Veneration and Spiritual Pleading through Stone: observations and musings on current practice in rural Turkmenistan

Glenys McLaren

Edinburgh, EH46BN, Scotland

Cite this as: Glenys McLaren 2009 'Veneration and Spiritual Pleading through Stone: observations and musings on current practice in rural Turkmenistan', Internet Archaeology 26. http://dx.doi.org/10.11141/ia.26.24

Summary

Although the population of Turkmenistan is essentially Moslem, older traditions co-exist. In the rural areas medical services are poor, infant mortality and maternal mortality and morbidity are higher than in the West, and superstition is rife. Barrenness is considered a female failing. Women of child-bearing age are under great pressure to be fertile, and make spiritual pleas at venerated sites when pregnancy fails to occur or an infant is lost. There is veneration not only of shrines and revered burial sites but also of ancient sites and old dead trees. Many offerings are in the form of stone or fossils, with continued reuse and deposition of ancient materials. Cloth strips and miniature cradles bearing 'babies' are left in association with stones in pleas for child-bearing. Some stones are handled in special ways. One large stone was used for masturbation in the hope of fecundity. The legend of Paraw Bibi incorporates many of the beliefs and features related to rock that occur across many cultures and are common to folklore of old. Resonances of the same thought processes and behaviour patterns could have originated in the ancient past.

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