The Cultural Economy of Soothsayers

The mountainous people of northern Pakistan have evolved a distinctive culture over thousands of years that remain untouched by the allure of modernization and the competitive industrial world. For millennia, they have inhabited isolated mountain settlements, very close to nature, believing that the peaks are the abode of fairies and jinn live in the wilderness. Their cultural traditions are deeply influenced by their unyielding faith in supernatural forces like fairies and jinn. These mystical beings are believed to possess the ability to foretell destinies and shield people from life’s adversities.

Central to the mountain dwellers’ beliefs is spiritual healing through amulets, which are believed to remove ill fate, foster prosperity, and ensure harmonious matrimonial lives while also aiding in disease recovery. This mindset has given rise to businesses run by soothsayers and amulet-makers, led by religious priests, and notably, fairy-possessed women and men from regions like Dir Kohistan, Gilgit Baltistan, and Chitral.

Interestingly, these fairy-possessed individuals are sought after for neutralizing black magic spells intended to harm others, causing diseases and misfortunes. People approach them for spiritual healing with the same fervor as they would consult highly qualified foreign medical specialists. Traveling from far and wide, they willingly shower the fairy-possessed individuals with money and seek their blessings.

In the realm of soothsaying, numerous individuals, including fairy-possessed women and men, have amassed considerable wealth, enabling them to acquire extensive properties across the country. Some have even ventured into real estate, attracting people from all corners through effective marketing of their soothsaying practices and spiritual treatments.

Guests visiting these soothsayers or fairy-possessed individuals are warmly welcomed in small guesthouses infused with a spiritual atmosphere. Fragrant smoke fills the room as the fairies areinvoked, and their voices and bodies seem to undergo a peculiar transformation during the process—trembling and changes in facial expression.

Individually, they inquire about each client’s problems, and with a swift motion of both hands, they present a neatly packed white powder emitting a sweet smell, instructing the client to place it in a red piece of cloth to create an amulet. Visitors are warned to be attentive, lest the fairies snatch the amulet away.

Clients show their respect by offering no less than 10,000 rupees per person. This accumulation of wealth by fairy-possessed individuals serves as a striking example of the cultural economy in the mountainous region of northern Pakistan.

Moreover, the cultural economy presents numerous other facets that could be explored and formalized for the greater benefit and socio-economic empowerment of the communities, which aligns with the cherished vision and mission of the Hashoo Foundation (HF).

Recognizing and understanding these unique cultural practices have the potential to foster growth, preserve traditions, and ensure the well-being of these remarkable communities.