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In the folklore and mythology of northern Pakistan there exist tales of a terrifying creature known as the Halmasti which descended from the skies in just two occasions: Birth and Death.

Of the Halmasti of Chitrali mythology.

The Halmasti is a hound like creature with a thick red hide and gigantic size which is epitome of a creature of darkeness due to its association to birth and death. It was due to this horrid quality of the Halmasti that people in Chitral in the olden days used to take special measures to fend against it.

Due to the fear of the Halmasti’s advent, different measures would be manifested in different ways in regards to both death and birth. In case of the birth of a child, the child would not be left alone in any circumstance but if an extreme need arose which compelled a person to move and for the child to be left vacant, People would first have to put an iron weapon beneath the cot of the child to fend away the Halmasti and only then be able to depart from the child’s side. It is believed that a weapon of iron is the Halmasti’s weakness and that it is severely repulsed by the metal.

Whereas for a person who had just died, it was frequent for the Halmasti to either visit the area where the corpse was washed or the area where the body was freshly buried. It was due to this often in the days of yore people chose not to abandon both places and often used to sit at those very spots and recite the Quran in order to stop the Halmasti from descending.

The Halmasti’s origin is even more interesting. Through my own research I came to the conclusion that it’s origins were much ancient and originated as legend in Ancient Mesopotamia. The concept was later adopted by Iranic ethnicities in the form of ‘Al’ the child snatching witch. It was then the Turkic ethnicities which adopted it from them as another witch which went by the name of ‘Hal’. What’s peculiar is that though the Chitralis adopted its Turkic name with a slight innovation, the Chitrali definition of a Halmasti lies not close to the Turkic witch but very close to the concept of ‘Tienkou’ of East Asian mythologies: a celestial hound which used to descend from the skies. The Halmasti is a prime example of how Chitralis adopted various notions from neighboring regions due to its location

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