National Geographic Society Newsroom

Shamans Still Cast Their Spells Along the Modern Silk Road

The babel rose from the cemetery gate. A man grunted as if punched again and again in the gut. Someone else was moaning in a low, weepy singsong. Another burped spasmodically. Underneath it all was the soft, raspy muttering of prayers, like leaves tumbling in an autumn breeze. The prayers came from the shamans. They...

With a glass, a hank of silk, and ashes from burned cotton plants, faith healer Shakhlo Teshabaeva plies her trade in Kokand, Uzbekistan. (Photograph by Paul Salopek)

The babel rose from the cemetery gate.

A man grunted as if punched again and again in the gut. Someone else was moaning in a low, weepy singsong. Another burped spasmodically. Underneath it all was the soft, raspy muttering of prayers, like leaves tumbling in an autumn breeze.

The prayers came from the shamans. They were curing patients.

Read the full story, or explore more content from the Out of Eden Walk at outofedenwalk.org.

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of the world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit www.nationalgeographic.org or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Meet the Author

Paul Salopek
Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek’s 21,000-mile Out of Eden Walk is a multiyear experiment in slow journalism. Moving at the beat of his footsteps, Salopek is walking the pathways of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age and made the Earth ours. Along the way he is covering the major stories of our time—from climate change to technological innovation, from mass migration to cultural survival—by giving voice to the people who inhabit them every day. His words, as well as his photographs, video, and audio, are creating a global record of human life at the start of a new millennium as told by villagers, nomads, traders, farmers, soldiers, and artists who rarely make the news. Join the journey at outofedenwalk.org and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @OutofEdenWalk.