Shamans Still Cast Their Spells Along the Modern Silk Road

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.

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Meet the Author
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 and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @OutofEdenWalk.