Women's Customs Among the Tajiks: Fortune-Telling


This photograph of Tajik women engaged in fortune telling (vorozhba, in Russian; fal'bin in Central Asian languages) is from Turkestan Album, one of the richest sources of visual information on the cultural monuments of Central Asia as they appeared in the 19th century. This multi-volume work was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of Konstantin P. von Kaufman, a Russian army general and the first governor-general of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire's Central Asian holdings were called. Kaufman held that position from 1867 to 1886, during which time he played a major role in establishing Russia's dominant position in Central Asia. The forces of conquest were followed by administrators and entrepreneurs, as well as scholars interested in documenting the region's cultural heritage. The Tajiks, many of whom came into the Russsian Empire after the conquest of the Khanate of Kokand, are related by both culture and language to the Iranian peoples. These three diviners, in richly patterned robes and headdresses, are seated on a carpet in the courtyard of a whitewashed masonry structure with a carved wooden column. Two of the women intently face the instruments of divination (a bowl of water, a knife, and a candle), while the third holds a frame drum (dayereh) to accompany the incantations.

Last updated: September 29, 2014