Unut, a mazar worshipper: " If we were christians we would have been liked by them..."

Unut, Talas region

This text was published in the book ‘Mazar Worship in Kyrgyzstan: Rituals and Practitioner in Talas’ by Aigine, Bishkek, 2007. Translated from Kyrgyz.

Now I am 75, I have taken the responsibility to follow kyrgyzchylyk since I was 27.

Great barriers for mazar visiting occurred in the Soviet epoch. The Russians persecuted moldos and bübüs, and we were called deceivers. They would say: “We have physicians, go to them; we do not need those who are called moldo and bübüs”. When we were young, moldos were sent to jail in Siberia and they were there for ten years. I was also questioned about this.

Thus they wanted to destroy our own religion and transfer our beliefs to that of the Russians. If we were Christians, we would have been liked by them. As for us we worshipped God and prayed five times a day.

Before Kyrgyzstan gained independence, I once was questioned. One day a militia man came and said that I was being called to Kirovka. I knew that they were not calling me for simple things. When I came there somebody’s voice asked from inside: “Have you brought a bübü?” When I entered I saw a public prosecutor. When I took a seat he had a glance at me; to me he appeared to be a young boy. “I thought that you would be an old woman, God strike you, being young! How dare you fool people?” he asked me. I said: “Will God strike you or strike me? Why are you saying God strike you, He knows whom to strike and whom not to strike. Speak after thinking first!” He said: “See her how she is speaking. She seems not to be frightened at all”. I said: “You are not God who created me. My soul will be taken only by God, I fear only God. For what crime have you called me here? I cannot help taking this sacred quality (kasiet), which has been passed from seven fathers. In front of God I will tell of this”. He asked: “Are you a bübü?” “I am”, answered I. He said: “Take her to a jail and keep her there.” I was sitting in the prison for 3 days; on the fourth day my brother came and released me.

Once my own sister sent me a young man from KGB. We were going to visit Boztektir, and he offered to find a car. But I said that I myself could find a car. When we reached Boztektir he came after us. That time we started to perform zikir chaluu (q.v.) and when I was speaking of that young man, somebody from outside said something. As a result – zikir chaluu was broken. As soon as it is interrupted, you can see nothing. I took that young man by his head and just started to tell him: “You are young; yet even though you are young you have never done good things for anybody”. Everything could have been told, but I did not mention his other activities including those of spying on me.

At that time I had many bübüs. Once a militia man came and said that he would take these bübüs with him. I said: “Darling, son, do not touch them, they are praying to God because of their health. They also believe in only one God, what else they should do”. After a number of days another militia man’s son, who was 5 years old, became deadly ill; his tongue being curved, he was not able to speak. One of the militia man’s friends suggested that he take the boy to a woman healer and show his son to her. The boy recovered after performing zikir chaluu three times and was able again to speak.

Afterwards that militia man presented me with a kerchief. It was after that that the militia man I talked about before caught me. For that man no good should be done. That time when he opened the door and entered, my eyes opposed his eyes. I said to another boy: “That fellow, whom you have come with to me, persecuted me before” and apparently, he went and beat him severely, afterwards. He said to me then: “I told him when your son could not speak that my sister was good to you; because she had healed your son, you ought not to have done harm to her”. After that I really was disappointed with people.

Those times I stopped healing people. Before that, as many as seventy or eighty people would come to me each Thursday. Then I was disappointed with people. I thought it useless, so I began to heal only those close to me – relatives, siblings, those who were from my tribe.

Present bübüs’ zikir chaluu are not interrupted when a man is passing by, even when one cries or shouts. I am surprised with nowadays bübüs. Just in 2-3 years, their eyes appear to be clear and they start wearing white dresses. This work is very hard. It is necessary to prayfive times a day, not to tell gossip, not to steal. If one does not understand it, even though you may explain it to him thousands of time, still he will not get it.

In the Soviet time mazars were visited only by sick people, never by healthy ones as happens now. Those who do not have headaches do not pay much attention to God. As for now if you visit the mazar, you may see different wonders. But I am grateful very much that we could preserve our own religion. At that time if we had gone on living together with Russians, and before dying, we might not have been able even to pronounce kelme (q.v.). I had assumed that old moldos would pass from life and new ones would not appear. In our religion it is said not to steal, not to do harm to anybody. If you have something in your hand give a part of it to those who are poor, as it is said. If you go to a Russian’s home you are never invited to come in. But they are as relatives of ours. However, they departed from their own God themselves and became non-believers. We are all born from Father Adam and Mother Eva (Obo). She gave birth to 24 twins. Marriage through exchange with each other has been done by the will of God. But Russians would marry only each other within their own group; that is why their eyes stayed blue.

In the time of persecution as soon as God sent me to the mazar I went there. But I would go at nights. Once when going to the mazar at night through the autumn wheat field, hiding ourselves, we heard the barking of a dog. After a while we heard a child’s crying voice. When we reached Booterek, a car which was pursuing us reached us. I hid myself in an autumn wheat field and sat there for a time. They came to Booterek and searched for me with a car light in all the sides of Booterek. That time I could not reach Booterek. The dog’s barking warned me. As for the cry of a child that meant that God received my prayers, and that I may be back. I had left home at night, at 10 o’clock. So I came back home early in the morning.

The fact that those people persecuted us had a bad impact upon them. The public prosecutor, a young man, with whom I had quarreled, telling each other God will strike you, died in a month after that. He died in his office. People never learned the secret of his death.

When I was visiting mazars in spite of all these barriers, my parents and children were not against it. They are all believers. Yet if independence had not been gained, if persecutions had intensified and prohibitions strengthened, kyrgyzchylyk would have disappeared. We would leave our own religion and enter that of Russian’s one. Those who do not understand anything are converting to other religions now.

When I started to follow kyrgyzchylyk, there was a great bübü whose name was Kanykei’; she lived in the Lenin collective farm which is not far from ours. I fell sick and heard about her from people. She healed me. It was she who directed me the right way. That bübü died having not managed to fully open my eyes. So I became an orphan without the master. I visited all other bübüs and bakhshys. Then I went to Baba Ata mazar and learned my way.

It is necessary to have a master for those who follow kyrgyzchylyk. Master shows you the way to go. For this he makes me know my people[1]. Mastership (ustattyk) is inherited from our forefathers. It is said that even if you serve your master for forty years it is not enough to be free from moral debt to him.

I have many students throughout Talas.

Based on the interview of Zarima Ibraimova, a student of the Talas State University, Department of History

[1] In this case “my people” means spirits or supernatural forces, which support her in real life