku·ṭuoli âćti âmgi bâřâ, hukumât to. [ZX] The idols were all taken away there when Afghânistân came and made Islâm here. They were taken to Kâbul. A lot of big idols were taken away. But they chopped them all up. A few were taken and hidden, wherever they were taken and hidden. Ones from the old days. They must have rotted somewhere in the forest. Last year [for "a few years ago"] it turns out one was seen. While building a house here, a man saw one here set into a wall, wherever it might have been. He kept it here from the government down there, right, thinking he would sell it to some foreigner who might come. After he kept it, the government was informed. Then a few police came and took it to the government.
[RS] ou˜. âska ketta but_âsi. [RS] Yes. Which idol was it?
[ZX] âskea. d’isni sta_âsi. d’isni. [ZX] It was D’isni's. D’isni.
[RS] ou˜. źâňanam, źâňanam. âska strak musiâm to_âsa ne, ure kobul. [RS] Yes. I know, I know. It's in the museum now, right, up in Kâbul.
[ZX] ou˜, âsala [laugh]. ânistâň bâřâ âska. [ZX] Yes, it must be. [laugh] It was taken from here.
[RS] ou˜, ṭi˜č bo ia˜. ṣâŋe ne, duć, pâčać sa sâŋe bâlla. [RS] Yes, I know about it. It must have been ten or fifteen years ago.
[ZX] egek sa buna â? nâi, egek skol nâ_âsa. kâa ṣu sa kâa što sa, âa, uṣ sa buna â? gita sta buna. ou˜ gita sta buna o. âni sta âćti bâřo. âskea imo to ea giǰa kâřo přâćpřeć 'ti âṭloa ne kâa kunša kâřo sâip. nâi. inea kâča xoreǰâ qimât 'ti ŋânta; xoreǰa oasa bo pâisa kti přelom, kunâsi. dre ukumât bâřo sâip. [ZX] Is it that many years? No, it's not that many. Either six years or four years, uh, has it been eight years? It's been something like that. Yes, it's been something like that! They came and took it away from here. Someone said to us, "Smash it up, why don't you? What are you doing with it? Otherwise, some foreigner will buy it expensively; if a foreigner comes, I'll give you money for it." Later the government took it away.
[RS] suara âmgi vâre de kâča kâa pâta nâ bistâa. [RS] But haven't any others of them remained?
[ZX] kâa vâre bula bi, eṭa. kâča vâňalâ? sâip_â. kor âmna, kor gâati, âmna kåfir sâxta âqidâ vo bulâ nâi â? kor bâdo bâdo gâati ṭâkeasta bula bi. ev nire vâňio, ev evor. nire pařu˜ć bâra_âveti âskea de, viati viati přâćpřeć 'ti âṭeleao â·ki. [ZX] There might be a few. Who would see them? These kâfir s used to have strong beliefs, didn't they? There might be some hidden somewhere in the mountains. I saw one down there, once. Down there in Pařu˜ć someone brought one out and hit it and hit it and smashed it all up.
[RS] erâ. nâi, i·a de, bâřa to musiâm to dåxil kâřa to lesta bulâsi. â·kiste e nišon pâta bulâsi. [RS] Too bad. If it had been taken and put into the museum, it would have been better. Then some sign would have remained.
[ZX] ou˜. iådgor ni·šon_âsa nâi â? pâta bunta ou˜. [ZX] Yes. It's a sign of remembrance, isn't it? They would remain, yes.
[RS] přâćpřeć kâřa bo de kâa di bulo. [RS] If they smash them up, then what's left?
[ZX] kâi di bo kša âa? [ZX] What's left, as you say.


[After my interview, Zamân Xân took me to see his residence, the clan-house (am’al) of the pazg’am clan. Below its three storeys were tunnels connecting it to the village watchtower (the g’andar ’i·u) and to the riverbank. When they were under seige, they would use the tunnel to pass food to the warriors in the tower.

The large main room of the house had six equidistantly spaced pillars. The four pillars toward the "upper" (back) end of the room were elaborately carved, and faced the hearth in their midst. Each pillar was, in pre-Islamic times, dedicated to one deity. The upper left pillar belonged to M’ârâ, the upper right one to D’isni, the lower right one to Kim’e, and the lower left one to Paṣ’âṣi. In front of the latter three pillars were stands on which statues of the respective deities formerly resided. The space in front of M’ârâ's pillar contained a chair reserved for the shaman (paṣk’i), while M’ârâ's statue resided along the center of the back wall. The designs on the pillars were characteristic symbols of the deities: M’ârâ's design was a serpentine; D’isni's was a crosshatch.

The shaman would sit in front of M’ârâ's pillar, with the other elders facing him in a circle around the hearth. Then they would burn juniper, and the shaman would go into a trance. When a deity contacted him, he would touch the deity's statue.]

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[Transcription updated 19 October 2015]