What an interesting cultural experience!

I could have picked a better time to write on my blog than now (I’m frantically trying to pack up and move out of my house) but I wanted to make sure that I got this down while it’s still fresh in my head.

I went over to a friends house to say goodbye today.  We sat around on a perfect Tuesday afternoon drinking tea and talking about nothing in particular.  These people have been really kind to me over the past two years, so I wanted to make sure to see them before I left Ujar.  As we were sitting a guy whose name I didn’t catch came and joined us.  My friend told me that they had some business to discuss, so I made myself scarce and picked some plums and pomegranate in their garden.

When I came back they were both standing so I assumed that they were finished with whatever they were doing.  I asked the guy, who not only had a strange look to him but also was strapping a harness around his waist, if I could get a picture of him since I was leaving for America soon.  “Why not?” he said.

Since Ramazan has just started, I figured he was a dude walking around doing some good luck prayers for those who are fasting.  I thought he was on his way out, but he was just getting started.

uprightHe set a pole onto his harness and stood it upright and said a prayer.  It looked like someone took the arms off of a scarecrow and stuck it on to this guy’s belt buckle.

I snapped a couple of pictures, with my eyebrows raised the whole time.  I was glad I had asked if it was alright if I took a couple pictures of the whole thing before hand because this might have been the weirdest thing I’ve seen in my two years in Azerbaijan.  But while it was cool that I was taking pictures, I wish I had the camera set to video.

Out of nowhere this guy took of running down the driveway, around the side of the house, and into the bushes.  I looked at my friend and his wife, expecting to see the same shock on their faces as there was on mine, but they just followed the guy around the house where I waited for us, leaning over as if he was exhausted.

He pointed his scarecrow stick into the bushes again and had my friend walk around the trees with a Quran.  They dug up some dirt from a patch of ground and put it in a bucket.  After sprinkling some water on it and having my friend dig through it, a little bundle the size of hotel soap was found wrapped up in plastic and bound in rusty metal wire appeared.

The guy backed away from it and said “Get that away from me!”  We put it over by the door while he tried to raise up his scarecrow stick one more time, only to have it fall back to the ground.  “That’s it.” he said.

headshotWe all sat down at the table and watched him unwrap the contents of the package as he explained what was going on.  There was a black feather, which meant bad luck, so he cut it with scissors.  There was a small piece of egg shell, five bits of a broken up stick, a rusty safety pin with some plastic string tied to it, and a little rock.  As he was was telling them what it all meant, he showed me the rock, which had some words written in Arabic on it.  “See?” he asked, “There are some words written on it”.

“Who wrote it?” I asked.

“How should I know, I just dug it up out of the ground.”

I left it at that and watched them finish up by wrapping all the contents in a piece of paper and instructing them to burn it.

He left after having some water and a cigarette, leaving me completely bewildered because I still had no idea what had just happened.  Obviously, the guy was some sort of fortune teller, but I’m hoping that there’s an Azeri out there who knows what that was all about and can give some details.

3 responses to “What an interesting cultural experience!

  1. Hey Jeff –
    Haven’t checked in for a bit, so just getting caught up with your thoughts & plans. Thx for “The Prophet” quote – very poignant and seemingly appropriate. Keep us posted on your travels – sounds great. We look forward to seeing you back in Oregon (for however long!). You’ve got so much to be proud of.

  2. Hi Jeff,

    I ran across your blog while searching for Starbucks coffee shops in Azerbaijan and read your post about the “fortune teller” experience in Ujar 🙂
    I am an Azeri currently residing in KY and it was very amusing for me to read about “curse seekers” in Ujar put into words by an American. Basically the guy provides services of cleaning the house from bad luck . When a family experiences series of misfortunes they get suspicious of someone having cursed their home. They call that guy with the stick, to find the “item” that attracts curse into the house and to tell them the best way to get rid of it. While I have heard a lot about this type of stories all around Azerbaijan, I have never personally experienced what you saw with your own eyes (lived in Az for 25 years). In other words you are very lucky to have been able to see the “process” and actually participate in it. I always wonder how that guy knows where the “item” is hidden. I believe science has not developed yet to the level to explain these phenomenons.
    Best of luck to you in your new life and thank you for your positive attitude about your experience in Az.

  3. Hello Jeff,
    Fuad is right, it is a curse seeker. The “Miska” was buried as a curse, the parts of egg shell are for marital discord, broken branches to break the house and pins are used for creating discord and irritation, etc.
    What a great experience, I haven’t seen one since I was a child

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