Flying with the Vanishing Fairies: Typology of the Shamanistic Traditions of the Hunza



Until recently, very little has been written examining the beliefs and practices of the Hunzakuts shamans of North Pakistan. This paper attempts to provide insight into the shamanic traditions of the Burushaski speakers of Hunza, focusing on those specialists within this community who serve as intermediaries between the human and spirit worlds—bitan, dashmán, jaadugár, síre gús, and aqhón—with particular emphasis on the bitan, whose role can be easily compared with our term “shaman.” Using ethnographic techniques such as participant observation and interviewing, this paper describes the Hunzakuts process of becoming a bitan, the techniques used to fulfill the role as intermediary, the role of hallucinogens, and the role of the bitan's patron spirit (parí). After listing the exceptional and usual elements of the Hunzakuts' shamanism as a typological summary, it is concluded that Hunza’s shamanic practices can be easily placed within the Eurasian shamanic traditions.