The stories where witches flew on broomsticks, cursed or stole a child for not being invited to the festivities, etc. did not end with childhood. They carry over in adulthood in different forms as folklore or legends and in many instances are taken quite seriously.
The legends involving witches are not confined to our part of the world alone, but are found in cultures all over the world. In Europe during the 15th to 18th century women suspected to have supernatural powers were considered witches and were burnt alive.
Strangely enough, witches have always been presented as women with the ability to change form and shape and various myths are related to them.
In Pakistan, the most common perception of a witch is a being with her feet pointed backwards, popularly known as pichhal pairi; churail or daayan are other names given to witches here.
Folklores abound; varying from region to region. Some folklore, particularly in Sindh, suggest that a woman badly treated by her family or who died in childbirth as a result of family neglect returns as a daayan or churail, haunting the family and drinking the blood of male family members. Some believe that witch or daayan comes during child delivery for drinking the mother’s blood and plucking or picking her heart.
Some folklore, particularly in Sindh, suggest that a woman badly treated by her family or who died in childbirth as a result of family neglect returns as a daayan or churail, haunting the family and drinking the blood of male family members.
The belief is so strong in some villages that when childbirth approaches, some family member keeps a vigil and guards the woman for six days to protect her so that the witch would not harm her. In some cultures the witch or daayan rides on a tiger or other animals but in Sindhi folklore she rides on a hyena and comes mostly at nights.
|An image of the witch story painted on the wall|
A peek in the history reveals that the myth of the witch has been part of our culture since the Vedic period. One such story of a witch is frescoed on the wall of the tomb of Umeed Ali Khan and Fareed Khan Laghari near the graveyard of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro, in village Gaarhi in the area of Kaachho, district Dadu. Umeed Ali Khan and Fareed Khan were the disciples of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro. The tomb is approximately 300 years old.
In the image women can be seen sitting on traditional Manjees (cots) and a man is fighting a witch with a sword in his hand while a hyena, on which the witch had arrived, is painted below which has perhaps been injured by the man.
At present the tomb is in a dilapidated state and can collapse at any time. To protect our heritage there is a pressing need to repair and maintain the tomb. Let’s not upset the witches.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 8th, 2014