Ümötbaeva Toktosh (75 years old): “Once being persecuted by militia men I even climbed up to the top of the tree”.

Ümötbaeva Toktosh, 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.

I started to visit mazars when I was 13. It was in the time of war. Afterwards I began to do it openly. In those times people perceived mazars differently. It was not possible for great kalpas or bübüs to visit mazars in groups and perform zikir chaluu broadly as is possible now. The authorities would be against us very much. They were against us as knives. Grouped people would be just divided into two, three parts.

The reason they were against us was their fear that we would do prohibited things, and influence others to be rebellious. They saw that our gathering was not good for them. What we call as kyrgyzchylyk is a very good thing. There were dubana among us. When they performed zikir chaluu with their shyldyrkan (q.v.) it was so good for a street and home; it made sacred power enter inside. Thus being under different plants, concealing ourselves under different houses, we were able to continue. Then we would, in daytime, collect the remnants of wheat in the fields with our mothers, and at nights having worn our Kyrgyz traditional dress, we would visit mazars alone. In order not to be noticed by the authorities we would perform zikir chaluu inside the wild grass. If anyone was caught in the mazar they would have been imprisoned for several years by the judge. Local authorities would deadly persecute and spy in our homes. They considered us to be guilty, as they said “they are spoiling people”.

When I was 14, I was caught by a militia man in Ak Terek. He did not let me get away in spite of my mother’s pleading. They started to beat us. In spite of the fact that she cried he did not let me go and hit me several times. I had a brother, his name was Barakan, who took the whip from his hand and they began to fight. It was summer and the trees were full of leaves. He made me climb up to the top of the tree. I could not be seen then. Otherwise they might even have killed me.

Persecution mostly stopped after the war. In the Soviet time it also took place, but not much as before. Now it has eased very much. During the Soviet time it was somewhat dangerous to conduct tülöö, sacrifice animals. I remember that there was a good young woman named Jamilya. After some time she was imprisoned by local authorities, being accused of having been involved in prohibited activities. She died in the prison. I do not remember when it happened. I was young and had to be concealed myself.

During the Soviet time a number of mazars, and historical monuments were destroyed. A yard of Kalpa mazar in Keng Kol was totally destroyed by authorities with the use of horses. Now nobody from their families remains. All died. It is prohibited to destroy mazars.

My master’s name was Moldo Ümötaaly from Kara Suu. Master is like your mother. He heals you and shows you the right way. My master was a very good man who greeted kojo by giving his hand. Nobody could help me here; I fell down, with no tongue and speech, my legs being so terribly weak. My legs remained that way from that sickness. Nobody knew why. Then it was this dubana whom my father brought and who took me his home and I spent nights there. And when I threw two sticks and became recovered, he said: “I do not have enough power to overcome you. You appear to have a clever and a strong man within you, and you should be brought to Shamshykal Ata”. That man appeared to be himself opened at that place. And he brought me there. A young woman from Keng Aral also went with us.

We went by the narrow road inside Besh Tash. When we came there those who called themselves kojo, or kalpa, all appeared to be there. He appeared to have his own mosque. They made clothes for me, and after I had spent nights inside the mosque for four weeks, only then were those clothes put on me. Then kojos performed jar saluu for me. But they did not put white dress on me. My master had Kyrgyz clothes, black jacket and black trousers. How your master is dressed is the same way you should be dressed. My mother sewed for me a dress from mere fabric and a scarf, I put them on. At that place, a way was given to me. As for that young woman who had come with us, for her no way was allowed by Allah. That young woman’s name was Mei’ilkan from Keng Aral. After being back to Talas she died, a poor woman.

If a man is your master, he teaches you the ways of healing and other things. He teaches how to hold a sick person, perform dem saluu to children, to tell by intuition the diseases of a sick person and everything he knows. He is like your mother. A responsibility of a master, his deeds are very difficult. Now I am a master to many people. Though I have many students, I have only one who satisfies me, in whom I have much hope. She is now studying in Talas. I have been teaching her since she was seven years old. I helped her very well in opening her eyes; she sees with her senses. She has not learnt to tell much yet. All her secrets will be revealed when she is 25. Besides her, I have many other young women. I tell them to behave well, treat others well, not be greedy.

There is no difference between master and student. They all call me Apa. They have become as my own daughters. Actually, in spite of the fact that there might be difference between master and student, say, age differences, social status differences, if a master was to be younger than a student, the first one’s way is considered to be greater. It is said that the mother’s milk should be deserved. As for master, when may he be satisfied? Good masters are not greedy. They are able to see the eyes of two worlds. He never says to bring this or bring that. I do not know, perhaps there are those who say such words, but as for me myself, never did I so.

I follow the way of my master. She would teach me: “Do not take much. If a scarf or a dress is brought, first read Quran, and then take it”. My students I also taught this way. When it is time to “open their eyes” I take them to seven rocks and seven mazars. After that everything goes very quickly by itself. My master taught me how to perform dem saluu, to hold a sick person, and not to be influenced by suk (q.v.). I even check the food I eat. I do not eat turkey, hare, or eggs. These were my master’s rules, which I very strictly follow. She also did not eat all these food. My students do not eat them either.

Based on the interview of Nazgül Asanakunova, a student of the Talas State University, Department of Kyrgyz Philology