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Wandering Spirits

From Pakistani Folklore


Spirits, may they be angels, demons, fairies, beasts, monsters, or shapeless, are an indispensable part of folklore. However, there are many who remain unobserved and unnamed.


Tales in many Pakistani languages are particularly rich when it comes to spirits. Now, as a rule of thumb, spirits are believed to live and wander in the wilderness, places of solitude and abandonment, barren wasteland, vast deserts, tall mountains, and harsh terrains. The country happens to have plenty of these. Besides, there is also the influence of spirits associated with various religions, including Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism.


Deo/Div


Deo's and Div's are described in folklore as tall, broad, with thick hair and lips, snub noses, long nails, and on occasion, with wings or horns. They are believed to have infested the world in large numbers and tormented human beings.


After the arrival of Hazrat Suleman (A), they were subdued, although they did not lose or give up their powers entirely. Although they are much less dreaded than the jinns, they are thought to find pleasure in frightening people.


Jinns


Another concept with its roots in Islamic tradition is that Pakistanis believe in good and bad jinns, who can change one’s fortune or cost one their life. Mischievous and malicious, the jinns usually wander after dusk.


Setting things alight, may it be the mulberry trees they dwell on or houses, during wedding celebrations, is how they roll. They may even steal some mithai from a vendor or tie knots in a horse’s mane. They eat with people when someone forgets to recite “Bismillah” before they eat. Strange diseases and unconventional deaths are also often attributed to jinns. Owing to their presence when nightfall, ruins, abandoned houses, graveyards, altars of sacrifice, and isolated spots that may be unclean are a red line.


Feminine evil spirits of the road


Another evil spirit, which also happens to be feminine, appears as a woman of age. She asks travellers to help her, and if they refuse, she makes a quick meal out of them. She can also appear as a beautiful woman, pretending to be a damsel in distress.


This is also true for the pichal-peri, another very similar creature. Both, the balah and the pichal-peri, have their feet turned the wrong way around.


Witches


Most cultures found in Pakistan believe that woman who practices evil becomes evil, and that is how these creatures come into being. Women who indulge (probably in black magic) are believed to turn into witches in the disguise of a human.


The Jhaathu, from Brahui lore, is believed to prey on the livers of children. The Sifli Sindoni from Sindhi lore can be both Muslim and non-Muslim and are evil women who turn into spirits after their powers have been taken. The Jadugarni from Urdu, Hindko and Pashto tales, and the churail in Punjabi lore, is simply a witch, someone you must beware of, and women who curse others for they can't see anyone happy. In Gilgit Baltistan, women who have the gift of second sight are considered witches.


Jalpari:


Creatures from Punjabi lore, with the upper body of a woman, and the lower body of a fish, are a lot like mermaids and sirens. These spirits live in freshwater, and seduce men with their voices and charms - as men get bewitched and follow them, they make the kill, aiming straight for the heart before they shred the corpse of their victim.


Mischievous spirits:


The Sapakha from Pashto folklore is one such spirit. While sleeping, one feels suffocation, and unable to talk. This is accompanied by the victim feeling like someone is trying to choke them. Afterwards, when one wakes up, after a lot of struggle. Red spots, lines, nail marks or lipstick on the victims body are often proof of the spirit who paid a visit. This is the doing of the Sapakha. She is known for having only four fingers. If she had a thumb, she would have killed everyone!


Similarly, the Gowanko is an evil spirit found in Baloch and Brahui lore that is unique in its nature, for it only acts out of mischief when it finds the chest of someone deep in slumber to sit on!


Bhoota:


A spirit from Sindhi folklore, emanating from a man or a woman who either committed suicide, or was sentenced to death. It can also anyone else who does not receive their last rites properly. It is the spirit of those who do not find peace.


Prita:


It is a demon known for not always being malicious, just one that exists: it is believed to be the ghost of a prematurely-born baby, who dies, or an adult who was deformed or disabled. Prita's also make an appearance in Buddhist and Hindu mythology alike, which originates from present-day Sindh.


Pari (Fairy):


Invariably a supernatural being idealistic in character. Beautiful, generous and kind, they obey their monarch and stay away from humans. Whilst marrying a pari is a common feature of folklore elsewhere, a pari in Balochi and Brahui lore is invariably an unwelcome visitor, yearning for a human man she has fallen in love with, haunting him and his family, or that of a concubine for a King or Prince. Many parts of Northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit Baltistan, Chitral and Naran in particular, are famed for romances between mortals and the faerfolk.


Farishteh (Angels)


Essentially an Islamic concept, angels are a common feature of Pakistani lore. With an overwhelming percentage of the population being Muslim, natives have a staunch belief in angels and their powers. Every individual is believed to have two angels, one on each shoulder, who record one's good deeds, and sins, whilst the one on the left records one’s sins. These two angels are also believed to protect one from disaster, such as drowning or falling off the edge of a cliff.


The belief in guardianship, grounded in religion, runs deep in Southern Punjab. Prophets, Imams, Pirs, and Saints are believed to protect people. In Balochistan, the Prophets Hazrat Khwaja Khizar (A), and Hazrat Ilyas (A), are believed to be present in the seas and deserts as angels, appearing in a human form whenever travellers lose their way, to guide them home.


 

Writers note: The term "fairy" for anything outside Celtic and British folklore is more of a convenient translation, owing to the differences in the nature of the spirits.


Thus, we have used the indigenous term, pari, rather than the common translation, despite the fact that it looks odd.

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